West African youths must fully utilise the gains of sports to prepare themselves for future  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 that  sports’ benefits would help youths to develop excellent leadership qualities.

“Through sports, youths can develop excellent qualities because it helps them to cultivate  friendship, develop self-control, have respect for the rule of law and discipline.

“These are qualities for our youths to imbibe for their future roles as leaders in the  sub-region,” Jonathan, who was represented at the opening ceremony by Hon. Gbenga  Elegbeleye, Vice-Chairman of House of Representatives’ Sports Committee, said.

He urged participants at the Games, which is featuring delegations from 10 west African  countries, not to see the essence of their being in Abuja as that of winning their events  only.

“The essence of sports is not in winning but in participating, and you should utilise your  participation to gain more friends, develop yourselves and  to help make the west African  sub-region better,” Jonathan said.

He assured that the Nigerian government would always support ventures such as hosting of  sports competitions that would help in further integrating and developing the west African  sub-region.

Earlier, Sports Minister and National Sports Commission (NSC), Chairman Isa Bio, had in his  address said Nigeria had provided a level-playing ground for all participating athletes.

“Nigeria has provided a level-playing ground for all athletes as everything that will  guarantee your high quality performance, relaxation and total comfort have been provided.

“This is in order to ensure a smooth and result-oriented competition,” Bio, who was  represented by Mr Patrick Ekeji, the Director-General of the National Sports Commission  (NSC), said.

NAN reports that athletics, handball, traditional wrestling and volleyball are the only  sports featuring in the Games holding from 2 to 13 this month t at the Abuja National  Stadium’s mainbowl.

The countries participating are hosts Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Niger Republic,  Guinea, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mali.