The first part of this was based on the event final day, the Minister’s anger at age cheat and plans in place by the ministry to curb that, going forward.
Fourteen Days On
This part highlights allegations and rebuttal; event’s statistics, Happenings amongst the gentlemen of the press, itches and suggestions going into the next year’s games…
Allegations and Rebuttal
A Series of allegations were levelled against officials at the games and there were rebuttals to all accordingly.
It started from the special sports when some special athlete officials alleged that they were not given level playing ground as their athletes were screened out and that because they do not have representatives on the board is the reason they have been sidelined.
In refuting this, one of the deaf sports board members, Mrs Shola Adeshina explained that the deaf sports federation has mandated that every participating team provides Athletes under the age of fifteen to avoid cheating to help in discovering raw talent that will represent Nigeria Internationally at any level”.
“We asked them to provide Athletes under the age of fifteen but they came with some Athletes over fifteen”, she said to Journalist.
“It is a deaf sport but we discovered that some were not deaf which is cheating and they are pleading that we allow them to participate”.
“We interviewed some of their Athletes and discovered that some were age seventeen, nineteen and twenty years, they told us by themselves”, she concluded.
Buttressing Mrs Adeshina’s position, the General Secretary of the Deaf Sports Federation, Alhaji Lookman Agbabiaka confirmed that some states came with overaged athletes.
“We did the screening two days ago some and some states did not join. we waited for their arrival and agreed to do the screening again on Saturday”.
He continued, “They all came with their Athletes for the screening, during the screening process, we used their date of birth and their face for the screening- we also used sign language to identify some who are deaf during the screening and we discovered that some are old and even a kid could identify that they were old”.
“So, we separated those who passed from those who failed. we did it together with the coaches, the end of the screening was okay and we appealed to the coaches to cooperate with us because deaf sports is coming for the first time and we don’t want the coaches to Jeopardize the opportunity against next time- urging that they make our game look fine so they won’t accuse the deaf sports of destroying the beauty of the games or go against the rules of the National Youth Games”.
“Those who were cleared had their names jotted down and they all agreed to cooperate with the decision but they came here today and started inciting chaos”, Agbabiaka added.
After the games, certain news outlets published that the president of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Tonobok Okowa had hand in not allowing some events which could have handed the Norths some medals, being scrapped out of the games, thereby weakening their strength to pick up medals.
Dispelling this, a Nigerian ace journalist, Dare Kuti, the allegations are wrong and he advised that people should try to find out more before levelling such allegations.
“Immediately the events for the Athletics Federation of Nigeria came out, the Technical Director and other members called the Director of Grassroots Sports Development in the Federal Ministry expressing their displeasure about the events they selected.”
“I had to drive to the University of Ilorin five days before the Youth Games to hand over the phone to Dr Durotoye. He told them that the event was for the Ministry and not the AFN. There was nothing the AFN could do about the events selected my chief.”
“The officiating officials for the Athletics events were not enough, the AFN had to pay for 10 local officials before they started the event.”
“The officials who spoke have the right to speak but they should also try to find out from their Director of Sports and Zonal Representative in the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development”, Dare Kuti added.
According to the minister of Youth and Sports Development, Chief Sunday Dare, 35 states including the FCT were represented at the games.
3,020 Athletes as mentored by 345 Coaches competed in 34 Sports where close to 300 talents were discovered.
Only Zamfara state failed to pick up any medals from 631 won.
193 gold, 190 silver and 248 bronze medals were won by 34 states where Benue, Borno, Yobe managed 1 Bronze each.
23 states won at least 1 gold medal – Jigawa, Taraba, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, Kano, Cross; all won 1 gold each.
96 media practitioners were present as announced by the secretary of the KWARA SWAN, Olayinka Owolewa at the Media centre, after the closing ceremony.
Gentlemen of the Press
The media practitioners at the games were very responsible and diligent in all their duties as they showed professionalism in all they do. Though very minute ones still managed to sell out their professionalism for either favour, fear or friendship, nevertheless, 98% of men on the ground demonstrated faithfulness to the God of the pen.
The media in a bid to further strengthen the tie of harmony between them had a get-together and night and a novelty football match between the home journalists and the visiting. Kudos must go to the Kwara SWAN under the leadership of Alhaji Jimoh Bashir and Secretary, Yinka Owolewa, for their spirit of hospitality and warmth hosting of other journalists. Also, the SWAN national president, Sir Honour Sirawoo, Secretary of Club Owners Association of Nigeria, Alloy Chukwuemeka, Moses Etu and others did well at the games.
The organization of the 6th edition of the National Youth Games is below per and shouldn’t be covered with fear or favour from the Ministry, MOC, and the host. We all are not in the dark that the Coronavirus pandemic affected various schools calendars, but anything worth doing at all is worth doing well.
That the 2020 edition of the games couldn’t hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but we had high hope and expectations placed on the ministry and the host to have a better edition to previous, but we were left bemused.
Organization, administrative, technical arrangements were nothing but slapdash. Contingent on arrival was left stranded and made to sleep inside their buses, some spreading their clothing materials sideways to take naps. This is not encouraging on anyone be it the athletes, officials or any other stakeholders who are entitled to accommodation.
This issue and some others culminated in the postponement of the opening ceremony by two days, though, the organisers claimed it was a decision taken to allow the arrival of other states.
Another shenanigans experienced is the screening of the athletes which also won’t be overlooked. From an obsolete form of conducting screening to returning some already screened out Athletes into the games says a lot about how inconsistent things were. I saw the athletes undergoing screening process a d I felt for them – the environment, the arrangements and others are nothing to write home about.
It’s becoming an intolerable ethos in our country to cheat at all fronts. In Education, Politics, Religion and in Sports and to sum it up, in developmental programs like this. It says a lot about our attitude of winning at all costs, regardless of how. This has in a long way wrecked more havoc than doing us good in this country. It’s a slap on many states that they can’t take time to build young ones, discover talents and breed them to become useful in the future, rather resorting to encouraging age cheat to claim glory.
Daily medals table
Another itch observed was the compilation, computation and release of updates medals table as at when due. This gave the media severe head pains and in a long way affected their reportage. It’s astounding to know that at this stage of technology development, the medals table will take hours before being updated.
What then shall we call hostilities shown by some officials when approached by the media to obtain information for news purposes? It’s hogwash to see officials respond to the media’s enquiry as if the fourth realm of the estate is nothing but mere street hawkers.
The manners at which they address the ‘fourth estate of the realm’ sometimes is disgusting. Some of them don’t have regard for the journalists covering these games.
They will tell you at times to leave the hall, at times they will tell you they can’t let you have access to fixtures and results- they are making our job difficult, but they can always do better.
-Presentation of medals also was another poor branding that must be talked about. For example, at the gymnastics event, medals were sparsely given to athletes to my shock.
Governor Abdulrazak Lateness
The executive governor of Kwara State, His Excellency, Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman came in minutes after the closing ceremony and had nothing to do to the already concluded ceremony, but he showed fatherly trait by moving from one Team to another – Team Delta, Team Edo, Team Lagos, Team Akwa-Ibom and few others in a movement that lasted about 20 minutes.
Many however raised eyebrows at his lateness to the event and why he had to stand with some of the teams to take pictures; many criticized this as a political game that shouldn’t have been done on the Youth Games platform. However, Alhaji Ola Ibrahim, confirmed that the governor’s lateness wasn’t intentional; “the Governor on same day attended Eid-Mawlid celebration at the stadium and he left the place lately. Though the Executive Chairman of the Sports Commission was briefing him on the activities going, he promised to be at the Closing Ceremony. The Hon. Minister already decided to wait to receive him, only for him to change his mind; that was exactly why the Governor came in late”.
-I think one of what should be added to subsequent games is a proper orientation for officials of the games in dealing with every stakeholder at the games village, residence and other areas under the purview of the event.
-Media retreat in a centralized region should also be included in the plans. It’s not ideal for members of the media to be in the dark of certain procedures at games. Every Sports Federation should organize at least, a one-day retreat for the media two weeks before the main events to be equipped with the necessary information for smooth and appropriate coverage.
-The authorities in charge of the games should be called to answer why things were like that and be replaced if it’s discovered that they are not competent to carry on from here.
-States government should by now know that investment in youths is an investment in future and shouldn’t be compelled before working out plans to provide youths with a conducive environment. It’s fine that states like Enugu and Gombe are fined for not gracing the event -that will serve as good precedence for coming years.
-Standard should be set for potential hosts and not on a quota system level or political award.
-It delights me to hear the minister state that measures would be out in place to ascertain and detect age cheats, as well as putting in place appropriate punishment for any athletes, officials and states that may be found guilty of attempting to falsify age for athletes.
Kano! Kano state has been handed the hosting right for the next edition of the Youth Games and as the number 7 depicts perfection, we are looking forward to a perfect event, far better than what we saw in Ilorin. The games village should be known now and have a renovation, building commenced immediately, where necessary. We don’t want a game that negatives will be flying in the media, we want a well-organised Youth game. 2022 is the penultimate year of the general election, as such I must harp on the fact that every single appointment, selection and otherwise in the planning committee, Local Organizing Committee, Main Organizing Committee and other Adhoc committees should not be based on political affiliation if disrelishing your efforts is what you don’t want at the end.
Unequivocally, talents have emerged from this initiative and we still look forward to many more in coming editions. The ministry should be commended for sticking to its constitutional duties in developing youths and providing them with a platform to thrive and also be useful to their immediate community and the country at large.