Former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan shaking hands with players during the Governor’s Cup competition for secondary schools in 2013. He was among top Nigerians honourned by the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) at its Investiture ceremony in Lagos during the week
• Honourned As NOC Grand Patron
Former Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan has described his investiture as Grand Patron of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), as a ‘special birthday’ gift.
Uduaghan, whose tenure as governor from 2007 to 2015 lifted Delta State to an enviable position in Nigerian sports, was honourned alongside other prominent Nigerians including the national leader of the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC) Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, His Royal Majesty, Oba Saheed Elegushi, Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Adejoke Nwokedi and Sir Marc Wabara.
Uduaghan celebrated his 64th birthday on Monday, October 22, while his investiture as NOC Patron took place the following day in Lagos.
The ex-Delta State governor described it as a special gift coming less than 24 hours after his 64th birthday celebration, just as he called on government and stakeholders to support the development of grassroots sports in Nigeria and also establish an active National Sports Commission for the nation to excel in sports.
According to him, for any nation to succeed and stay at the top in sports, it must support and develop grassroots sports because there is a wealth of raw talents at the grassroots level.
“No doubt, when it comes to sports and developing talents in Nigeria, Delta State has done well. In my tenure as governor, three sports festivals were held in Nigeria and we won two. We have developed a lot of talents through our grassroots sports’ development initiatives.
“For instance, Blessing Okagbare, one of Nigeria’s sport icons was discovered from our grassroots sports programme and we supported her to the international level.
“My recommendation is that there must be grassroots sports development and also an active National Sports Commission to be manned by professionals for Nigeria to attain greater heights in terms of sports.”
Uduaghan, who is aspiring for a senatorial seat in the 2019 elections under the APC, thanked the NOC for the honour, stressing that it was a call to service and that he and the entire team would give their best in ensuring that sports is taken to the zenith in Nigeria.
“I want to thank the executive and Board of NOC for finding us worthy to be patrons of the Olympic body. Sure, this is a call to service and by the grace of God, we shall all work together to deliver on our mandate,” Uduaghan declared.
During his era as Governor of Delta State, Dr. Uduaghan was able to prove his worth as an excellent manager of man and resources, as well as a great mobiliser of the youths.
One bold step he took shortly after he assumed office as governor was the creation of Delta Sports Commission, which gave sports activities a professional and institutional leverage.
His quality leadership and relentless efforts, which cut across all sectors, lifted Delta into an enviable position in the nation’s sports.
Though, his predecessor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, laid the foundation for sports in Delta State, the Uduaghan’s administration was able to raise the bar. From athletics, football and other major sporting activities, Team Delta became a household name in Nigerian sports.
Team Delta emerged overall champions at KADA 2009 National Sports Festival held in Kaduna, placed second behind the host, Rivers, State at Garden City 2011, emerge the overall winner of the 18th edition of the National Sports Festival tagged, EKO 2012.
Uduaghan’s administration also saw Delta winning the National Channel’s Kids Cup in Lagos in 2013, while Warri Wolves qualified for the finals of the 2014 Federation Cup, the first time in thirty years by any male club from the state. The state also staged one of the biggest Governor’s Cup competitions ever among public schools in the country in 2013 and 2014.
Apart from Blessing Okagbare, other Nigerian athletes, including Ese Brume and Divine Oduduru rose to the top of their sporting career through Uduaghan’s cash motivation before, during and after major sporting activities.