By: Sunday Oyewole
President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday hosted Blessing Okagbare and her coach, Daniel Esebinimo, at the State House, Abuja during which he announced cash gifts of N3 million for her and N3.5 million for the coach.
At the last IAAF World Championship in Moscow, Okagbare won silver and bronze medals in long jump and 200 metres respectively. President Jonathan promised to continue to support sports men and women to succeed in international events.
The President also, directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, to pencil down the two for national honours.
A visibly elate President Jonathan said, “Today is a day that we are all celebrating this young lady, Blessing Okagbare, we are celebrating success, we are celebrating education, we are celebrating patriotism. This is to formerly congratulate Blessing Okagbare and other young men and women like her who have been working very hard to make this country proud.
“Nigeria has been known as a sporting nation, but for sometimes we slide back. But we are lucky that we are building up today. I believe that with young ladies and men like Blessing Okagbare, Nigeria will get back to where we belong and even go further”.
“We have taken a decision that in the next Olympics, we must get medals, gold medals.
“We have challenged the Ministry of Sports and of course, the Finance Ministry to do all what it can to make sure that we support that sector so that our young men and women will do our country proud. So Blessing, we congratulate you. We thank you for this uncommon success and the uncommon dedication to our fatherland.
“To show appreciation, I believe the Secretary of the Government of the Federation will note when we give national honours, we will consider Blessing and the coach and by that time we will also decorate you. But today, as a show of appreciation, we are going to give you some token. Blessing will go home with N3 million and the coach Daniel will get N3.5 million”.
While formally presenting Blessing, the Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, attributed the recent achievements in sports to President Jonathan’s focused leadership.
According to him, “In the last one year, Mr. President has hosted and rewarded various sports men and women who have proven themselves on the world stage and have become a source of pride for us all. There is no doubt that this achievement are as a result of Mr. President’s focused leadership and because of this, Nigeria is again becoming s force to reckon with in sports.
“In athletics, just like in football and weightlifting, we have become the number one nation in Africa. Never in the history of Africa athletics has a nation been a winner of the senior, junior and youth championship at the same time. Nigeria has won the whole three in the last two years.
“Firstly, we won the senior athletics championship in Port Novo, followed by the youth championship which we won in Warri, Delta State and just recently we won the junior championship in Mauritius,” the Ministers recalled.
Fielding questions from state house correspondents, Okagbare promised to work hard ahead of the Olympic Games, hoping government would match words with action by making funds available, saying ‘no magic in sports’.
Her words, “Well, I always try to work very hard with the support of people around me, It also depends on the people on what they have to do to actually support sports. There is no magic in supports, let me tell you, there is no magic. As much as they give to us, the athletes are ready to work hard. We work with what you give to us and whatever comes out of it, you should expect”.