‘Sports’ City’: What Next?

Now that ‘change’ is in the air and Nigeria is about to realize her potential after half-a-century of mindless plunder, what might be the fate of the National Stadium that is at once the pride and symbol of that unrealised potential?

Its current dilapidated state has been a scandal for many years now. Indeed, no football match has been played there since 2000, when it co-hosted (with Ghana) the African Cup of Nations. This was the same stadium which, just 20 years earlier, hosted a record 85,000 supporters in a previous African Cup of Nations tournament when the Super Eagles beat the Desert Warriors of Algeria.

1Since those long-forgotten glory days, the place has degenerated into a slum – or worse. According to one report, ‘…prostitutes now patronise the place… All under of the steps (of the main bowl) have been converted to small rooms, where they practice prostitution.’ Moreover, because of inadequate security – there are only six guards, whose main job is to collect N100 in parking fees from motorists – coupled with the huge area it occupies, crime has become rampant. Only recently, a five-year-old girl was raped by a middle-aged man who lured her into one of the many abandoned lots.

This scandalous state of affairs is hardly unique to federal government-owned structures, of which all the federally-owned stadiums are prone. The once famous Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, for instance, is now fit only for political rallies; the National Stadium in Abuja, which was built in 2003 at the cost of N54bn (one of the most expensive in the world), is overgrown with weeds; and the pitch at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar has been labelled a ‘horror’. Only the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna appears to be keeping its end up, largely because the immediate past vice-president, Namadi Sambo (a sports lover and an indigene of the state), took a personal interest in it.

The question then is: What is to be done? There has been much talk of concessioning, first announced three years ago but, as usual, any ‘deals’ done have been shrouded in the usual secrecy that has become the raison d’être of government in Nigeria at all levels. According to Tony Ubani, a board member of the Nigerian Olympic Committee who spoke with TVC News:

‘It is a sham. It shows that there is no direction as usual. What do they mean by concession when the stadium from all indications is already under concession? What are Ojez and Old Skool doing at the stadium? Ojez, for instance, already owns half of the stadium. They sold the place before coming out with the concession plan. There is nothing wrong with concessioning by the way, but it must be done properly through competitive bidding, openly so that there will be a level playing field for everyone interested. But as it is now, interested parties are already operating in the place. The process will not be open; that is my worry and, ironically, it is the National Sports Commission that has been giving the stadium away to these interested parties. Again, who says another minister won’t come on board tomorrow and stop the whole process?’

A further irony is that it the stadium is being used as a car park for the state-owned Teslim Balogun Stadium across the road, which the equally sports-loving former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, took a close interest in, being also a ‘Surulere boy’.

So what might we expect now that the man who attempted a ‘war against indiscipline’ has entered office, especially since, for the first time since the return of democracy in 1999, Lagos is no more an opposition state? Sports commentator Ikeddy Isiguzo, in the same report quoted above, is not overly concerned about ‘whether it is a form of management partnership, concession, outright sale or by whatever name it is called, but that what should concern and interest Nigerians is that the arrangement is done in such a way that the facility will be well managed going forward and, importantly, it will still be used for sports.’

We daresay few would disagree with him. Change is what we all crave, but it seems that said change is only possible if we, the people, make our demands known. Perhaps our readers have suggestions. Surulere Now! will be happy to be give them a voice.

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1 Comment

  1. May 16, 13:21 #1 Maggie

    manecfiignt points altogether, you just gained a brand new reader. What would you recommend about your post that you made a few days ago? Any positive?

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