Last year when the Nigeria Nigerian Super Eagles qualified for the World Cup, Russia 2018, right inside the main bowl of this magnificent Stadium the thunderous ovation that attended that epochal event knew no political colours or banners. The mass of people that poured on to the streets here in Uyo and all over the country in utter celebrations for the feat the Eagles had recorded were not defined by the colours of PDP or APC, the celebrations were national in nature, devoid of the clannish ness, religious factor, ethnic sentiments or the resort to zero-sum game approach that has characterized our daily engagements with each other. Football, and indeed sports remains the most unifying tool for national cohesion.

We have, therefore, come here today not as supporters of a particular political party, not as agents of a given political or tribal association, not as Ibibios, Annangs or Oros, we have come here today as proud Akwaibomites ready and willing to unleash our healthy competitive spirit that represents the very soul and essence of the Akwa Ibom character and person as we kick-start this Second Edition of Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival, christened Uyo 2018.

Let me congratulate the Ministry of Youth and Sports, especially the Honourable Commissioner, Barrister Monday “Monty” Uko, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for their commitment in driving our vision through sports development.

The maiden edition of this competition was quite unique and roundly successful and I am so thrilled to notice the tremendous improvements that have been made and these are indicative of the fact that we do not rest on our oars, we always strive for more and upping the ante of excellence in our service delivery. I congratulate all the participating schools and enjoin you all to make good use of this opportunity to showcase your talents.

Sport is the goldmine of our generation. It can take you from the land of obscurity to the firmament of stardom and instant celebrity with attendant benefits. It is money-churning venture and provides a passport to an instant flight to fame beyond your wildest imaginations.   But you have a role to play: One rule that cuts across all competitive sports is discipline; if you do not radiate it, live it and breathe it then this event is not for you.

We urge you all to show utmost discipline and to take this completion as a very serious undertaking. The universal language of sports is fair play. Let us see this value radiate in you in the course of this competition. We believe that though not all Akwa Ibom children were born with equal talents, they should be given equal opportunity to explore their innate potentials and that precisely is what this completion is all about.

Let me also caution here that, our investments in sports does not in any way replace your academic activities in school. It only complements it. As a Government, our pledge and commitment is to make Akwa Ibom State the sports capital of Nigeria and indeed Africa. We have commenced the building of sports centres in each of the ten Federal constituencies. We know that in most cases what makes the difference between a player in England and the one in Nigeria is the kind of facility that each is being exposed to. To us, exposing our lads to the best possible facilities when they are young remains he best investment one can make is. That is why we have decided to catch them young and the central aim of this competition.

We are glad that our efforts in sports development in Akwa Ibom State are beginning to yield fruits, and bringing us trophies home and away.  Our beautiful bride, Akwa United is a national pride. On assumption of office, we were quick to diagnose its ailment and gave it appropriate medication. Today, we have won the Federation Cup, now Aiteo Cup and other national trophies. Currently, they are engaged in the race for the Confederation Cup and they are doing marvellously well. You need to see how they devoured the Hawks of Gambia in Banjul, the other day! The nation too, is celebrating our achievements in sports development. Last November, I was awarded the Best Sports Governor 2017 at an award event organized by the National Sports Award. Also at another award event organized by the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports; we were awarded the State with The Most Comprehensive Sports Development Programme; The State with the Most Patriotic Sports Supporters and The State with the Best Sports Infrastructure.  My Administration sees sports development beyond what others see, we see the Dakkada spirit beaming in our land through sports.

Drone shot. Photo Credit: #AKSG LiveStream Crew

We must ensure that we give this generation of Akwa Ibom children the necessary support and exposure for them to rise to greatness through sports. That is the vision that brought us out here today.

We will not rest until we give the world another Serena Williams. Let us not rest until stars in the mould of Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Lebron James and Usain Bolt are discovered in here Akwa Ibom. That is not impossible. They are all here, and it is our challenge to fish them out. If we do our part as we are doing, I have the faith and belief that going forward; no Nigerian National team will be complete without an Akwa Ibom child.

So, my dear children, your journey to greatness begins now. We have given you the field and kits, let your mind and passion play the midfield, and be rest assured that you have a Governor who will reward your ingenuity and creativity as you rise and soar.

Once again, I welcome you to this Second Edition of Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival 2018, and declare it open for the benefit of our children, prosperity of our State and the unity of our nation in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Drone Shot: Photo Credit: AKSG LiveStream Crew

Thank you and God bless you all!

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