Some athletes and officials in Edo State have faulted the decision by Governor Godwin Obaseki to continue with what they term as ‘wasteful’ Okpekpe 10km road race.
The state is warming up to stage the fifth edition of the competition, which was one of the projects initiated by immediate past governor of the state, Adams Oshiomole.
An official of Edo State Sports Council told The Guardian yesterday that he expected Obaseki to do away with the Okpekpe road race the same way Cross River State government dumped the Obudu Mountain race two years ago.
According to him, the Okpekpe road race has no single benefit for athletes and officials of Edo State, adding: “For the past four years, the immediate past governor only wasted our money on the project and in the process enriched athletes from north African countries.
Speaking further, the official said: “Long distance races are not part of our culture. Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State quickly realized it, and he stopped the Obudu Mountain race. For long, there had been no functional vehicle in Edo Sports Council, yet Oshiomole was able to throw away millions of naira to those athletes from east Africa.
“Very soon, the IAAF World Athletics Championship will hold in London, and those north Africans would have used the money from Okpekpe and Lagos marathon to prepare themselves very well. The late Samuel Ogbemudia was able to achieve so much in sports because he was able to identify our area of strength, which are the 100m, 200m, 400m, the hurdles and relays. If Obaseki should organize the Okpekpe road race for the next 100 years, a Nigerian can never win it. It is a complete waste of fund,” the official stated.
Also speaking, an athlete of the state lamented saying: “Even our local athletes who picked the crumbs in past editions of the race have not been paid. At a point, threatened to stage a protest to the Race General Manager Yusuf Ali, but I quickly intervened by advising them to launch an appeal instead of a protest,” the athlete said.
Efforts to speak with Yusuf Ali on the alleged non-payment of money for past Edo State winners were unsuccessful, as he refused to answer calls to his mobile phone.