The University of Port Harcourt successfully defends its championship title by emerging as the overall winner in the just-concluded 24th edition of the National Universities Games hosted by Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 10, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE University of Port-Harcourt, UNIPORT, Rivers State, has again emerged as the overall winner at the just- concluded 24th edition of the National Universities Games, NUGA, hosted by the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile- Ife, Osun State. The win makes it the fifth consecutive time UNIPORT had emerged the NUGA champions which started in 1966. UNIPORT had a total of 120 medals made up of 63 gold, 41 silver, and 16 bronze, ahead of the University of Lagos, which placed second with 13 gold, nine silver and 15 bronze medals.
The host university came third with 12 gold, nine silver and 15 bronze medals. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, got a total of 30 medals to occupy the fourth position with nine gold , 10 silver and 11 bronze medals. The fifth position went to Bayero University, Kano, with seven gold, one silver and three bronze medals, while the University of Benin got six gold, four silver and five bronze medals to take the sixth position. Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho, Oyo State, came seventh, with six gold, four silver and five bronze medals, totalling 15 medals.
The eighth position went to the University of Ilorin with four gold, three silver and 15 bronze medals, while the University of Maiduguri took the ninth position with three gold, five silver and nine bronze medals. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, had a total of 19 medals of two gold, six silver and 11 bronze to make the 10th position. The University of Uyo came last in the 38th position with only one bronze medal.
Reacting to UNIPORT’s consecutive championship at the games, Joseph Ajienka, the vice-chancellor, commended the athletes for their good conduct throughout the Games. He said the just-completed NUGA was an avenue for sport development in the country. “For any university to defeat us, it must to try and work hard for it. We pray and train hard for future competitions. I am glad with the result because it further confirms our prowess in both sport and academics. This will be the fifth time we will be winning NUGA consecutively and we have also won the West African Universities Games thrice,” he said.
NUGA, which became a member of the World Federation of Universities Games in 1970, is charged with the responsibility of organising bi-annual inter-university games. Presently, there are 36 Nigerian Universities as statutory members of the NUGA General Assembly. The dream of the founding fathers of NUGA was to put in place games that would help in discovering young talents in Nigerian universities for grooming for future international competitions.
Interestingly, despite its myriads of problems, NUGA has, to some extent, contributed to the development of sports in Nigeria. The games have helped in discovering talented athletes who went on to represent the country at international competitions. But just like most other institutions in Nigeria, NUGA is said to be suffering from defective leadership, poor funding, students’ apathy to games, irregular hosting of games, use of mercenaries, doping and poor sporting infrastructure. To make matters worse, most vice-chancellors of Nigerian universities are not passionate about sports. Consequently, expending so much on the provision of sporting facilities or accepting to sink millions of naira into hosting the games is never their priority.
Although most Nigerians believe the NUGA has not met the yearnings and aspirations of its founding fathers, some of its officials are of the view that the organisation has contributed immensely to the development of sports in the country. Bola Orodele, secretary-general, NUGA, said since the inception of the games, it had not only produced stars that represented the nation at various international games, but had also signposted amateur sports in the country. He said that since the first games held in Ibadan in 1966, the hosting of the competition in various universities has created room for the provision of sporting facilities for the universities as well as the host communities.
According to him, NUGA has come of age as over 100 universities as against the five that participated in the maiden edition attended the 2014 Games. He reiterated that the games has served as the zenith of amateur sports in the country producing notable athletes like Felix Owolabi, a member of the 1980 squad that won the Africa Nations Cup, Seyi Olafinjana, a former key member of the Super Eagles, Hamid Adio of NTA who captained Nigeria to many international competitions as a track and field athlete, Olusoji Fasugba and Bisi Afolabi, as well as Olumide Oyedeji, captain of the Nigeria Basketball team, D’Tigers, who is also a star in the NBA.
The secretary-general further said that the aim and objectives of the games which include, among others, the development of sporting facilities and talent hunt, has been achieved to a great extent such that the body can say confidently that it has contributed immensely to sports development in the country. He disclosed that the best five modern Olympic size swimming pools in the country are in the campuses of the universities of Port-Harcourt, Maiduguri, Nsukka, Ile Ife and Ibadan. He said these facilities have always been put to use by the neighbouring states as well as host communities to train their swimmers for local and international competitions.
Orodele stressed that continuous hosting of the games in various universities has also created the bond of friendship among Nigerian students which has helped in cementing the unity of the country. He said unlike most facilities at the state and federal levels, which are experiencing decay, those of the universities are being maintained with the best of attention hence the 30 year-old University of Ibadan swimming pool and others are still in the best of shape. He charged sports officials at the state and national levels to borrow a leaf from the academic community for proper maintenance of their facilities.