Para/deaf athletes protest exclusion from Sports Festival
By Ifeanyi Eduzor
National Stadium, Surulere was early today locked up by Para and deaf athletes protesting against their exclusion from the National Sports Festival to be hosted by Delta State from November 28- December 10 this year.
The athletes who trouped out in their hundreds as early as 6 am prevented vehicles using the ever busy Funsho Williams Road, Surulere, Lagos from having assess to the road.
Apart from this, they displayed placards with various instrictions such as; We need equal right, Do not send us to the streets, It’s high time the Ministry pay more attention to para sports, We cannot be used and dumped in this country, Sunday Dare you’re our father, please treat us equal; do the right thing, deaf athletes have been participating in Sports Festival since 1996, why removing it now, our records for this country speak for us and President Buhari call the Minister to order and many more’.
They not only prevented staff of the Ministry of Youths and Sports development from having assess to their offices but caused heavy traffic in the ever busy road which left many people stranded for hours.
Speaking to our correspondent, Akambi Kazeem a Wheelchair tennis player expressed shock that the Sports Ministry invited some neighbouring countries to be part of the festival while preventing special athletes from participating in it saying; that’s a sign that the government does not care for it’s citizens.
” It’s very sad that we’ve been training for many months now for the Sports Festival, only for the the Ministry to delist our sports from the festival. The most annoying thing is that they went ahead to invite athletes of some neighbouring West African countries to be part of the Games while shutting us out which is segregation of the highest order.
” Many of us have won laurels for the country and depend on sports to take care of our family and personal needs and that’s why we’re appealing to President Mohammadu Buhari to intervene and call the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare to order.
In his own remarks, Olasupo Temitope, a Swimming/ Para Canoeing athlete noted that by the unpopular action, the Sports Ministry is not encouraging special athletes not minding the medals they’ve won for the country at both the Commonwealth and Olympics Games.
” Sports Minister, Sunday Dare and the organisers of the National Sports Festival by their action have shown they’re not interested in developing special sports in the country. How can one explain that Nigerian athletes will be prevented from participating in the biggest sporting event in the country while athletes from other countries will be invited to be part of the event. “This amounts to insensitivity and must be checked because it not only discourages us from participating in sports but make us feel we’re second class citizens in.our country.
“You should also understand that most of us are unemployed and depend solely on sports for survival and that’s why we are rejecting the discrimination.
Representative of deaf athletes, Nurudeen Olayiwola Badmus explained that it’s wrong for the Sports Ministry to brand some sports optional noting that all sports should be compulsory to give everybody a sense of belonging.
According to him, deaf athletes have been participating in the National Sports Festival since 1996 and have won many medals for the country at the Deaflympics Games and wondered why they should be denied participation in a festival that is held every two years.
He called for Presidential intervention because they have been training for the festival and looking forward to be in Delta State to represent their various state before the unfortunate announcement which he believes is capable of negatively affecting the development of the country’s sports.
Meanwhile, President of Deaf Sports Federation of Nigeria Alhaji Suleiman Dagbo Saka has lamented the inability of the Sports Ministry to come out clean on the issue noting that he sent a letter to the Ministry as requested but up till the time of filling this report. nothing has come out of it.
However, the Lagos Liaison Officer of the Sports Ministry Nkana Nbora was busy throughout the period of the demonstration trying to calm down the aggrieved athletes, promising them that the matter will be looked into.