As other states settle down to competition at the 19th edition of the National Sports Festival, which got underway yesterday, Edo State is groaning under the weight of an over-bloated contingent.
With 591 athletes and officials, Edo State has the largest contingent at the games.
Checks reveal that more than a third of this number are not athletes but individuals smuggled into the team for personal reasons. These individuals investigations revealed, have been given preferential treatment over athletes and coaches who are the main actors at the festival.
Whilst coaches and their athletes have been struggling to get themselves accommodated and paid their outstanding camping allowances and settle down to compete, these individuals smuggled into the team have since been settled into comfortable accommodation.
“We have been treated like orphans right from Benin City. We had trained for about two weeks courtesy of the generosity of our coaches who funded the exercise because the state refused to provide funds.
“We travelled overnight on Wednesday and arrived in Abuja yesterday(Thursday) morning and were driven straight to the stadium. Even after the opening ceremony, we were huddled into the bus and spent the night without being accommodate,” an aggrieved female athlete said.
Edo athletes during march past at the 19th edition of the National Sports Festival
Generally, within the Edo State camp there was a general atmosphere of disquiet as athletes and officials, abandoned to their fate, wondered who exactly was in charge.
An angry coach told this reporter that their patience had breaking point. He said that since he had been attending sports festivals, he had not seen the kind of disorganization and confusion like the one that has attended Edo State’s preparation for this games.
“It is very unfortunate what is happening here. We don’t know exactly what is happening or who is in charge. When you ask questions the response you get is, ‘we are looking into the matter’. In the end nothing gets done,” the coach who asked that his name not be mentioned, said.
A visibly disturbed Barrister Godwin Dudu-Orumen, the newly appointed chairman of the Edo State Sports Commission (ESSC) refused to respond to questions on the development within the camp as he shrugged off all entreaties to make him talk.
Checks by this paper revealed the existence of multiple lines of authority as certain officials in the delegation attempt to bypass and undermine the authority of the chairman of the commission.
Despite the drawbacks, Edo athletes managed to focus on their events, winning a few medals in events like powerlifting and table tennis on the opening day of the competition.
It is not clear whether Edo State Governor; Godwin Obaseki is in the know of developments within his state’s camp. The Governor, who was at the opening ceremony of the games on Thursday December 6, had assured the contingent of support in their quest to win laurels for the state.