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Imo athletes await handshake as ‘sports-loving’ governor allegedly neglects team

By Eniola Daniel
28 December 2021   |   4:00 am
It has been a fruitless wait and a hopeless situation for the team that represented Imo State at the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, who have been waiting for the state governor, Hope Uzodimma...

• ‘Sports was dead in Imo before we came in’
It has been a fruitless wait and a hopeless situation for the team that represented Imo State at the Edo 2020 National Sports Festival, who have been waiting for the state governor, Hope Uzodimma’s handshake and the cash reward promised them.

Nine months after the festival held in Benin City, athletes are still waiting for Uzodimma to redeem the promise he made to them. Imo State finished 10th on the log with 10 gold, 13 silver and 26 bronze medals.

One of the state’s representatives, who in September narrated to The Guardian their ordeal waiting for the governor’s promises, made another call that the state has neglected them and those at the helm of affairs have been cold whenever they attempt to talk of their ordeal.

The governor had promised to reward each gold medalist with N1 million, a silver medalist to get N750, 000 and a bronze medalist will get N500, 000, after the festival, but ever since, nothing has been heard.

Speaking with The Guardian, the state’s Commissioner for Sports, Dan Chike Ogu, who had in September revealed that the governor had approved hosting of the athletes, adding, however, that the governor was out of the country then, told The Guardian that the security situation in Imo State was responsible for the delay in hosting the athletes.

“We will receive the athletes but it won’t be an elaborate ceremony because everyone is being careful over the security situation.

“Nobody promised the athletes any amount but I raised it at the executive meeting that they did very well and the governor promised to receive them and he set up a committee. No pronouncement was made about the medalists.

“Before we came on board, the athletes were neglected by previous governments, who refused to pay their allowances, but we paid them directly.”

On when the government will receive the athletes, he said: “I only have the green pen, I don’t have the red pen; the governor just came back and I will still remind him.

“We are trying to revive the whole sports, the whole thing was dead before we came in, a lot of people left the system because they were not encouraged.

“I have the interest of the athletes at heart and we are reviving the handball, volleyball and basketball, among others.

Speaking on the state’s plans for young athletes, he said: “The young medalists will be incorporated into the system when those at the helm of affairs are retiring. They will serve as coaches. I want to encourage the young ones and give them everything needed. I am assuring you that the governor will receive the team and give them a pat on their back. Our governor is a sports-loving governor and I know he will host the athletes.”