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Fashola Unveils 57 Athletes For Sponsorship Under State's Adopt–A–Talent Programme
…Says the country does not need to cheat to do well in competitions

May 30, 2013 - Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Thursday formally unveiled 57 Athletes who have secured sponsorship under the Lagos State Adopt –A- Talent Sports Programme, saying Nigeria does not need to cheat to do well in sports.

Speaking at the event which took place at the Banquet Hall of Lagos House, Ikeja, the Governor added that the problem of poor performance in sports emerged because there is a fixation about getting immediate results.

"We are always looking for things that the government will commission. It is always about things that the government will show. There is a fixation on immediate results. Result that don't last", he said.

He stated that the road to the launch of the Adopt-A-Talent Programme has taken three years to fashion out, stressing that in the process, the state government has experimented along with all sorts of things before the final model crystalised clearly into what it should be.

Noting that there was no alternative to honesty and hardwork in development of sporting talents, the Governor recalled the story of an Under 17 player who once played for Nigeria in an international competition and showed extraordinary skills which led to his being taken on by a foreign club only to be discovered as the product of cheating adding that this could only happen in Nigeria because the sports officials do not do the right things.

Governor Fashola explained that the government of Lagos recognizes the value of sports which was totally absent during his days as a youngster adding that today the philosophy is that you can play your football, do your running, do your karate, run, swim and mix it with your academics and do well.

"Sports is talent it does not last forever, you will be lucky if you are still competing at 30. And that would need a life of discipline, good diet, good medical care and the one you cannot control which is major injuries. if it happens, there is nothing you can do about it. And that is why it is important that you must have an education first".

"But we are giving you an opportunity for the best of both worlds, because what you have seen today is not the end, it is just the beginning, it is possible for you to be competing at major tournaments in the world and writing your exams on your I-pad while you are there. That is the future that I see and it is possible", he added

He explained that with the unveiling of the athletes, the first journey has started but stressed that the athletes must understand the opportunity they have and that whether they succeed or not would be defined by how they react to opportunities.

Governor Fashola stressed that sports is a familiar terrain to him because he has once played table tennis for Lagos State as a child, participated in track and field in secondary school, played principals cup in the state and also played football in the university as well as billiard and snooker and squash.

While thanking the sponsors for taking up the sponsorship of the children, he said it would not only cost them money but also cost them time and that they would need to mentor the children and give them protection.

He said they are also duty bound not to abuse the children either for sex or for reward of any kind, adding that government will expect them to care for the young athletes in the way that they care for their own biological children.

"I thank the sponsors and it is not that it will cost you only money, it will also cost you time to help us weld together as a village and community to build our own. As you adopt these children, they would need your mentorship and guidance; they would need your protection. It becomes duty bound not to abuse them for sex or for reward of any type to be undertaken here".

"These are some of the obligations that you carry; this is philanthropy and sacrifice for the nation. It may seem not to have reward today but it does have rewards. I was at the 40th Asoju Oba Table Tennis competition some three of four years ago and nothing humbled me more than the connection between each of the products of that championship and the sponsor, Chief Molade Okoya- Thomas as everyone related with him affectionately. I hope in truth, someday when these children have fulfilled their promise, they will be able to look at all of you and truly and deeply call you daddy and mummy, I hope also that our children would seize this opportunity with both hands", Governor Fashola said.

The Governor also gave kudos to the coaches that have been signed on to train the budding athletes, adding that the government has gone for the very best who have excelled during their own time and are getting good results already with the kids.

According to the Governor, given the challenges confronting athletes in the country, if a Nigerian wins a bronze medal in any major championship where the world's best competed, the reality is that the Nigerian probably won gold, when one compares the condition under which Nigerians prepare for competitions and that which their counterparts train under.

"When you remember the Innocent Egbunikes, the Mary Onyalis and the medals that they won at international competitions, you will realize that that they probably won the gold. If their opponents had prepared in the same environment they won't be placed. We are going to bridge that gap for you and that is where I want to see you"

The Governor maintained that for some athletes to display their prowess it only takes a sponsorship to a competition that will make them get exposed, saying sometimes it could be just a tournament in Ghana that an athlete participates in to get the desired break.

He explained that these are some of the things that the present government has done in-house but realized that it needs the stamina to take it further because it is only by constant competition and constant practice that the athletes can improve.

"Some of my friends and myself have a summer camp which holds in the premises of Kings College. We just sat down and saw that the children were not growing, the nutrition in the homes were not enough, so we got a dietician who put them on the right diets for the eight weeks of summer camp. The result has been outstanding after just two years. They just shot up and we have been following them in their homes. This is the kind of activity that we expect you the sponsors to be involved in", he said

He commended the Senior Special Assistant on Grassroots Sports, Prince Wale Oladunjoye for accepting to serve the State in his area of specialty which is discovering and nurturing talents in sports.

Speaking earlier, the Senior Special Assistant on Grassroots Sports Development, Prince Wale Oladunjoye said the programme is designed to discover and create a pool of budding talents who are below the age of 18 in the various sports disciplines, expose them to a scientifically structured all year round training programme and get the whole project powered by sponsors-public, private and partnership.

He said at the last National Sports Festival, (EKO 2012) all the six medals won by Lagos State in athletics were secured by the young boys and girls in the programme and have confounded the initial 4-5 years gestation period to "elite athlete" stage, which the state posited.

He added that of the 170 athletes in the programme, the 57 that are being unveiled at the event are those who have secured sponsorship and also appealed for more sponsors to come on board, saying it costs less than N15,000 a month to adopt a talent.

In a vote of assurance, one of the athletes, Precious Okoronkwo who is a National Diploma student at the Yaba College of Technology thanked the Governor for the opportunity given to the young athletes and promised that they will not disappoint but will continue to make the state proud.

Prominent among those who witnessed the event were the Deputy Governor, Hon (Mrs) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, members of the State Executive Council including the Commissioner for Sports, Youth and Social Development, Mr Waheed Oshodi.


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