The First Chief of Defence Staff/Organisation of Military Sports in Africa Sahel Military Games for Peace and Solidarity began in Abuja on Monday with contingent from the armed forces of nine African countries.
The countries in attendance are Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Chad.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls the President of OSMA, Brigadier General Maikano Abdullahi, had disclosed that about 327 athletes were expected from 14 counting for the games.
Abdullahi disclosed that the first edition of the game would feature three sports, which are Football, Golf and marathon, while the second edition to be held in Chad would feature combat range among others.
While declaring the tournament opened, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonanya Onu, said the hosting of the game in Nigeria was apt considering the current security situation confronting the nation.
Onu said the entire African continent, especially the Sahel region, was bedeviled by insurgency and other security challenges, adding that the coming together of the continent’s armed forces would be a force multiplier.
He said security remained the most important tool that could attract investment that would engender growth and development of a nation.
According to him, insecurity and political instability has sent many African sons and daughters out of the continent with many dying in the Mediterranean sea.
He said: “We believe very strongly that if members of the armed forces of the countries in this region can be meeting, playing together, eating together in a very good environment it will help.
“This is like a new beginning and this tree that we are planting today will grow into a tree that will help to solve many of the security challenges facing the Sahel region through non-kinetic means.”
The Minister commended the Chief of Defence Staff and OSMA President for the initiative to bring the armed forces together to compete in sports.
According to him, men and women of our armed forces must keep fit physically, mentally and emotionally as this will help them to effectively and efficiently confronts the changes they face on a continuous basis.
“The leadership of our armed forces have demonstrated to ensure that the officers and men maintain professional standards, discipline, loyalty and dedication in the performance of their duties,” he said.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, said the competition was part of need to ensure that the personnel of armed forces continue to maintain a high level of mental alertness and physical fitness.
Irabor said physical fitness remained the cornerstone of mental and combat readiness, adding that it helped to keep servicemen and woke in top form to enable them carry out missions successfully.
He said all nations must ensure that the personnel of its armed forces remained mentally and physically prepared at all times while living no one in doubt about their ability to defend the nation.
According to him, the commencement of the maiden addition of the military games for peace and solidarity heralded the exploitation of the non kinetic aspects of operation to mitigate the war against insurgency and banditry that are most prevalent within the Sahel countries.
He added: “The timing for the organisation of this event is therefore apt as it directly test the physical readiness of our personnel to face these challenges while also keeping fit.
“By organising this event, we are mindful of the need to foster comradeship among our armed forces in a bid to meet in the mandate of our professional calling.
“This year’s event is also intended to promote synergy through military sports interaction as well as cement African brotherhood.
“I wish to encourage all the athletes here to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship and strive to put in optimal performance towards winning laurels for their country.”
In his address of welcome, Abdullahi said the organisation of the game was in keeping with the promise he made during his campaign to become the president of OSMA.
Abdullahi said the tournament intended to demonstrate example of cooperation between the participating countries in solidarity and in African brotherhood.
He said the maiden edition was limited in scope to only football, golf and marathon, adding that the next championship would be hosted by Chad Republic and would feature combat race, shooting, boxing and basketball.
According to him, there are suggestions that the number of participating countries should include all African nations to increase the scope of the event.
He thanked the CDS for approving the hosting of the game in Nigeria and all the sponsors making the game a reality.
The OSMA president disclosed that 10 of the 14 countries expected had arrived while the remaining four were expected to arrive on Monday night.