The first ever IAAF-certified road race in Nigeria held on Saturday May 4, at Okpekpe, Edo State, attracted seven hundred top athletes from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
The race which covered ten kilometres (ten thousand metres) over hills and sandy paths was won by Moses Masai of Kenya with a time of 29 minutes, 39 seconds while Timothy Toroitich of Uganda came second with a time of 29 minutes and 44 seconds and Yusuf Biwott of Kenya came third with a time of 29 minutes, 50 seconds.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State who also participated in the race alongside the Minister of Sports, Mr Bolaji Abdullahi and other VIPs including top Nollywood actors came 131st with a time of 59 minutes, 3 seconds.
The Governor, against the advise by organisers to compete in the VIP race which covered only 2.5km ran the whole length of the 10,000 metres to the consternation of everyone.
The Minister for Sports and Chairman National Sports Commission, Bolaji Abdullahi who thanked the Edo State Government for the commitment and vision for the event promised to ensure that that race is made an annual event.
“I must commend you for the sincere energy and commitment which you have demonstrated and also for the vision of this event. We will continue to cherish the connection you have brought between rural development and sports and that falls squarely within our mission for mass participation in sports. I will continue to argue that it is not all the time that the purpose of sports is for medals or for podium success or global excellence,” he noted.
According to him, “the purpose of sports is for mass participation and for unity. Today this event is uniting us because it has brought everybody here to have a pleasant Saturday in Okpekpe. I must also say that the people of Okpekpe will continue to be grateful for this event. Without this event someone like me will probably not visit Okpekpe, if ever I will visit it will probably not be today.”
The Minister said the governor has given the people the opportunity to witness this excitement for them to have hope and believe in what is possible.
“I want to assure you I will be having discussion with the President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria and we are sure that by the grace of God we shall have a repeat of this event next year and we are going to sustain it,” he added.
The Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole thanked the Minister for the leadership he provides in the Ministry of Sports which has taken sports to the next level in Nigeria.
“I think I speak the mind of the community and the good people of Edo State to say thank you when you say that this event will be repeated every year. We in Edo State will make sure we include it in our national calendar of events,” he disclosed.
According to the Governor, “I think it is reassuring to bring Africans together and I am sure this countries will be going back to tell their people that rural people are connected and even Ministers feel at home in a typical rural Nigeria. That we have road networks that connect the cities to the villages. Nigeria is not about those things that people report about.
“The country is working, development is going on, the rural people are being touched, rural economy is being affected positively and Nigeria is on the move,” he added.
The race was organised by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria in conjunction with Pamodzi Sports Marketing Nigeria Limited.
(Source: Okpekpe LOC)