Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (middle), flanked by the President, International Sports Press Association, Mr. Gianni Merlo (right) and President, International Sports Press Association-Africa, Mr. Mitchell Obi, during the presentation of the Power of Sports Award to the Rivers governor by the International Sports Press Association-Africa in Brussels, Belgium

Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The International Sporting Press (AIPS) wednesday in Brussels, Belgium, honoured Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, with the ‘Power of Sports’ award.

Wike was nominated for the award by the International Sports Press Association-Africa (AIPS-Africa) headed by veteran Nigerian sports journalist Mitchell Obi.

Witnessed by sports personalities and journalists from across the globe, the award to Wike was for his remarkable fidelity in raising the bar of sports matters and using sports as a catalyst for development.

The event took place at Le Plaza, Brussels and was performed by the President, AIPS, Mr Gianni Merlo and Obi. Sports journalists from 108 countries witnessed the event.

Presenting the award to the Rivers State governor Obi, said Wike was being recognised for the use of sports as a tool to effectively engage the youth population in the continent.

He urged Wike to sustain his commitment to sports development as more youths would be empowered in the state.

In his acceptance speech, Wike, dedicated the award to God, his immediate family and the people of his state who have supported his efforts at creating a new Rivers State.

Wike noted that the award by the AIPS would spur him into greater commitment to the service of Rivers State and humanity.

Also yesterday, Wike presented a lecture titled: “Peace and Progress through Sports in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria” wherein he canvassed that sport has functions beyond its simplest form as a game to encompass a cost effective means for addressing a broad range of socio-economic challenges that impact on peace and human progress.

He said: ” Arguably, there is no social activity that can match the role sport plays in breaking down barriers, bringing people together across nations, promoting understanding, positively engaging the energy of youths and in mobilising support for social causes.

“Therefore, even at the simplest level, sport not only improves the mental and physical health of participants; it also helps to inculcate such timeless values as honesty, hard work, obedience, respect, team work, discipline, and leadership in the youths.

“And as you know, these are all useful values for creating peaceful and progressive societies as well as for achieving national peace and basic development goals, including poverty reduction”.

He said states in the Niger Delta region recognise the special power of sports for promoting peace and development in the region.

The governor noted that in addition to sports policies, Niger Delta states all have ministries or departments exclusively responsible for sports development.

He said: “As a result of these efforts at sports development, our country’s national sports teams are always dominated by sports men and women from the region, who are competing with the rest of the world and bringing laurels to Nigeria.

“Apart from giving hope for a brighter future, unemployed youths are also getting increasingly engaged and empowered through the various sport platforms the region has provided.”

Amongst some of the prominent Rivers State indigenes who reacted to the AIPS award to Wike, included PDP National Chairman , Prince Uche Secondus and Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Austin Opara. They all commended Wike’s strides in sports development in Rivers and the country as a whole.

PDP National Chairman , Prince Uche Secondus, said the honour was deserved in view of the developmental strides of Wike. He said the governor has made Nigeria proud

Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Austin Opara, said the award is a recognition to Rivers State and a challenge to the Rivers State Governor to continue to work for the people.

“These engagements have successfully turned most of our youths away from violence and other anti-social behavior, and thereby enhancing peace and progress at different levels of society”.

Wike said in the last three years years of his administration, the Rivers State Government has invested in local and international football development, national and international wrestling competitions, Polo, golf and the development of critical sports facilities.

He said: “I wish to reiterate our resolve to continue to tap the benefits of sport to advance social cohesion, peace and progress in Rivers State, the Niger Delta, and the country, as well as across Africa.

“May I therefore use this opportunity to call on international donor organisations, sports charities, as well as the private sector to support our efforts with facilities, training and sponsorship.”

PDP National Chairman , Prince Uche Secondus, said the honour was deserved in view of the developmental strides of Wike. He said the governor has made Nigeria proud

Former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Austin Opara, said the award is a recognition to Rivers State and a challenge to the Rivers State Governor to continue to work for the people.

Senator Representing Rivers West Senatorial District, Senator Osinakachukwu Ideozu said the governor’s sports programmes have empowered youths, hence the need for the International recognition.