By SHEDRACK FRANK

The Bayelsa Government on Thursday assured its athletes of sustainable support to enable them to excel at the postponed National Sports Festival and other competitions.

Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the State’s Deputy Governor, gave the assurance at a meeting with the officials of the State Ministry of Sports in Yenagoa.

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The government’s assurance was contained in a statement signed by Ewhrudjakpo’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr Doubara Atasi.

The deputy governor pledged that the present administration would do everything within its reach to promote sports and youths development in the state.

He noted that restoring Bayelsa’s sports glory would not be too difficult, saying that the administration was ready to tap from the wealth of experiences of veterans, including Gov. Douye Diri, a former Commissioner for Sports.

Ewhrudjakpo, commending the state’s athletes for demonstrating true commitment and patriotism, enjoined other Bayelsa people, particularly the political class, to emulate them.

“First of all, I want to thank you for your patriotism, commitment, determination and the Ijaw spirit that is firing in you, because the Ijaw man is not a man whose conscience is bought.

“The true Ijaw man is prepared to be hungry than going to steal or beg. That is why I have always said that Ijaw man is one of the proudest persons in the world.

“And that is what you have demonstrated. I want to assure you that this Douye Diri-led government will reciprocate your determination, commitment and patriotism to our state.

“If every person shows this kind of patriotism in their little offices and corners, including our politicians in Abuja, Port Harcourt and wherever they are, Bayelsa will not be what it is.

“I want to also assure you that anytime the sports festival will take place, by God’s grace, I will be there at the opening ceremony, as the person supervising the sports ministry.

“I will march round with you to set example for others, as a way of encouraging you.

“I will carry the banner alongside the Commissioner for Sports, or the Permanent Secretary, as the case may be, to march in front of you,” he said.

Reacting to the athletes’ demands, the deputy governor assured them that the state government would put in place the machinery to employ athletes and clear their outstanding bonuses.

He directed the Permanent Secretary and Director of Sports, Ministry of Sports and Youths Development, to work out the cost implications for the employment of athletes as well as payment of their bonuses.

“Subject to the governor’s approval, the permanent secretary and director of sports should work out the total cost of employing these athletes.

”You should also work out the payment of the outstanding bonuses in two, three and four instalments.

“I want the proposal to get to me latest by next week Wednesday, so that we can present it to the governor.

”We want to see what we can do, so that at least ‘something’ will be coming your way every month, to clear the backlog,” he said.

In their separate remarks, the Permanent Secretary, Tukuru Patimidi, and Director of Sports, Ministry of Sports, Braveman Wodi, commended the deputy governor’s commitment to tackling sports challenges in Bayelsa.

They, however, appealed to the state government to take quick measures to forestall losing its best athletes to other states.

According to them, the measures include clearing the backlog of bonuses owed athletes, as well as employing those who have consistently made the state proud in both national and international sports competitions.

In his contributions, one of the athletes, Mr Tuburu Tamarakuro, urged the state governor to demonstrate his love for sports by motivating Bayelsa’s sportsmen and women.

Tamarakuro was optimistic that the state would excel at the sports festival, if the pressing issues affecting the athletes could be tackled headlong.

Edited By: Folorunso Poroye/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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