Prominent Nigerians, including the First Lady Aisha Buhari and Edo Deputy Governor Philip Shuaibu, have bagged the Maiden Ambrose Alli University, AAU, Pillar of Sports Award, for their role in youth and sports development.
The awards, presented by Prof. Ignatius Onimawo, Vice-Chancellor, AAU, Ekpoma, Edo, also saw billionaire businessman, Prince Ned Nwoko, Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola and former Oyo Governor Alao Akala, honoured with the same award.
Other awardees were Gideon Ikhine, a PDP Governorship Aspirant in Edo, Speaker of Edo House of Assembly, Frank Okiye, and Chief Ken Imasuagbon, Proprietor of Pace Setters Schools, as well as Brown Ebewele, former Edo Commissioner for Sports.
Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah from Anambra and Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River who is an alumnus of the university were among the awardees.
Prof. Onimawo said the awardees deserved to be honoured going by their pedigree and contributions to sports development in the state and in the country.
“We looked at their pedigree and what they have been doing for sports; take the case of deputy governor of Edo State, as a deputy governor he plays for Bendel Insurance FC of Benin as a team member.
“Is it Brown Ebewele? This is someone who has contributed his quota in sports as commissioner for sports; Ned Nwoko is building stadium somewhere.
“These individuals have done so well in the area of youth and sports development when you look at them one after the other.
“Chief Imasuagbon, popularly known as the `Rice Man’ is supporting sports everywhere in Edo State, so we don’t just give award because somebody has money; if it were for money, we know people to contact.
“Some of them are not sportsmen but they like sports and they contribute to its development, so, they deserve the award,” Mr Onimawo said.
Mr Onimawo, who was decorated with a special belt by the Karate Association in Edo, also commended the awardees for donating to the university’s N500 million endowment fund for the construction of a mini stadium.
The stadium, the vice-chancellor said, when completed would have an indoor sports hall facilities and also a tartan track for athletics.
“We will have an indoor sports hall where we can play badminton, table tennis and then, develop a new arena for hockey, volleyball and handball, these are things we want develop.
“My vision is that by the time we are leaving office, all round development of sports must have taken place,” he added.
The PDP Governorship Aspirant, Ikhine, who dedicated the award to the youths of the state, noted that sports epitomises so many things in the development of many nations, especially when taken from the grassroots.
He said that sporting activities usually determined the progress, tenacity and focus of any individual.
“Like I always say, what makes up for a great nation is the ability to fail and rise from the failing; people don’t really see the dignity in failing because each time you fail it builds up your muscle to remain focus in what you are doing.
“Sports is not all about winning, sports is all about taking off, failing and rising to win. The greatest of men in sports, Mohammed Ali was not Mohammed Ali because he kept winning all his fight but how he always comes back each time he was knocked out.
“So, we should train our children, especially in the University to be able to retrace their steps whenever they fail; that is what builds up the muscle for a great nation and as sportsmen and sportswomen, we must train and retrain ourselves to remain very competent for any competition.”
Prof. Felix Okokhere, who received the award on behalf of Aisha Buhari and Mr Okiye, the Edo House of Assembly Speaker, said the award was an indication that sports development and people go hand-in-hand.
“This university is located in a place where talents abound; Super Eagles players Victor Osihmen and Odion Ighalo are from this environment and we want to encourage more of their likes to come up.”
Mr Okokhere, who is a member of the award committee, said the award is not about grandstanding but bringing development to the grassroots.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that businessman, Dr Fola Akinsonun received the award on behalf of Governor Oyetola.