1.    I am delighted to be at this 2nd Session of the African Union Sports Council (Region 2) Ministers Meeting which brings together Ministers from the entire West African sub-region. On behalf of the entire members of the Nigerian National Assembly, I warmly welcome visiting Sports Ministers to our serene capital city, Abuja.

2.   I would like to thank the Honourable Minister for Youth and Sport Development, Solomon Dalong, for the considerable work that has gone into hosting this very second ministerial conference meeting designed to bring more cohesion to sport development across the region. Looking through the programme, I am encouraged by the items to be discussed at this Meeting, including the initiative of the Centres of Sports Excellence, a proposal that is generating much excitement in the sports arenas of our various countries. All of this calls for much commendation, especially at this time when we are increasingly challenged about how to deliver on positive development and engagement for Africa’s teeming youths.

3.    If you will permit, I will share some of my ideas about areas we perhaps ought to look at more closely, when we talk about Sports Development. For one, we must look beyond the popular, flagship sports that everyone talks about, to a more broadened vision of sports policy and development, with a view to generating future activities that can catalyse the region.

4. I recall that recently, I had the special pleasure of watching a documentary on Al Jazeera, about a group of young surfers from Sierra Leone bent on pursuing their dreams of making their sport of choice a platform to celebrate the continent. While it might have seemed at first like a whim or mere fancy, this was in fact a path that took them from their home country to visit and train with sportsmen and women in the neighbouring country of Liberia.

5. Even more remarkable is the fact that our African surfers achieved this feat during the devastating and tragic period of the Ebola crisis, which posed a very real threat to our region. And yet, not even the threat of a fatal disease could dampen their desire for travel and participation in the sport across borders. In one memorable scene, one of the players is seen holding his international passport, for the first time in his life, and he looks at the little document in no little wonder.

6. This is something that many take for granted around the world, but for this venturing sportsman, it was made possible by surfing. The sport gave him the opportunity, and his brothers in another country enabled him to make use of that opportunity, for a life-changing experience. And, just as it happened for him, sports can be a launch pad to expand the horizons of many a young talent on the continent. Therefore, it is important our Sports Ministers, as policy makers, bear this in mind, in line with the truism that football is far from being the only sport that dreams are made of.

7. This is what sports does: it transcends borders, barriers, languages, political and class structures as well as systems. It takes root in the hearts of those who love it and who endeavour; and it energises them to seek the greatest part of themselves. You will agree with me when I say that Africa is in need of a greater galvanising force through sports development. This is perhaps the crux of the matter; and the AUSC has a major role to play in that regard. I daresay it is also part of what I imagine the deliberations and conversations will be about at this meeting. 

6.   I am looking forward to hearing how we can individually and collectively play our parts in promoting and defending actions that will pave way for improved sports development, and development through sports, for member states. Sport is a vital and underserved tool to unlock opportunities for millions on the continent, because beyond the participation, entertainment and fraternity of sportsmanship is the business of producing, promoting and preserving sports.

7.   We in the legislative arm of the Nigerian government are committed to supporting the actions of the AUSC with the necessary legal framework to ensure that it meets its mandate to provide the policies, programmes, structures and systems that – to quote your words – will ensure “a culture of good governance, democratic principles, institutions, popular participation, human rights and freedoms” for all, using sports as the platform to achieve that aim. We must ensure that we continue to improve upon and adhere to global best practices in sports, such as a firm stance on anti-doping, match fixing, and the provision of compensation structures for our athletes and sportsmen and women that are commensurate with optimal performance and sportsmanship.

8.  The trickle of West African athletes to other countries to fly adopted flags at international tournaments will be reduced if we can ensure adequate provision and motivation for our sportsmen and women. African countries can also top the gold and silver medal tables, if we can effectively tackle many of the issues that bedevil sports in our region, and without neglecting grassroots sports development.

9.   On that note, I wish all present a successful and productive meeting that will further catalyse development and prosperity in the region.

Thank you.


Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections