President GoodluckEbele Jonathan has restated the importance of sport to the nation.In an address at the launch of the Rhythm N’ Play Campaign for Grassroots Sports Mobilisation ,Thursday, Jonathan said “Sport is an important vehicle for fostering cohesion and nation building. This has been amply demonstrated in the greater attention Government has given to sports development. In National competitions, it mirrors our pride, emotion, unity and discipline. Aside from these obvious benefits that sporting glory brings, it is also a major tool for youth development.
“Through sports, people imbibe self-discipline, perseverance, team spirit and patriotism. Encouraging young people to take on sports, also helps to build a generation that is healthier in body and mind and, therefore, able to contribute more fully to national development”the president said.
He added that “Government remains firmly committed to the development of our youth to ensure they grow up as healthy, responsible and productive citizens with available opportunities to make easier life choices. This is the spirit of our Government of Transformation. We must collectively build a worthy nation for the younger generation.”
“Considering its long-term socio-economic benefits, this administration is irrevocably committed to grassroots sports development. We believe that our young people must be encouraged to have an early start in sporting activities”Jonathan said.
The president noted that the “ ‘Rhythm N’ Play,’ the programme that we are launching today, is aimed at providing young Nigerians under the age of 17 years, with structured programmes that combine sports and play as critical learning and development tools.
“As the biggest campaign for youth participation in sports ever launched in our country, this initiative will revolutionize grassroots sports in our dear nation. Our target is to introduce 2 million additional children to sports over the next two years.
“In this regard, I have directed the National Sports Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education, to work in concert towards achieving this target.
Jonathan said “Through this targeted effort, our administration intends to bring physical education back to our schools, and make participation in sports activities compulsory for all pupils and students.
“We are not unaware of the fundamental constraints facing this initiative, such as inadequate sporting facilities and qualified coaches in the majority of our educational institutions.
“Nevertheless, we are determined to reverse this situation. We will overcome existing constraints by articulating cost efficient solutions to empower children and facilitate greater interest and participation in sports”,the president said.