Lagos National Stadium Takeover: An Impossible Mission? By Sherrif Owolabi Bada
Over the years, I have been praying fervently for the sprawling edifice of Lagos National stadium, Surulere, Lagos to be concession and bring it back to life since the federal government could not do anything to resuscitate it back to its good old days structure due to financial constraint as claimed.
I became emotionally charged with having to deal with this for quite some time now sensing nostalgic for the yesteryear of fantastic and memorable sporting events such like Mobil sponsored Track and field events that produced heroes and heroines like Chidi Imoh, Sunday Bada, Falilat Ogunkoya, the Ezenwa Brothers, Deji Aliu, Mary Onyali, Chioma Ajunwa to mention but few who have all made their mark as far as sports is concerned.
Like their compatriots in other countries, these athletes have made Nigeria proud both at the African continent and the world at large with fame and fortune for themselves to show for it. What about all those electrifying first class football events that has brought the low and mighty together, the Yorubas, Ibos and Hausas, eluding the nation of ethno-religion confrontation but rather come together in unison for common goal.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles, no doubt have played many qualifying’s and friendly games at this abandoned structure which has earned us highly palatable and tantalizing FIFA ranking as well as put us in the forefront as the best African football team to be reckoned with when it comes to football matters.
The epitomizing statue of Samuel Okwaraji did not just finds its way into the barricaded frontage of the national stadium but because Okwaraji paid a supreme price playing for his country in a tension soaked match in 1990 against a neighbouring country, Cameroun where he slumped and died on pitch of play which shows how significant the stadium is.
At a time in the recent past, I was almost going into fasting because each time I enter the main bowl of the stadium, I feel sorry for this nation called Nigeria. It’s an eyesore to see a national monument in such sorry state of dilapidation when some countries who have not are struggling day and night to put in place something of that nature for the benefit of the teeming youths and the nation as a whole.
I remember in the run up to 2008 Nigerian Police Games that was hosted in Lagos at the national stadium which brought all the serving Nigeria Policemen to Lagos, the edifice was regaining its global sports reckoning as some high level of renovation were put in place for the force to have a befitting outing but immediately the curtain was drawn on the games, no other major refurbishment were made since then.
The 55,000 capacity monumental structure which was built in the early 70’s by the regime of General Yakubu Gowon has been a source pride and joy to many Nigerians being the first high capacity and magnificent stadium to be built in the entire history of the nation but has suddenly became a shadow of itself housing miscreants and prostitutes with all sorts of nefarious engagement.
Instead of sporting activities, what is now being witnessed on weekly basis is either social or religion gathering that many unsuspecting passersby may take for the gathering of sports men and women if not for the dress mode.
The last and major epoch making events that took place at the Lagos National stadium was the Ghana/Nigeria 2000 Nations cup which marked the end of sporting events at the historical monument.
The edifice was eventually closed down in 2004 which has since rendered the pride of Lagosians redundant with no sign of refurbishing in sight. Although, report has it that the federal ministry of sports has been planning to concession it out to a credible organization that’ll give it a new lease of life but up till now, nothing tangible has come out such deliberation.
A closer look at the number of sports ministers (Ibrahim Isa Bio, Abdul Rahman Gimba, Sani Ndanusa, Yusuf Sulaiman, Bolaji Abdullai and Solomon Dalung) that have seen the stadium only promised to do something about it but didn’t anything before they left. Most of them, often times, only pay a visit and never come back not to talk of fulfilling any of the promises made.
Instead, it was Abuja Stadium that came up with whooping billions of naira being spent to build the sporting facility in the nation’s capital with friendly, qualifying and other grade A matches being diverted to Abuja.
It cannot be totally ruled out that there is no political colouration being played out in all of these as none of them has done enough to give the Lagos stadium the honour it deserves.
And now that the Lagos state government has signal its interest in taking over the abandoned edifice, some unscrupulous elements are bent on sabotaging the efforts to the extent of vowing to make it ‘no winner, no vanquish’ sort of.
Who doesn’t know these masquerades are doing this for their own selfish interest knowing fully well that it’s business as usual which no doubt has had negative effects on the edifice long enough both in physical terms and economic wise.
Taking over the stadium by Lagos state government will not only bring back the glorious old days but will further boost the economy of the state considering the huge football fans base especially when the Super Eagles comes around as well as providing the enabling environment to further harnessing the nations untapped talents.
That the Lagos national stadium must not be allowed to waste away is a serious issue that must not be treated with child’s gloves and any further prolongation could spell doom and eventually lead to the collapse of the edifice.
The state government must do everything within its reach to ensure it make the acquisition of the Lagos National Stadium a reality as failure to do so will make the state of excellent a toothless bull dog that can only bark bearing all its fangs and strength with no torn flesh to show for it.
. Sherrif Owolabi Bada is a Lagos based sports journalist