Battle For Soul Of Delta Sports
Seven Candidates Jostle To Replace Amaju
For about five years, former Nigerian jumper, hurdler and sprinter, Seigha Porbeni, was the ‘commander-in-chief’ of Delta State Sports Council, leading the state teams (Delta Force) to many national and international competitions.
He was appointed Director of Sports shortly after the state was created in 1991 by the General Ibrahim Babangida’s military regime.
In his active days as athlete, Porbeni was an all-rounder, competing in seven different sports. He was Nigeria’s first decathlete. He later trained as a coach and it was Porbeni who introduced combined events into the nation’s athletics, when the National Stadium, Lagos, was like Mecca of sports.
Under his tenure as Director of Sports, Porbeni laid a solid foundation for subsequent government to built on. Then, Chief Austin Izagbo was calling the shot as Sports Commissioner.
Since their departure, many sports administrators have come and go, but two men, Solomon Ogba and Amaju Pinnick, left an enviable record by making Delta the ‘capital of sports’ in Nigeria. They won the National Sports Festival six times in eight editions. Those were under the Chief James Ibori’s administration (1999-2007) and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s tenure (2007-2015).
With the mantle of leadership now in the hands of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Porbeni sees a brighter light for Delta sports. But he wants all stakeholders in Delta sports to think in the same direction.
At the moment, about seven candidates are said to be jostling for the position of Delta Sports Commission, a move Porbeni sees as unhealthy.
Some of those said to be interested in taking the position, which was last occupied by Amaju Pinnick include former commissioner for Education (Basic and Secondary), Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, former chairman of Ika South LGA and owner of Clara Ibude Angels FC of Agbor, Hilary Ibude, immediate past executive member of the sports commission, Eddinton Kuejubola, Coach Paul Obire, former Director General of the state ministry of sports, Eric Obiaze and former vice chairman of Delta Football Association and founder of Appeteez Football Club, Tony Okowa.
There have been divided opinion among the stakeholders on who to support for the position, but Porbeni is of the opinion that Tony Okowa possess the quality of a man suitable to be chairman of Delta Sports Commission.
Tony is the biological brother to Governor Okowa, but Porbeni says ‘there is no crime’ in appointing him the DSSC boss.
Speaking with The Guardian from the High Performance Center in Port Harcourt, where he is training some home-based athletes for the Rio 2016 Olympics Games, Porbeni said: “Sports is one area that is very difficult to manage. It takes a man with the fear of God to succeed. I am saying this because I was in that position for years and since I left, a lot of things have happened in Delta Sports. Some were positive while some were negative.
“So many people think that sports is an avenue they can make quick money for themselves. That is why we now have so many people lobbying to take the position. A successful sports administrator is that person who does not steal money meant to take care of welfare of athletes and their officials. You must not divert funds meant to buy equipment for sports men and women. I have known Tony Okowa for years and he is a man who has the interest of players, athletes and officials at heart.
“I am not trying to rubbish other candidates here, but to me, Tony is the best man for the position at the moment and I urge the Governor to announce his appointment as quickly as possible,” Porbeni said.
Governor Okowa dissolved the Sports Commission headed by Amaju Pinnick shortly after he assumed office and has not named a replacement.
According to Porbeni, Tony Okowa had been playing his part as sports administrator long before his brother became governor.
“He was chairman of Delta Force FC of Asaba for four years and I remember his generosity for players and officials. Even before he managed Delta Force, Tony founded a football club known as Appeteez FC in 2006. He attended the National Institute of Sports, Lagos, where he studied Sports Administration. You can see that he had been preparing himself for the position for long,” Porbeni stated.
Some people are of the opinion that the government may settle for Tony Okowa as DSSC boss as a way of balancing political equation in Delta sports.
The last two men who occupied the position (Ogba and Amaju) are from Isoko and Itsekiri tribe in Delta South.
The current Director General of the Sports Commission, Victor Onogagamue, is Urhobo from Delta Central.
“So, what is wrong in appointing Tony Okowa who is from Delta North as DSSC chairman?” Porbeni asked. “He has the ability to reach out to all stakeholders in sports and I see Delta sports moving forward under him. He has proven over time that his love is not for football only. Delta is defending champion of the National Sports festival and the state need someone who has ability to source for fund for the athletes to attend competitions, instead of depending on government money all the time. Warri Wolves FC has just qualified for the 2016 CAF Champions League and they need to plan ahead. The governor should act fast by naming Tony as chairman for the Sports Commission,” Porbeni said.