Getting the National Stadium back
The National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, a symbol of the glorious days of Nigeria’s sporting supremacy in Africa, has been in a state of neglect and dilapidation. It is non-functional and the iconic sports complex known with pride as Nigeria’s Sports city decades ago is now a derelict show of shame. It has been compromised by the invasion of weeds and rodents, miscreants and destitute persons of every kind.
Certainly, a national edifice and a symbol of unity should never be left like this.Which is why the Federal Government’s intention of handing over the National Stadium to the Lagos State Government for the sake of proper management and in the interest of sports development nationwide makes not only good sense but also good business. Against this background, the alleged plot by certain “powerful interests” to stop Lagos’ take-over of the National Stadium, as reported the other day, must be put to a halt. No matter the argument, citing poor maintenance culture and the incapacitation of the public sector to manage resources, such a plot is against public interest. It is selfish, unjust and counterproductive. It must be defeated.
It would not be far from the truth to conjecture that the business potential which the National Stadium possesses is the cause of the attraction to the alleged powerful interests. That these alleged interested parties are clandestine in their lobbying approach defeats whatever sincerity their intention has. And such insincerity could be inferred from their predatory posture to scavenge on, and pay peanuts for ready-made assets. If they are so desirous of promoting the sports industry or investing in stadia, they should look around for other non-viable stadia in far-flung areas and invest. They should also be made to understand that the benefit of a National Stadium transcends mere profit. The national image and patriotism potential are a factor to be considered in the project.
Consequently, the reaction of the alleged “powerful interests” in Abuja is a characteristic act of sabotage. The rabid accumulation tendency that is commonly associated with pillagers of national treasury must not be allowed to surface on this matter. While the governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, deserves commendation for his deft move to rescue the nation from embarrassment, it has to be emphasised that the dilapidation and abuse of a national edifice of that magnitude is a slight on the nation it symbolises. The stadium should be functional. Its grandeur and dignity should be restored to the pride of all Nigerians. As Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has offered to do this, he and his government should neither be delayed nor deterred.
However, many business-minded citizens would complain that Lagos may not be able to maintain another stadium of world class standard. To allay their fears, the Lagos State Government may want to go into collaboration with interested but qualified partners from the private sector to ensure efficiency, when it finally takes over the National Stadium.
The advantage of Lagos taking over the National Stadium, however, far outweighs any intention of some perceived personal interests. With superb administrative mechanism to carry out its well-conceived vision of a Greater Lagos, the Lagos State government has the political will and sincerity of purpose to turn the National Stadium into a world class sporting arena of flourishing socio-economic activities. The proof of the state government’s capability could be inferred next door. One only has to take a look at the opposite direction to see the clear difference between national disgrace and a state’s pride. On one side is dilapidation and insensitivity, and, on the other side, elegance and reception to progress. That the Lagos State government is now being faced with a brick-wall in Abuja is a clear demonstration of regress.
This newspaper has always stood by its position that, the often adduced reason of incapacitation, lack of political will and poor maintenance culture, should not be a justification for plundering or sabotage. Nigerians, especially public office holders, past and present, or their proxies, who failed to put to good use their positions to make public institutions work, should not be allowed to turn public assets into their personal heirloom.
To bring the National Stadium to functional use, there is need for refurbishment and proper rehabilitation of not only the main bowl, but also of other sports arenas and ancillary structures. This should begin with reconstructive landscaping within and outside the sports city. Even the stream that runs at the back of the stadium and connects to the front of the National Theatre could be dredged for optimum use to generate funds which will sustain the National Stadium.
Even though the planned move to cause the National Assembly to stop Lagos State from taking over the National Stadium has abated, there is need to lend a voice of common sense and reason to a matter whose continued tolerance would lead to a dangerous precedent. As once stated, the National Theatre, National Stadium, National Library, and especially the National Museum, together form Nigeria’s national patrimony, and on no account must they become items of business deals, or be sold to persons scavenging to buy up national institutions, be they foreigners or unpatriotic Nigerians in whatever guise.