West African youths must fully utilise the gains of sports to prepare themselves for futureÂ leadership roles in the sub-region, President Goodluck Jonathan said on Sunday in Abuja.
Jonathan, who said this while declaring open the First Under-23 ECOWAS Games, noted thatÂ sportsâ€™ benefits would help youths to develop excellent leadership qualities.
â€œThrough sports, youths can develop excellent qualities because it helps them to cultivateÂ friendship, develop self-control, have respect for the rule of law and discipline.
â€œThese are qualities for our youths to imbibe for their future roles as leaders in theÂ sub-region,â€ Jonathan, who was represented at the opening ceremony by Hon. GbengaÂ Elegbeleye, Vice-Chairman of House of Representativesâ€™ Sports Committee, said.
He urged participants at the Games, which is featuring delegations from 10 west AfricanÂ countries, not to see the essence of their being in Abuja as that of winning their eventsÂ only.
â€œThe essence of sports is not in winning but in participating, and you should utilise yourÂ participation to gain more friends, develop yourselves andÂ to help make the west AfricanÂ sub-region better,â€ Jonathan said.
He assured that the Nigerian government would always support ventures such as hosting ofÂ sports competitions that would help in further integrating and developing the west AfricanÂ sub-region.
Earlier, Sports Minister and National Sports Commission (NSC), Chairman Isa Bio, had in hisÂ address said Nigeria had provided a level-playing ground for all participating athletes.
â€œNigeria has provided a level-playing ground for all athletes as everything that willÂ guarantee your high quality performance, relaxation and total comfort have been provided.
â€œThis is in order to ensure a smooth and result-oriented competition,â€ Bio, who wasÂ represented by Mr Patrick Ekeji, the Director-General of the National Sports CommissionÂ (NSC), said.
NAN reports that athletics, handball, traditional wrestling and volleyball are the onlyÂ sports featuring in the Games holding from 2 to 13 this month t at the Abuja NationalÂ Stadiumâ€™s mainbowl.
The countries participating are hosts Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Niger Republic,Â Guinea, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mali.