BY EMMANUEL AKPAN
On Thursday, 11th July, 2019, the State Governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel sworn-in Commissioners and Special Advisers that will make up Akwa Ibom State Executive Council.
Among those that were sworn-in at the banquet hall of government house and assigned portfolios was the Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Sir Monday Uko. The swearing in of Monday Uko, who is one of the longest serving commissioners in the present administration came with excitement.
It is on record that Monday Uko served in the administration of former Governor Godswill Akpabio as Commissioner for Youth and Sports. After the end of the former administration, Governor Udom Emmanuel took him to the State Executive Council to serve in the same capacity in his first term. The Governor again re-appointed him to serve still in the same Ministry of Youth and Sports as Commissioner.
If anyone had doubt the return Monday Uko, I did not. Because while he was serving, Uko achieved a lot in the Ministry. Another reason for his return is that, he played a major role in the Governor’s second term election. He single handedly delivered PDP in his area, Obot Akara Local Government Area.
Shortly after his swearing-in, reception party began at his residence in Obot Akara Local Government Area. Both State and Obot Akara Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) officers, stakeholders, women, elders and youths who turned out in large number, gathered to celebrate the return of Sir Monday Uko. His compound was filled to its capacity.
Speeches and goodwill massages were delivered by those who were called upon. They took their turns to appreciate the State Governor for returning Monday Uko to the Exco. They promised to support the returning Commissioner to succeed. Among those who graced the reception were: State Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Obong Paul Ekpo, PDP National Legal Adviser, Emmanuel Enoidem, member representing Ikot Ekpene/Obot Akara State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Idongesit Ntekpere, Sir Emem Akpabio, Mr. Enobong Uwah, Prof. Maria Ikrok and others.
Sports administrators were also on ground to share in the joy of the man of the moment. Among them include: Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Sports, Elder Paul Bassey, Director of Sports who is covering duty for the office of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Coach Lawrence Iquaibom, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Sports and currently Chairman, Akwa Starlets Football Club, Coach Aniedi Dickson, Directors as well as staff of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, sports stakeholders and many more.
They were all excited to identify with the Commissioner whom they described as an achiever in the Ministry. Some of those who interacted with me, thanked the Governor for returning Monday Uko. They also commended the Commissioner for all his achievements in the Ministry.
Indeed, Monday Uko achieved a lot since he took over the Youth and Sports Ministry. Some of his outstanding achievements include: winning of two Nigeria Male Football Federation Cup Titles (Aiteo Cup) with the State Government-owned football club, Akwa United FC. (2015 and 2017), appearance in two final match play-offs of the Nigeria Women Football Federation Cup (Women’s Aiteo Cup) with the State Government-owned female football club, Ibom Angels FC (2017 and 2018).
Others are: promotion of the State Government-owned Ibom Youth FC from Nigeria Nationwide League (Amateur Division) to Nigeria National League (Pro League Division) (2018), qualification of the Super Eagles of Nigeria for a sixth appearance at the FIFA World Cup in Russia by providing home ground (Nest of Champions), logistics and tactical support. (2018), qualification of the Super Eagles of Nigeria for an appearance at the Orange Africa Cup of Nations which is ongoing now in Egypt.
Uko successfully hosted International football matches in Akwa Ibom State; that is Nigeria’s World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations Qualification matches as well as International friendly Matches including Nigeria vs Atletico de Madrid of Spain. He ensure that there is a provision of gainful employment to thousandths of Akwa Ibom natives by sponsoring four professionally organized football clubs in the State. These football clubs (Akwa United, Ibom Angels, Akwa Starlets and Ibom Youth) engaged the services of indigenous players and management staffers every year.
Talking about his achievements in other sports, Monday Uko successfully hosted two editions of first-of-its-kind Akwa Ibom State Youth Sports Festival for all Primary and Secondary Schools in the State. (2017 and 2018). This Sports Festival, which is organized at Local Government and State levels, draws over ten thousand (10,000) participating pupils and students each year.
State government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports sponsored Team Akwa Ibom to participate at all the editions of National Youth Sports Festival (2016, 2017 and 2018) and the main National Sports Festival in Abuja (2018) as well as promoting of indigenous sports talents to international reckoning.
For example, little miss Rebecca Ekpenyong, a student of Community Secondary Commercial School, Ibiaku Itam II, who was discovered at Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival in 2017 and who also won a gold medal in tennis, qualified to represent Nigeria at ITF/AJC Under-14 Championship in Benin Republic and has now progressed to become an ITF West African Junior Tennis Champion. Others discovered include: Comfort Asuquo (West African Junior 100m & 800m Champion), American-based Aniekeme Alphonsus (African 100m and 400m Champion) among others.
The hard-working Commissioner through his Ministry sponsored eight indigenous athletes to participate at the African Youth Games in Algiers where, four of the eight, won medals in the colours of Nigeria (2018). Sponsorship of indigenous Sports Coaches to attend international championships and refresher courses outside the shores of Nigeria is also part of his achievements.
Second-placed finish at the National Youth Games in Ilorin, Kwara State in 2016 for Team Akwa Ibom, remains the State’s highest ever finish in the history of the Games. This is one record that would not be forgotten. Successful hosting of national competitions is another achievement of the Obot Akara born politician. Other achievements are the 11th Nigerian Navy Games (February 26 to March 4, 2017), the 3rd Nigeria Air Force Inter-Command Combat Sports Competition (2018), the South-South elimination series of the National Youth Games (2018), and many others have been successfully staged in Akwa Ibom State.
In the area of infrastructure, the construction of Ten Sports Centres in the Ten Federal Constituencies of the State had long started. One of the Centres has already been inaugurated at West Itam Secondary School for Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency while another is nearing completion in Onna. Even as it’s hope that the remaining eight will kick start soon.
The reconstruction of Eket Township Stadium to a new 15,000 seating capacity edifice which, when completed, will have collapsible plastic seats, indoor sports hall, two modern-standard-compliant dressing rooms, flood lights and Astro Turf playing surface. The remedial construction work at Ikot Ekpene Stadium to give it a face-lift was completed as well as proper Contractual Maintenance of the Nest of Champions Stadium, with Julius Berger Plc.
Beyond sports, Sir Monday Uko recorded tremendous success in the area of youths in the Ministry. Some of this are: issuance of interest-free, soft loans through the Ministry to start their business, empowerment of thousand of indigenous youths in ICT, Digital Marketing and agro-based ventures and sponsorship of youths to embark on Oracle database training and other skills-acquisition programmes in Republic of Ireland and other countries of the world.
Some achievements also include: establishment of various youth-friendly entrepreneurship and capacity-building programs targeted at inspiring indigenous youths to own their own business. Sponsorship of youths to undergo foreign training programmes in underground welding and other Engineering fields in the USA and mployment of indigenous youths into several State Government Ad hoc committees.
Sponsorship of indigenous youths abroad to equip themselves for the State Electric Metering factory which is now in full swing in the State and placement of unemployed youths on monthly stipend under the ‘Dakkada Youth’ programme is another major achievements the Ministry under Monday Uko has achieved. All of this and other silent records were achieved through Sir Monday Uko as Commissioner in the first term of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration.
With Monday Uko returning, let’s hope that the construction of the remaining Sports Centres in the other Federal Constituencies of the State other than Itu/Ibiono Ibom Federal Constituency would be done and the completion of on-going reconstruction of Eket Township Stadium as well.
Also, with Monday Uko at the helm of the affairs of the Ministry, the inauguration of a first-of-its-kind Akwa Ibom State Football League which will be played in two divisions and will be targeted at talent discovery will kick start as soon as possible. Remodelling and renovation of Uyo Township Stadium would be considered too.
It’s on this premise that I say that the feat achieved by Monday Uko is no mean achievements, given the challenges and resources available to run the Ministry especially in the area of sports. The Governor has done well by returning Monday Uko to a Ministry where he knows the terrain very well. Let’s hope that the second term administration will record more achievements in sports than what its did in the first term. Welcome back, Sir Monday Uko.