Bayelsa State Government has called for collaboration and partnership from commercial banks, international oil companies (IOCs), construction firms and other corporate bodies doing business in the state to support the development of sports.
The State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, made the call on Tuesday, October 26, when he met with managers of commercial banks and representatives of some major construction companies at the Government House, Yenagoa.
Ewhrudjakpo said the state had great potential in music and sports, especially in traditional wrestling, which he noted, should be harnessed for the physical, social and economic development of youths in the state.
According to him, government is desirous of collaborating with the banks and other development partners to support the state’s main football teams, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens.
He expressed hope that such support would enable the state to win the Aiteo Cup back to back, even as the 2021/2022 Nigerian League season is expected to resume soon.
Ewhrudjakpo maintained that the current focus of the state government was to build consensus with corporate organisations, as it is the standard practice in other climes where sports is thriving.
The deputy governor said unlike some governments elsewhere that commandeer corporate bodies for sponsorship, the state government had always employed moral suasion in seeking support from them as part of their corporate social responsibility.
He said: “Some of the areas Bayelsa State is good at are music and sports, especially wrestling. We believe that if we begin to plough enough energy, and manure the land for sports and music, we will make our youths very productive.
“We believe that if we catch them young and direct their energies towards these areas, it will be more profitable to us, because sports itself is business. In fact, sports is an untapped business in Nigeria.
“Our intention is to build an effective collaboration between you and our Sports Ministry, especially for Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens, and in other areas of our sports programmes.
“We are really bent on collaborating with you. We don’t want to build imposed relationship with you. We know that is what some states do; they will just call the bank and say, ‘You, this is the amount, pay.’ We don’t do that because we believe we are not operating in a dictatorial hemisphere”.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Daniel Igali, described the kind of collaboration being sought by government as the catalyst for sports development elsewhere in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.
Igali pointed out that Bayelsa was doing quite well in the field of sports especially in recent times due to the attention and resources government had provided so far to the sector.
The Commissioner, who said it was part of his dream that Bayelsa becomes the sports capital of Nigeria, expressed confidence that the partnership, when actualised, would accelerate the pace of sports development in the state.
Commercial banks and other corporate bodies represented at the meeting are First Bank, Sterling Bank, Keystone, Ecobank, Access, Zenith and Fidelity Bank.
Others include Heritage Bank, Unity Bank, Setraco and the Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC).