Some groups of sportsmen and women on Saturday at the Eagle Square in Abuja rallied support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term in office.
The solidarity rally involved a large turnout of retired and serving athletes, as well as sports administrators.
It was however preceded by some forms of physical exercise, such as jogging, physical stretches and light aerobics.
Former Super Eagles’ captains, Nwankwo Kanu and Joseph Yobo, led other sportsmen and women, including members of the Super Falcons, to the event.
Some of those who spoke at the rally, including former African sprint queen, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, and Olympic taekwondo medallist, Chika Chukwumerije, said Jonathan’s love for sports necessitated their support.
Onyali-Omagbemi, in her goodwill message titled, Sprint into Victory, said the empowerment of Nigerian athletes by the present administration had brought back the lost glory of Nigerian sports.
“We don’t want you to go now because you have started a race like I did as a sprinter,” she said. “I sprinted and finished my race to get the two bronze medals I won in five Olympics which I participated in. I never stopped halfway. If I had stopped half way, I wouldn’t have gotten the medals. So, President Jonathan, you cannot stop now. We want you to keep running and finish the race.”
Onyali-Omagbemi said Jonathan’s youth development programmes would never go unnoticed, no matter the level of opposition.
The former athlete said Ese Brume, who won a gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland, was one of the discoveries of the present administration.
Chukwumerije, on his part, said he believed that Jonathan’s re-election would guarantee Nigeria’s participation at the 2015 All-Africa Games and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
He said any change of government now would truncate and disorganise the chain of successes so far achieved in the sports sector.
“If there is a change of government now, what will happen to the All-Africa Games coming up in six months’ time and the Olympics coming up next year?” he asked. “We didn’t qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nation but we qualified for the next edition and won it. Because we didn’t win any medal at the London 2012 Olympics and Jonathan has urged us to go and win at Rio 2016, I am sure we will win medals. It will happen exactly the way it happened with the Super Eagles who won the 2013 AFCON after they failed to qualify for the previous edition.”
Samuel Ekeoma, technical director, Nigeria Para-powerlifting Federation, said the world of the disabled in Nigeria had changed for the better since Jonathan took over.
“Our world has been turned around since Jonathan became the President of Nigeria. You are the only President that has brought the disabled persons to the Presidential Villa,” he said.
“The pictures of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa will never die in our homes because you have given us a sense of belonging which means that we have abundant abilities. We cannot fail you and we have never failed you. We proved it when our compatriots failed at the London 2012 Olympic. It was the Paralympians that redeemed the country’s image. As you are going for your second tenure, we cannot disappoint you and others have learnt from us because they now believe there is ability in our disabilities.”
He said Nigerian para-lifters have become the best in the whole world due to the commitment of the present administration to sports development in the country.
The Minister of Sports, Tammy Danagogo, on his part noted that “the visionless change the opposition is clamouring for will not be able to achieve a quarter of what President Jonathan has achieved in sports.”
He urged sportsmen and women to rally round Jonathan’s re-election bid for him to continue with his transformation agenda in sports for the progress of the youths.
Gbenga Elegbeleye, the Director-General of the National Sports Commission, listed the achievements of Jonathan’s administration in sports, such as the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
“Sports has become a veritable tool for youth empowerment,” he said. “This is why the sportsmen and women of this country are showing their solidarity with President Jonathan for his re-election.”
The Senate President, David Mark, and Nigerian Vice President, Namadi Sambo, urged the youth to “ensure Jonathan’s re-election, so as not to surrender your future to a septuagenarian.”