An Ethiopian, Mnen Eshion, yesterday won the 2nd edition of the 10-km (10,000 metres) Okpekpe race with a time of 28.36 seconds, beating over two thousand athletes who participated in race to the top prize.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole who participated in the VIP race breasted the tape with a time of 48.10 seconds. His time in last year was 59.3 seconds. Other VIPs who participated in the race include Dr Rafiu Ladipo, President-General, Nigerian Football Supporters’ Club, Comrade Issa Aremu, Vice-President Nigerian Labour Congress, top Nollywood stars including Alex Osifo-Omiagbo, Fred Amata, among others.
Other winners at the event included Amos Lintan, a Kenyan, who placed second with a time of 28.53seconds while the third position was clinched by Conelius Kagogo, also a Kenyan who recorded 29.01seconds.
In the female category, Mudi Ayila of Ethiopia emerged first with 32.41seconds, while the second position went to Genet Yallew, also Ethiopian with a time of 32.52seconds and Berhame Dubaba Kenya emerged third with a time of 32.59seconds.
Speaking shortly after the presentation of prizes, Governor Adams Oshiomhole said the attention of the whole world was shifted to Okpkekpe in the state as the race was an international event, thus placing the hitherto remote village on the world map.
He said: “for all of us here in Okpekpe and in Edo State, it is a thing of joy that we are hosting the world”.
He noted “for the professionals coming from various parts of the world, I don’t think it is the money alone that brought them. First as career athletes, there is fulfillment in participating in every competition, but I also think that they have managed by their presence to show the unity of the African people and the world in general.
“And that is the way in which sports over the years has served as a bridge across all divides. Sometimes part of the problem of our country is that laudable ideas are started and we do not pursue it to the end.”
The Governor who increased the prize money for the winner in the female category said: “When I was in NLC, I spent al lot of my time arguing the case of equal work for equal pay between men and women. As a the governor of Edo State, I insisted that we must have male drivers and female drivers in Edo Transport Service and we have found that the female driver are more careful and they hardly get involved in accidents and are more diligent.
“As long as I am the governor of Edo State, women will continue to have equal compensation for their efforts. Just to make the point that in Nigeria we believe in gender equality and I believe in it fully. I want to use this opportunity to appeal to the International Amateur Athletics Federation to review the rule in order to archive gender equality”, he remarked.
He announced that with the successes recorded at the Okpekpe race, the organizers should look into the modalities for a full marathon at Urhonigbe in Orhiomwon Local Government Area of the State.
According to him “we have constructed a 52-kilometre road, and I am told that a full marathon is about 42.2 kilometres. And that road is more than enough to do a full marathon. And I will encourage the organizers of this event to start work on that between now and December and Edo State will give its support.”