Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai who made the disclosure noted that it was in the bid to convince the nation of the victory over the terrorists, that the Army is organising this year’s Nigerian Army Sports Festival holding in Abuja next week after a period of about eight years in the cooler.
His words, “We have more than degraded the Boko Haram. I want to say this is the beginning of the celebration of the victory of the Armed Forces especially the Nigerian army on the defeat of the Boko Haram, we have started the process of celebrating our victory over the Boko Haram”.
According to the Army Chief, 1760 athletes of the Nigerian Army from various divisions will compete in 19 events including traditional military sports like Combat Relay, Obstacle sports, Tug of war, boxing, cross country and others.
For the Southern part of the country, Buratai said the Army will be introducing swimming and other riverine sports because of the peculiarity of the region and that a test case scenario will be kickstarted which will be built upon in future.
Asked why certain divisions of the army (7& 8 division) were being excluded from the week-long festival, Buratai said, “Since the creation of 7 division, it was created within the conflict period, they have been in the theatre of operation; have not been in peace time period to exercise for the event. It would also be a distraction to pull them out.
“For 8 division, it is about three or four months old. It has been deeply involved in the operation. We want to give them time to really concentrate in the fight against Boko Haram in the North East. Give them time to completely dominate the area.
Asked if the fighting will not distract the army from so many operations it was involved in, the Army Chief said, “Yes we are fighting but it will not prevent us from carrying out other professional engagement that would even make us to fight better; and to develop physical capacity to fight better.
“Like I said, this is the beginning of the celebration of the Armed a Forces, particularly the Army on the engagement with Boko Haram. We have started celebrating the defeat of the Boko Haram.”
On why the Nigerian army seemed to be lacking in certain areas where the force was noted for in past that produced medal winners for the nation at global sporting events, Buratai said, “we last held a sporting festival of such nature in 2009 and now we are reviving it”.
“Just like football where we have qualified for the nationwide league, we are reviving Boxing, Cross Country, Long Distance and Marathon. The army boxing team in April won the Lagos State boxing championship. Our boxers also went to Khazastan and did very well.
Emphasising that sports festivals of the army is part of the training schedule of personnel since physical fitness and development is critical to their mental well-being, he said the event is meant to promote the spirit of espirit de corp among personnel and to foster relationship between the army and civil populace.
To encourage national records to be broken, Buratai stated that “anybody that won gold medals, shatters existing records was due to earn certain privileges including promotion, special recommendation among others.