THE AFRICAN Para Games and Para Sports in Africa received a boost when the African Paralympic Committee President, Samson Deen, paid a courtesy call on Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
The First Lady hosted the delegation in the conference room of her office with top officers of the government, including the wives of the Vice President (Second Lady), the Senate president, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief of Defense Staff, the Inspector General of Police, the chairman of the ruling APC party and the Minister of Sports and Development, among others.
The visit was strategic as Senator Oluremi Tinubu has made outstanding contributions to sports development in Africa’s populous nation, according to Senator John Owan Enoh, Nigeria’s Minister of Sports Development.
According to him, the First Lady had demonstrated an incredible dedication to the cause of youth and women, not to mention men. As the Grand Patron of the African Para Games and Para Sports in Africa, Senator Enoh said he expected the First Lady to revitalise the industry with her charisma.
Before decorating the First Lady, Mr. Deen presented Senator Oluremi Tinubu with a brief history of para-sports in the region and explained why the First Lady was the right person for the office of Grand Patron.
“Your Excellency, some 36 years ago, precisely in 1987 in Algeria, a Regional Organisation first formed the African Sports Confederation of the Disabilities (ASCOD) and later, in 2001, renamed the African Paralympic Committee.
“The AfPC is responsible for sports for persons with disabilities/para sports in Africa, the governing body of the Paralympic Movement in Africa with 48 full members. These members are responsible for developing and promoting para-sports in their respective countries and representing their countries in the IPC and the Paralympic programmes/Games,” Mr. disclosed.
He added, “Your Excellency, in the 36 years of existence of our organisation, three individuals have led the AfPC at different periods namely Dr. Nabil Salem of Egypt from 1987 to 2010; Leonel da Rocha Pinto of Angola between 2010 and 2021; and I am proud to be the third leader of our organisation, elected two years ago, 2021 in Morocco.
“We have made some significant gains since 1987. Africa’s presence in the Paralympic Games has increased with Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia etc., represented on the medal table at the summit. This notwithstanding, the sports and its athletes need more attention on the continent of Africa regarding finances, equipment, facilities, coaching, classification, and participation at all levels, among other issues.
“In Africa, it is believed that between 10% and 20% of the 1.4 billion population in Africa are physically challenged, with many societal challenges, including unfair social and economic conditions such as stigmatisation, discrimination, poverty, exclusion from education, business, employment, inequality in the healthcare system, and inaccessible and unaffordable transportation and housing, among others,” he pointed out.
He added that sports was a potent tool and arguably the only source of hope and driver for inclusion.
“Your Excellency, with much commitment, dedication and great efforts, on the 3rd of September 2023, in Accra, Ghana, the African Para Games was commissioned with 18 African countries present, including Nigeria, featuring three sporting disciplines, notably Amputee Football, Wheelchair Basketball, and Wheelchair Tennis,” said the African Paralympic boss.
“Significantly, the African Para Games is aimed at providing the athletes and officials with the opportunity to experience a multi-para sporting event on the African continent, which their “abled” counterparts have enjoined since 1965 through the All African Games; enhance the promotion of para-sports on the continent as well as showcase the abilities of the athletes. Create further awareness for the sports, the athletes and the Regional Organisation.
“Your Excellency, at long last, the African Para Games has been established, and Africa now has to leverage; however, we need a strong personality, role model and patron to interface between our organisation and governments across Africa and the global business industries,” he stressed.
Reacting to the honour, Senator Oluremi Tinubu stated that the African Para Games and Para Sports represented the inclusive spirit and acknowledged that sports, in all their forms, had the unique power to promote harmony and understanding among people from different backgrounds.
“We are reminded of the fantastic ability of sports to inspire, bring people together, and change lives by the presence of these committed officials today. African Para Games and Para Sports have played a pivotal role in giving athletes with disabilities a stage to exhibit their remarkable abilities, tenacity, and grit. I think it is our collective duty to make sure that every person, no matter how gifted, has the chance to shine and be acknowledged for their qualities and accomplishments,” Senator Tinubu stated.
She added, “In my modest capacity as Grand Patron, I will assist these committed people and groups associated with the African Para Games and Para Sports in advancing their goals in the world.”
BY Kofi Owusu Aduonum