When Mr. Sunday Dare was appointed as the minister of Youth and Sports Development, many raised eyebrows especially the stakeholders in the sector.
The question many were asking was: “A journalist to head a sport ministry?” hence many concluded that it was another square peg in a round hole but Mr. Dare seems to have proven many wrong.
Not many would have believed that the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja which was fast becoming moribund because of the abandonment and considering how other stadia across the country had become most especially the National Stadium, Lagos, would ever come to life again let alone host an international match.
The one that surprise most stakeholders and which is why Mr. Dare will receive pass mark even if he fails in other areas is the revival and resuscitation of the National Stadium, Lagos.
If not for the innovation, even though it is said to be somebody else’s own, government with all the challenges begging for funds, wouldn’t have been able to revive the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja let alone the National Stadium, Lagos, which was almost turning to a museum and turned to hideouts and residents for criminals.
Even though it is the responsibility of the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Sports to provide sporting infrastructure and maintain, having the political will to do it, is something that must be commended. Past governments do not see any reason why they should revive the National Stadium, Lagos and even when they showed interest, politics played out.
Meanwhile, building infrastructure or revival is not enough, there is need to put policy in place to maintain them and put them to use. The reason why the stadia are declining by the day is because they are not being used like their foreign counterparts.
Galatasaray stadium in Turkey was built in the 1845 but the facilities in that stadium are still looking good. The only thing that looks old is the front design which they deliberately left to maintain the year it was built.
The excavators and lifts are still working, the VIP lounge is a place you will love to sit when matches are on, the décor on the wall and others are beauty to behold. There is need for stadium managers across Nigeria to visit there and see how things are being done. Galatasaray stadium is just one of the stadia out there that are well-utilized and maintained. Not forgetting the English Premier League, EPL stadia, Spanish stadia, just to mention a few.
Even back home in Africa – Ethiopia, South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, etc, they display the best of stadia and maintain their facilities, that is why it is easier for them to host tournaments on the continent at anytime they are call upon without struggling because their facilities are top notch.
Apart from the Godswill Akpabio stadium, Uyo and maybe one or two, Nigerian stadia do not fall into that category. This is where the attention of the Sports Ministry is needed to ensure that stadia are maintained and put to maximum use.
The EPL and other leagues across the world that Nigerians are “dying” to watch started somewhere with the intervention of their governments on the provision of stadia, maintenance and support to smaller communities, hence the attention, viewership and sponsorship they are enjoying because of their lust green and beautiful stadia.
There is also need for the minister to ensure that these stadia are utilized especially the newly revived stadia in Abuja and Lagos. Presently, the country has about 35 sporting federations. The minister can ensure that every federation carries out programmes twice or thrice in a year and by so doing, the stadia will be busy.
The advantage of doing that is that the facilities would be utilized and petty traders will make a living from there while the athletes and players will be engaged, fit and ready for any tournament or competition instead of the idea of inviting them to camp only when there are competitions around.
For instance, for more than two months now, the indoor of the Package B of the MKO Abiola National stadium has been very busy because of Mark D Ball, organized by the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF president, Mr. Mark Igoche.
Due to the championship, the stadium came alive with people who have been looking for where to relax, always storming there on daily basis to watch basketball while the petty traders, are making money from sales.
The same are happening at the various league venues but the challenge there is that money realized from those venues are not be channeled for the renovation of those stadia. Some of the facilities in those stadia are not working especially the water system hence the toilets are in terrible shape. Showing interest in what they use the money realised from those stadia is very important because if they don’t put those minor things in place, they will snowball into bigger problems in future.