Bayelsa soon to become Nigeria’s sports hub, says Dickson
Governments in such societies give premium attention to infrastructural and youth developmental programmes that give young people opportunities to hone their talents and make the best of their natural gifts.
Such is the path, which the current Bayelsa State government has decided to toe.
Recently, Bayelsa hosted the final of the women version of the Aiteo Cup at the newly refurbished Samson Siasia Stadium. This, it said, was to draw the attention of its “citizens to what await them if they worked hard to develop their talents.”
In line with its vision to become the sports capital of Nigeria, the state government said it has started a developmental programme that would give every gifted indigene the opportunity to make the best of his/her talent.
Bayelsa State Governor, Seriaki Dickson told a group of journalists in Yenagoa that “things are changing in Bayelsa and we want to use sports as a way of not only motivating our people, but also bringing them into the sports business. We will use sports to reshape our narrative.”
Dickson disclosed that apart from the new-look Samson Siasia Stadium, “we are building a golf course and a polo field. These sports, alongside entertainment, will drive the tourism industry in our state, which we want to make the tourism centre of Nigeria.”
He explained that the state has started a sports academy, which will pick children from the streets and schools and nurture them into well-educated international stars. He said the children would be trained in boxing, swimming, athletics, wrestling and other sports.
“We want to unleash to the world a generation of well-trained athletes.
“We are the kings of wrestling in Africa and we have also developed our swimming such that we can compete successfully in the continent.
“We now put the legal mechanism in place and retooled the bureaucracy such that no matter who is governor, sports will thrive in the state. We have a legislation on that, as well as a lawfully established trust fund to guarantee the programme’s sustainability,” he declared.
Bayelsa State a couple of years ago introduced a competition known as the Restoration Cup, which features all the communities of the state, and according to Dickson, “it is a country-based competition where over 100 communities participate. The feedback is very positive and I want to continue with it even when I am no longer in government.”
Having built the infrastructure and the governance structure for its sports development programme, Dickson said the next stage “is be to support our teams to enable them regain their groove.”
Bayelsa State’s football teams, Including Bayelsa United, Ocean Boys and Nembe City are currently languishing in the backwaters of Nigerian football. But Dickson believes the new programme would aid sustainable growth in every aspect of sport in the state.
“We will provide the conducive environment for privately-owned football clubs to thrive. I am happy that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is thinking of how to develop the local league. Based on the new thinking, we will look at how to encourage development in our football such that local clubs can rise to the top of Nigerian sports and remain there. We cannot go into any unsustainable venture hence our focus on building structures that will stand the test of time.”
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