Buhari harps on NSF as agent of unity, declares festival open

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday night, in Benin City, Edo State said that the National Sports Festival, (NSF) which began shortly after the civil war, remains a rallying point for the unity of the country.

President Buhari who stated this at the Samuel Ogbemudai Stadium, Benin, while declaring open, the 20th NSF tagged Edo 2020, urged the participating athletes drawn from the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, to play by the rules of the game and uphold the tenets of the Festival as envisioned by its founding fathers.

Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Youths and Sports, Chief Sunday Dare, commended the resilience of the Edo State Government in hosting the festival despite several postponements occasioned by the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 pandemic.

He described the NSF as Nigeria’s Olympics because it has produced renowned athletes both locally and internationally, who had won laurels for the country at international tournaments.

“The National Sports Festival as we all know is the biggest sports fiesta in the country, where both professionals and home base athletes converge to display their prowess. Although the 20th National Sports Festival was supposed to have taken place one year ago, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, it suffered several postponements,” the president noted.

“Indeed, this sports festival rightly dubbed Nigeria’s Olympics showcases Nigeria’s best talents in over 30 different sporting events. By the sheer population of the participants, historically about 14000, the reach and how it engages Our youth- the NSF deserves a primus place in the priority list of any government.

“The National Sports Festival as we all know, still remains one of the veritable tools for uniting the country, as well as bringing the young men and women to interact and make friends, it is also an avenue to discover talents for various sports that will represent the country in the global arena”, President Buhari added.

He paid glowing tributes to the founding fathers of the game such as General Yakubu Gowon, Late Major General Henry Adefope, Late Brigadier-General Samuel Ogbemudia and others who “initiated and brought this great event to the limelight.”

According to him, since the commencement of the Festival in 1973, it had resulted in the discovery of great stars.

“The NSF promises to thrill and produce talents and expose stars. From Benin will emerge a new tribe of world beaters and great athletes,” he hoped.

Speaking earlier, Governor Godwin Obaseki hinted that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was scheduled to declare the event open, could not fly to Benin City because of bad weather.

Obaseki disclosed that his administration had invested much in the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium to make it a world-class standard for the event.

Contingents of the 36 states and FCT added a colourful razzmatazz to the ceremony as they performed the traditional parade, accompanied by divergent percussions of multiple genres.

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