Akwa United Football Club of Uyo recently won the 2021 Nigerian Professional Football League and the joy of the success is still reverberating across the land.
For the people of Akwa Ibom State the victory is a milestone and historic in many ways.
Since the creation of the state in 1987, no club from Akwa Ibom has ever topped the league until this great feat by Akwa United.
Indeed the coming of the Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel Administration brought good fortunes and a holistic sports development to the state.
He brought the Midas touch to sports in the state and turned Akwa United to a super power in Nigerian Football.
How he motivated Akwa United as well as turned Dakkada FC into winning machines remains a wonder. But what he has done is there for all to witness.
Only few months into his administration in 2015, Akwa United became the first club ever from Akwa Ibom State to lift the Federation Cup, now christened Aiteo Cup. In proving that the victory was no fluke but an outcome of a calibrated sports development, Akwa United again won the Aiteo Cup in 2017.
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Again in 2019 the Governor Emmanuel Administration archived a football history in Nigeria as the only state to have two football clubs in the elite division following the promotion of Akwa Starlets (now Dakkada) from division two to one.
Without relenting, Gov Emmanuel continues to build football clubs in Akwa Ibom State into formidable teams.
Last year, Akwa United were in a pole position for the title until the coronavirus pandemic lockdown forced an abrupt closure of the league and the winner to be decided on statistical basis in the boardroom.
While not blowing his trumpets, Gov Emmanuel has raised the sporting bar in Akwa Ibom State. He has brought his ‘Dakkada'(Arise to greatness) philosophy to bear on sportsmen and women and is paying off handsomely. He has kept motivating Akwa Ibom teams to victory in quick succession.
Incidentally, social commentators, particularly those from Akwa Ibom, have not really highlighted the sports policy of his administration. While they comment extensively on the Completion Agenda, they hardly address his sporting achievements.
However, Governor Emmanuel’s sports development is being keenly followed at the national level such that he was conferred with the 2017 Sports Governor of the Year Award.
The statement at the award read “since his assumption of office Governor Emmanuel has championed the drive for sports revolution in Nigeria. Through the efforts of the amiable sports loving governor, Akwa Ibom has become the emerging football capital of Nigeria, playing host to the national team-Super Eagles- all through their qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“The state-owned football team, Akwa United, have been the most funded and best managed state-owned team. We have seen the team emerge as winners of the Federation Cup twice in three years. The female team, Ibom Angels, also emerged as runners-up in the women’s Federation Cup for the first time in 2017”.
Indeed, Governor Emmanuel, as a motivator, has begun a sports revolution in Akwa Ibom State. For example, the first ever Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival held in 2016 did produce abundant talents that saw Akwa Ibom claiming second place on the medals table the following year at the 2017 National Youth Sports Festival.
There is no gainsaying that sports is a veritable vector for unity and socio-economic development. Therefore Governor Emmanuel’s efforts in sport development should be commended and widely supported.
For sure, Akwa Ibom’s combined success in sports will sooner or later yield great socio-economic benefits to the state. Already, with the resounding success of Akwa United, the state is now on the rise.
As we celebrate Akwa United’s sweet success, we shouldn’t forget to doff our hats for the man behind the success story.