By Amaechi Agbo
The federal government will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games para-athletes who won medals in the just concluded games on a date to be announced soon.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Disability Matters, Dr. Samuel Samuel Ankeli disclosed this in an interview in Abuja.
Dr Ankeli who gave assurance that the para-athletes will be hosted for their heroics in the games, explained that the delay in hosting them was due to none passage of the 2018 appropriation bill.
“Yes, the para-athletes will be hosted by the president. The reason for the delay so far is due to none passage of the 2018 budget. We are optimistic the hosting will be done to give them the confidence that truly they have done the country proud. I give you the assurances that they will be hosted.”
While extolling the great strides of the para-athletes in para-sports generally, the SSA said the para-athletes have proved beyond doubt that they can perform at any level beyond what the able-bodied athletes could do.
“We have always proven that we do better with disability above and beyond that which the able-bodied have been performing. You can check the records – in Brazil 2016, we came back with 8 medals but the able-bodied came back with just a bronze medal
“We have proven that in Nigeria sports, for instance, we are the champions and we are unbeatable. What we seek is that sponsors and other people committed to sports administration will give more opportunities to people with disabilities or the para-sports because we have proven that we are better than others.
“I will like to invite our admirers and those who believe in us that the man you see with disability has a compensatory mechanism from God. Such that whatever he sets his mind to do, he gets the best because he is committed and wants to prove a point. Our ability and respect have been eroded because of attitudinal beliefs but we are out to change it by our performance. We want to give evidence that we are very good.”
On how the federal government is seeing to the welfare of the para-athletes, the former ABU lecturer said the government through his office is championing the welfare of the athletes in three ways.
“We are improving the welfare of the para-athletes in three ways; first is at individual levels where I motivate and give them that conditional moral to say they owe us performance. I will always be available to give them motivation
“Secondly, we are engaging the policy makers and administrators of sports in Nigeria to come in and support us. So we are working assiduously on the area of sponsorship because government alone cannot carry out the responsibility of sports development in the country. Private individuals and corporate bodies need to come in.
“Thirdly, at the presidency, my duty is to, among others, ensure that not only is the budgetary allocations to my constituency are approved and released, but that they are properly utilized. I stand firm on this one; transparency and accountability in our financial dealings is important.
“With these three things put together, we are doing our best in ensuring the welfare of the para-athletes. But the thing about sports administration in Nigeria is that government alone cannot sponsor it. So I want to use the media to reach out to those who have conviction that there is ability in disability to keep something on the table to promote sports so that better and more able people with disability can prove that begging is not our option. If we have the opportunities, we will perform as good Nigerians to the glory and honour of this country.
The SSA on Disability Matters added that training facilities have been a serious impediment to the para-athletes as they use their personal equipment to train. He however expressed optimism that with the merger of the Para-shooting federation and the Nigeria shooting federation, the coast is clear for the para-athletes to improve on the facilities and training.
“Most of the materials the athletes use for training personally belong to them; they are their personal property. We spend our resources to get to the standards, at the end; we give the glory to the government. We are part of the people and the system and that is why I decided to be a member of the para-sports and in everything we want to do, the president’s voice must be heard. Although it happened in the past, I guarantee you that things have changed and with our merger with the Nigeria Shooting Federation, greater heights await our exploits,” he concluded.