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Okowa…Injecting life into Asaba stadium many years after

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Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa

Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa seems to have keyed into the mantra of the late Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, whose administration as governor of the old Midwestern region, and later, Bendel State, changed the face of Nigerian sport.

Since the creation of Delta State in August 1991, through the military era, and down to the civilian administration of Chief James Ibori, and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the state has been the most productive and most successful in terms of producing sportsmen and women and, by extension, foremost sports administrators for Nigeria. The list is endless.

Despite its glittering chest of medals, trophies and rich history of successes, both on and off the field, Asaba, the state capital seems not to have its fair share in terms of facilities, systems, or structures.

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Though, the stadium in Warri, Sapele, Oghara, Ughelli, Oleh, Agbor, Okwashi-Uku and Kwale are fully completed and put into use, the long wait for the completion of Asaba Stadium may be over soon, if steps by Governor Okowa are anything to go by.

Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo performed the foundation laying ceremony of Asaba Township Stadium in 2001 during the Ibori administration, while the actual construction work was begun during the Uduaghan era. But the completion of the stadium had been stalled since then, with grass and rodents taking over the complex.

In February 2013, the immediate past governor, Uduaghan terminated the contract for the project, but he assured Deltans that it would be completed within six months after directing that it should be awarded to another contractor. He promised that he would complete all projects before the terminal date of his government.

He renamed the stadium after the late handler of the Super Eagles, Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, following the victory of the national team at South Africa 2013 African Nation Cup,

Five years after, what appears a green light seems to be appearing on the tunnel, as Governor Okowa has approved the completion of outstanding works, including the spectators’ stand and tartan track of the Stadium.

The Commissioner for Information, Patrick Ukah said recently the approval was in fulfillment of the pledge made by Governor Okowa that the stadium will host an international athletics competition next year.

The Asaba Stadium will host the 2018 edition of the African Senior Athletics Championships and Okowa has promised to complete the complex within 12 months.

He said while inaugurating a 17-man Local Organising Committee (LOC) headed by immediate past president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Chief Solomon Ogba, that the completion of the project was key to his administration.

“The stadium at Asaba is a huge challenge, it will cost the state over N2 billion,” Okowa said. “We will welcome private investors towards the completion of the sports centre. The stadium has six lanes instead of eight. It means no standard athletics event can take place in it, so we have to effect corrections and some other major work before we can actually call it a stadium,” he said.

Former Director of Sports, Seigha Porbeni has described the move by Okowa’s administration to complete the stadium as a step in the right direction.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Porbeni, who oversees Delta athletics team, revealed that the engineers handling the complex had already corrected some of the abnormalities noticed in the complex, including the tartan track, which he said, has been adjusted to the standard eight lanes.

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“The warm up pitch of the stadium is located at nearby Anglican Girls Grammar School (AGGS). What the engineers are doing now is for the stadium to have the FIFA standard long pitch, instead of the wide pitch.”

Speaking further, Porbeni said: “At last, there is a new ‘prophet’ in the land. Somebody that has the political will to make a genuine difference. Governor Okowa appears to understand the deep issues in sports, and I must commend his effort for taking this great step.”

If the Asaba stadium is fully completed before the end of this year, the Okowa administration might be the first to consider the idea of biding to host the National Sports Festival, which the state has won several times since Bauchi 2000.

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