It is not immediately clear if Senator Douye Diri, governor of Bayelsa State, actively or, even passively participated in sports while in school but in adulthood he has proven to be a great sports enthusiast.
His enthusiasm for sports has turned out to be a blessing for Bayelsa State because whatever sporting venture he puts his hands on, turns to gold and the results are there for all to see.
For instance, the state attained its best ever result (as at then) in the National Sports Festival (NSF) — a commendable fourth position placement on the log — in 2006 when Diri was the State Commissioner for Sports Development.
In 2021, Diri improved on the state’s 2006 showing at the multi-sports fiesta when, as Governor, he supported Team Bayelsa to an enviable third place finish at the 2020 National Sports Festival, dusting almighty Lagos State in the process.
When Team Bayelsa returned from the NSF, Governor Diri splashed a whopping N195 million on the athletes and officials, with gold medalists getting one million each, silver madallists received N350,000 each while bronze medallists went home with N300,000 each.
For team sports, each member of a gold winning team was given N500,000, members of silver winning teams got N250,000 while members of bronze winning teams were rewarded with N100,000 each.
READ ALSO : Sports Motivation: The Douye Diri Example
Gold medal winning coaches and secretaries were also rewarded with N500,000 each, silver medal winning coaches and organising secretaries N300,000 each just as bronze medal winning coaches and secretaries got N200,000 each.
Outstanding swimmer and toast of the festival, Ifiezibe Gagbe, got over N10 million reward having won eight gold, two silver and five bronze medals. The largesse, which was nothing short of a naira rain, also captured non- medal winning athletes who were appreciated with N50,000 each likewise their coaches and secretaries who got same amount.
Speaking at the reception ceremony, the governor urged the athletes to reciprocate the gesture by improving on their performance in the next festival and assured that the government would not relent in promoting sports at all levels.
He said: “We appreciate you for bringing honour to the state. As you know, sports is no longer a social event. It is now a money-spinning business if you get committed to it. We pray that you would not end at just the national sports festival. Your Commissioner is a world champion in wrestling. We pray that you follow those footsteps”.
When the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare visited Bayelsa to canvas for support for his ministry’s “Adopt an Athlete Initiative”, Governor Diri readily adopted two Bayelsa-born athletes. The adopted athletes are Blessing Oborududu, and 17-year-old sprinter, Tima Godbless, who won a silver medal in the women’s 200 meters and bronze in the 4×100 meters relay at the festival. By adopting them, the governor, among other things, would be responsible for their training expenses.
When players of Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens, who won the male and female categories of the 2021 Aiteo Cup returned home after the finale at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin, an expectant state was waiting to see if the footballers would be received and rewarded like the NSF athletes. Governor Douye Diri did not disappoint.
In a reception in honour of the players in Government House, Governor Diri announced the sum of one million naira as cash reward for each of the top 25 registered players of both clubs. The other players got N500,000 each. The governor also announced cash reward of N1.3 million for the technical advisers of both teams while the board chairmen of both clubs got N1.5 million. The board members of both clubs smiled home with a million naira each.
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist, Blessing Oborududu, who was also part of the reception ceremony, received the sum of four million naira for her silver medal effort while her coach, Mr. Victor Kodei, who was a former wrestling champion, was given one million naira.
The governor equally directed the immediate release of two Coaster buses to both football teams just as he gave immediate approval for upgrade of the Samson Siasia Stadium, as well as the wrestling gym.
Governor Diri has again raised the bar in sports motivation. A few days ago he doled out the sum of N14 million to players of Bayelsa United for defeating A.S. Ashanti Golden Boys of Guinea 4–2 in their CAF Confederation Cup opener in Yenagoa. The governor had earlier promised the players the sum of N10 million for every victory in their Confederation Cup campaign and a corresponding one million naira for each goal scored in any match they emerge victorious.
Reacting to the governor’s incentives intended to motivate players of Bayelsa United, Sports Editor of New Waves, Loveday Herbert, said “as far as motivation in sports is concerned, Governor Douye Diri is in a class of his own”.
Continuing, Herbert said with the promise of N10 million for every victory in the CAF Confederation Cup campaign and a corresponding one million naira for each goal scored, the players will have only themselves to blame if they do not emerge as eventual winners of the competition.