Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, has said the promotion of unity among people of the state was paramount to his administration.
Governor Diri said this among others was the underlying factor behind the first Bayelsa State Sports Festival, which commenced on Sunday in conjunction with Access Bank.
The governor flagged off the festival tagged the “Prosperity/Access Unity Games” at the Samson Siasia Sports Complex in Yenagoa, the state capital.
Diri said his government realised that sports was the best medicine for the mind and body hence it is investing much resources in the sector.
A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, quoted him as saying that the best way to be prosperous was in one’s health, stressing that sports was not only a competitive event but also medicinal.
He also stated that his administration, known as the Prosperity Government, decided to domesticate the National Sports Festival to meaningful engage youths of the state and encourage initiatives that empower and create jobs as launch pad for national development.
He said: “Sports is not only a competitive event. Sports also stops you from visiting the hospital frequently.
“For us as a government, the idea is that we want to prevent our citizens from being regular customers at hospitals and one sure way to achieve that was through sports.
“This is one of the reasons we are replicating the National Sports Festival that we have been participating in over the years by bringing it home to also have the Bayelsa Sports Festival.”
Diri expressed optimism that as the only homogeneous Ijaw-speaking state, the festival would cement the cord of unity among the eight local government areas participating in the games.
The Bayelsa helmsman appreciated his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Daniel Igali and all those that worked assiduously to ensure the colourful showpiece became reality.
In a goodwill message, Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank, Dr. Herbert Wigwe, who was represented by the bank’s Relationship Manager, Mr. Kakiri Miebi-Flint, said the bank was pleased to collaborate with the state government to actualise its prosperity mantra.
Dr. Wigwe noted that the state has had tremendous achievements in the sporting sector in the last three years, noting that the bank was working towards building a prosperous Bayelsa through sports partnership.
In an address of welcome, the Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Daniel Igali, appreciated the state government and Access Bank for the foresight in hosting the inaugural Prosperity Games.
He said the games provide a veritable platform to discover untapped talents in the state.
Igali further stated that the festival will feature 240 team officials, 140 technical officials and 194 officiating officials.
More than 1,200 athletes would also participate in 14 events jostling for 293 gold, 293 silver and 387 bronze medals.
Highpoint of the event was a colourful march-past by athletes from the eight local government areas of the state as well as the lighting of the games torch by renowned athletes from the state, which included Olympic silver medalist, Blessing Oborududu, another Olympian, wrestler Victor Kodei and Binaebi Numa, a member of the Golden Eaglets to the 1985 Kodak/FIFA U-16 World Championship in China.
In attendance were the wife of the governor, Dr. Gloria Diri, the Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, members of the State House of Assembly, Secretary to the State Government, Alabo Gideon Ekeowei, chairman of the Bayelsa chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Solomon Agwana and other top government functionaries.