At the peak of its glory at that time, the stadium played host to some top football matches, including international friendlies between the Super Eagles and their counterparts from Brazil and Argentina.Oladimeji Lasore
When Nigeria celebrated its maiden June 12 Democracy Day at the Abuja Eagle Square, the high point of President Buhari’s speech was the renaming of the Abuja National Stadium as Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, a pronouncement that was well accepted and highly commended and seen as a great honour for late Chief MKO Abiola who was referred to as a pillar of sport in Africa in his lifetime.
Many saw the renaming as an opportunity to renovate and put the stadium into use for the arena has been in a ramshackled state because of neglect.
It was therefore not a surprise when the new Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, made a maiden tour of the facilities of the stadium on August 23rd 2019.
The Abuja Stadium, a world class structure, was the pride of the nation when it was built by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to host the eighth All-Africa Games, Abuja 2003, The stadium, which was constructed between September 2000 and April 2003 at the cost of $360 million, It was inaugurated on April 8, 2003. As of the time it was constructed, the stadium ranked among the top 50 most modern and expensive stadiums in the world.
The stadium, built by construction giant, Julius Berger, consist of an all-covered main bowl with 60,491 seating capacity with other facilities like presidential suite and viewing area, 56 corporate suites, modern turnstiles, banks, media facilities, two electronic scoreboards, floodlights and a helipad, a VIP car park, public parking lots, shops and kiosks, generators, emergency service units, closed circuit security cameras, crowd control steel fencing, among others.
Other facilities of the stadium include indoor sports hall, 2,000-gymnasium, tennis courts, handball courts, volleyball courts, baseball and soft ball complex, 3,000- capacity hockey pitch, 2,000-capacity swimming pool, an artificial lake, fire-fighting equipment and others.
Equally built alongside the stadium was a games village which housed athletes, officials and delegates from participating countries in the All-Africa Games.
At the peak of its glory at that time, the stadium played host to some top football matches, including international friendlies between the Super Eagles and their counterparts from Brazil and Argentina.
The stadium played host to the 2009 U-17 World Cup.
But Sunday Dare’s maiden working visit to the facilities revealed a case of a national monument that has been left to rot and decay but requires urgent intervention before it becomes a monumental ruin due to lack of maintenance culture in the country.
Thank God the President Buhari’s government is taking proactive steps at its restoration.
Bringing back culture of sports in Nigeria should be the main motive behind the efforts to restore this national edifice. Suffice to say here that Nigeria has a rich culture, and sports have contributed a lot to these customs. Nigeria may lack on sports achievements but never in festivities and events held annually that many Nigerians get excited about.
To bring back the old glory to the stadium in tandem with accomplishments and careful planning that late MKO Abiola who was honoured with the renaming is known for, will require a strong political will, resources sourced from government by bringing in adequate budgetary provisions and there is the need to consider going into partnership with private sectors for its runnings and maintenance.