The entire city of Port Harcourt is currently agog following the commencement of Governor Nyesome Wike National Wrestling Championship featuring 24 states, 12 Clubs and over 700 wrestlers in attendance.
According to the organisers of the Championship, which is taking place at the Alfred Diete Spiff Sports Complex, the event will be used to select wrestlers who will represent Nigeria at the African Wrestling Championship in February next year.
However, in order to prove his support for the new vision for the development of wrestling in the country, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, graced the opening ceremony of the National Championship on Monday, November 27, 2017.
The Minister, along with Governor Wike, used the opportunity to inspect the venue for the African tourney billed for February 7th -11th, 2018 in Port Harcourt, and also unveiled the logo and mascot for the event.
This action marks a new beginning for wrestling and calls for greater support from Corporate Nigeria.
Dalung, on the occasion, stated that he had no doubt about what the lasting effects of hosting the African Championship will have on the people of Rivers State and Nigeria.
“I believe that the championship taking place next year in Port Harcourt will help in correcting the erroneous impression that has been created about the people of Rivers State. It will also go a long way to reunite the people of Rivers State and Nigeria in general,” he said.
Reacting, Wike showered encomiums on the Sports Minister for the new direction he had given to the sport sector and pledged more support in bankrolling sporting events in the country.
He also thanked the Minister for the support and encouragement given to the people of Rivers State to host the African Wrestling Championship, billed for February next year.
Opinions may differ as to why the choice of Rivers State, but permit me to say that sport has no language, no religion and no political party. In sport, we have decided to restore the glory of Nigeria. In sport, we have resolved to partner with anybody who will support sport development in Nigeria
“When the President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali, told me that Rivers State will host the African Championship, I asked him if he’s sure that Rivers State will be allowed to host.
“He said that this Minister was different and believes in the unity and development of this country. I want to say categorically to Mr President, that if we have more of this type of Minister, Nigeria will move forward.
“When the Minister paid a courtesy call on me ahead of the National Championship, he said sport is one and the only unifying factor. He said that one activity that brings all Nigerians together,, whether you’re a Christian or a Muslim, whether you’re in APGA or APC or PDP is sport.
“When Nigerians are taking part in any competition, if Nigeria wins, even your so-called enemy will hold you. It is to tell you that sport is one thing that brings everybody together and we must have to support of those who are at the helm of affairs of this particular field or sector,” Wike stated.
Wike further promised more support for sport and called on the Youth and Sports Minister to feel free to approach the state for any support to sport development, which is worthy of commendation.
“I want to assure the Hon. Minister of Youth and Sports that he can call on Rivers State any day, anytime. We will continue to support you in developing sport, as far as this country is concerned.
“The Rivers State Government will support the Nigeria Wrestling Federation to host the African Wrestling Championship next year and I will like the Hon Minister to come back and commission some other sporting projects cum centers so that more people can come to Rivers State,” Wike added.
Speaking further on the binding power of sport among different ethnic groups in the country, Wike went philosophical: “There is a genuine spirit and love for sports in Rivers State. You can be fake politically but you cannot be fake in your commitment to sport.
“This National Championship is setting an agenda for the preparation of Nigeria to compete in two months’ time for the African Championship where we will be hosting over 54 African countries here in Port Harcourt.
“Opinions may differ as to the choice of Rivers State, but permit me to say that sport has no language, no religion and no political party. Sport only needs passion!
“In sports we have decided to restore the glory of Nigeria.
“In sports, we have resolved to partner with anybody who will support sports development in Nigeria. We have decided too to return Nigeria to the map of the comity of sporting nations therefore our windows are quite open for partnership, support and friendship.”
From the foregoing, the ball is in the court of our athletes to train hard for the begin event next year, using the National Championship as dress rehearsal.
This is time for athletes to appreciate the kind gesture extended to their career with both the National Championship and the African tourney and it is expected that they compete favourably by making Nigeria proud.