Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has lauded the Federal Government for the giant steps it had taken to encourage sporting activities in its over 104 Unity Colleges across the country.
The governor gave the commendation at the opening of the 16th edition of the Federal Colleges Games (FEDCOL Games) on Monday in Lagos.
The week-long games is being hosted by the Southwest zone of colleges.
Sanwo-Olu who was the special guest of honour was represented by the chairman of the Lagos State sports commission, Mr Sola Aiyepeku.
He lauded the organisers of the games for a job well done while assuring his administration’s support in ensuring the sustainability of the biennial games.
“Although I am here to represent the governor who is having a very tight schedule, I want to say, for me specifically, I feel very honoured as I am a product of this system, having graduated several years ago from the Federal Government College Ilorin in Kwara. Sports remain the biggest and strongest binding factor and so, I feel happy to be here too to encourage students to participate in sports whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“This is because it breeds so many other things such as discipline, networking, binding and a lot more,” he said.
Also speaking, Eng. Jani Ibrahim, an industrialist, however, called on the Federal Government to consider making sports a major integral part of the curriculum of its unity schools across the country, in a bid to have a balanced education.
Ibrahim said this in an interview on the sidelines of the opening of the 16th edition of the FEDCOL Games, hosted by the Southwest zone, at the Federal Science and Technical College Yaba ( FSTCY) on Monday in Lagos.
Ibrahim who was the chairman of the event noted that sports remained a major underpinning factor of the unity of the country, especially in the face of the various challenges it was facing currently.
According to him, sports is a potent force used in binding a people, irrespective of cultural/ethnic or social background, adding that getting it promoted at the youth level, especially in schools, can be one sure way of fostering unity.
“You see, it is great to see young ones coming together and meeting on this platform, to promote one very essential aspect of our national life, which is unity. These are Unity Colleges, about 111 of them, spread across the country.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Education to draw curriculum for its schools. In doing that, it should consider making sports a major integral part, in order to have an excellent and balanced education.
“It must create adequate time and enough competition for the schools, as that will further cement and create the binding force for national unity. Remember that through these games too, new talents are discovered. These talents like the others found before now in various sports, bring a lot of recognition and financial rewards, both locally and globally, for the individual and the nation at large.
“Sports is a major underpinning of the unity of this country and therefore, I want to encourage these young ones, their parents, the principals and the Federal Government to ensure that this game is sustained and becomes a binding force.
“You know at the youth level such as this, it s a major underpinning and at the tertiary level, the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme is the platform created to also bring people from diverse ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds together, all in a bid to foster peace, promote love and national unity,” he stated.
According to him, Nigerians, just like other nations of the world, usually set aside their differences, and come together as one, to cheer and support, anytime their national teams were participating in any international event. He added that this should be the spirit and must be encouraged at every given opportunity.
The chairman then stated that there was also the need for the Federal Government to do all within its power, to continue to support the FEDCOL Games, by putting in more resources to ensure that it became an avenue for young Nigerians to meet, mingle, share ideas, understand themselves and promote unity.
He commended the Federal Government for supporting the games to hold, irrespective of the security situation in the country, while also lauding the parents of the students for releasing their children to travel from various parts of the country to be part of the event.
Bar. Tofunmi Akamo, Principal, Federal Government College Ijanikin, Lagos, said over 85 Unity Colleges were in attendance for the games and would be participating in sporting activities such as athletics, shot put, chess and other indoor games.
According to her, the essence of the game is to further sustain the vision and mission of the founding fathers.
Akamo who is also the Chairman of all the zonal Chairmen of the unity schools, said that inculcating the virtue of tolerance, togetherness, peace and love in the youths, especially during the formative years, was key to the survival and development of any country.
She noted that the only avenue to achieve that was through such games, hence the need to encourage, promote and sustain it.
“The games is a platform for students in all the unity colleges in the country to come together and interact with one another. We normally organise it every other year, around the six geopolitical zones, with the intention to further assist in realizing the goals of the founding fathers.
“This is part of the reason for the establishment of the unity schools, to bring our children from diverse backgrounds together, in other words, foster unity in diversity, get them to mix freely, learn from each other, as well as respect other people’s culture.
“We identified sports as one key way to achieve this, as it is a great unifier. That bonding is what government expect from our children today, to have a united Nigeria, because as we all know, the future of this country belongs to them,” she said.
She noted that the week-long event comes to an end on Friday.
The Principal, King’s College Lagos, Mr Andrew Agada expressed satisfaction at the turnout of the colleges for the games.
He noted that Nigeria would remain a force to reckon with if sports could be encouraged across all areas of life’s endeavour.
“Unity schools were established to further uphold the country as one. These schools bring children from diverse backgrounds and nurture them into being first and foremost, Nigerian and that is what this FEDCOL Games is striving to achieve, over the years.
“The games have been great as every two years, we gather our children on this platform and showcase our unity in diversity. Even in 2020, the games were still held in Port Harcourt before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year, it is the turn of the South West. We take them around the various zones to see and get first-hand information about the people, places and culture. So far, It has been an exciting experience for all of us.
“It is however regrettable that we could not have most of the colleges in the Northeast and Northwest, following the security challenges over there but I know very soon, things will normalize,” he stated.