Okpekpe road race organisers explain why Edo athletes were not paid prize money
Some athletes and officials of the state have kicked against the decision by Governor Godwin Obaseki to continue with the Okpekpe road race project, which they considered a ‘waste of fund,’ particularly at this time of economic meltdown.
The fifth edition of the competition is approaching, and an official of Edo State alleged on Tuesday that some athletes of Edo State origin, who took part in past editions of the event, had not been paid their winning prize money.
But the Race General Manager, Yusuf Ali, an ex-international, explained in a chat with The Guardian yesterday that the organisers decided to scrap prize money for the athletes because they ‘cheated’ on their way to victory at the event.
“At the end of the race two years ago, we were on the verge of giving out prize money to one of the athletes of Edo State indigene who finished in the top position, when all of a sudden, another of Edo State indigene who finished fifth told us that the guy cheated. He said that the athlete who was laying claim to the second position money was actually aided by a motorcycle rider (Okada). There was serious commotion, and from that moment we decided to cancel prize money for Edo indigenes.
“But we continue to pay prize money for athletes from the Uphill area (Okpekpe and its environs) because they did not cheat in the course of the race. The affected athletes even carried placards to the Government House in Benin City some time ago, but the former Governor Adams Oshiomole dismissed them.”
On calls by some Edo State athletes and officials to scrap Okpekpe road race, Ali said: “The money being used for oraganisation of the race is mostly sourced from corporate bodies. Edo State government only pay for the prize money, which is little as compared to the huge amount we source for appearance fees, flight tickets, accommodation and others,” Ali stated.