By Izuchukwu Christian Annuchogu
The national stadium Surulere has become a perfect example of the rot in the fabric of the country where majority of the national monument have gone into a state of total despair. The national stadium which had been the nation’s monument and national pride is now pavilion and a shadow of itself.
From a far view to the National Stadium Surulere, it is a monument which is a beauty to behold, moving closer to the edifice the revelation of decay and disarray that has taken place as a result of long time neglect by successive sports government is apparent. The arcade which was commissioned in 1973 by the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, as a major sporting stadium in the country has played host to major continental sporting activities, it was once a cynosure of all eyes, as it was one of the best stadia in Africa.
According to reports the national stadium was specially built to the multi-sports 2nd all African games all African games in 1973 with 5000 (fifty-five thousand) capacity, the architectural design was beauty to behold when it was flung open to visitors and participants n the opening ceremony. The capacity was later reduced to 45000 fourth-five thousand) capacity, in 1999.
The edifice had all sporting facilities, such as an imposing main owl, practice pitches, an Olympic size swimming pool, a multi-purpose indoor sports hall, tennis courts, squash courts, association buildings and a game village located a kilometre away from the main stadia.
A visit to this magnificent edifice leaves you asking questions of how his mighty monument of the nation was turned to a place for religious activities and music concerts, a den of hoodlums and some squatters ho hover around the premises as part of their livelihood.
Unfortunately some of the entrances to the sport arcade have been converted by the street urchin and illegal occupant into a rest room, hereby defacing the entrance to the main bowl with urine and all sorts of wastes. The stadium also serves as a parking lot for the Teslim Balogun
Stadium across the street, which is now the place of choice for international matches billed for Lagos, as a result of its playing surface which is artificial and less difficult to maintain.
The national stadium Surulere has become a perfect example of the rot in the fabric of the country where majority of the national monument has gone into a state of total despair, following the poor management which has also resulted in the slow growth of sports in the country.
The sporting arena has become an eyesore as most of the important parts of the stadium have been overgrown by grass harboring rodents, thereby creating black spots for all sorts of atrocities and social vices within the premises.
Interestingly the 1980 nations cup final which was won by Nigeria was hosted in this edifice, a record attendance of 85000 (eighty-five thousand) was taken in the final match between Nigeria and Algeria. This stadium later became the most visited place for sports men and women including foreign athletes, hosting several local and international events.
The FIFA world youth championship that was won by Spain in 1999, the under -20 world cup and African Nations cup 2000 which Nigeria hosted with Ghana was played in this, then wonderful stadium.
Then the stadium was said to be getting all the attention it deserved from all the sports agencies and authorities, as Lagos was still at the helm of affairs in Nigeria. But the reverse was the case when the ministry of sports moved its head quarters to Abuja, after the completion of the ultra modern national stadium in Abuja.
All attention was shifted to Abuja during the all African games hosted in 2003 and the Lagos national stadium was relegated to the back ground. The last football tournament hosted in the national stadium Surulere Lagos was the Local Government Cup which was held in 2004. Now the stadium is a choice venue for all kind of events like religious gatherings, weddings, community meetings, music concerts and party rallies as well as home for all kinds of individual display. Isaac Ikediego a footballer who trains in the stadium lamented the fate of this national monument, “At the national stadium, you can buy all soup ingredients without
stepping out of the premises; there are all sorts of business shops, there is also a pure water manufacturing shop here”. He attributed the state of the sports city to the failure of those charged with its up keep in carrying out their responsibilities.
“I can say without contradictions that this stadium generates a lot of money daily, they make more than 1million naira from just a church program, which hires a section of the stadium for its events. Then on daily basis they make a lot of money from motorist, who the use stadium uses the stadium as packing space. Spokesman to the Nigeria basketball federation Mr. Patrick Omoradian maintains that the government has failed in terms of maintaining the stadium. The national stadium Lagos is a sad reminder of the government’s inability to manage or maintain its facilities, even the one in Abuja, right under their nose has already began to suffer neglect. In September 2012, the Federal Executive Council had set up a committee to look into the mode of maintenance of the six federal stadia – National Stadium being one of them.
That committee in turn set up a technical sub-committee, which would in collaboration with the Bureau of Public and Enterprise and Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission recommend the most viable option for the maintenance of the stadia. The technical committee recommended the involvement of private sector participation in the management and operations of the stadia with concession as the preferred approach.