The story of abandonment of stadiaums in Nigeria is tragic. Added to lack of maintenance of these stadiums, dishonour is invoked but lovers of sports can only make pathetic pleas.
It goes like this, the first stadium ever in the history of this country was the Onikan Stadium in Lagos built in 1930 by the colonial administration with 5,000 capacity. The stadium is tenanted by Stationary Stores FC founded by Israel Adebajo, However, later deduced by unending cases in court over ownership claim by Adebajo siblings. This club is best remembered for producing Peter Rufai and Ike Shorunmu, two of Nigeria’s brightest goalkeepers.
The Onikan Stadium was once the nation’s sporting melting pot until the Gowon administration built the National Stadium, Lagos with the nation’s oil boom money in 1972. Once successfully completed, attention shifted to the Olympic-size and state of the art stadium as it began to host national and international competitions much to the detriment of Onikan Stadium. It was never thought that these competitions could be shared with Onikan, which could have also been expanded.
In 2007, the renovation of the 24,000-capacity Teslim Balogun Stadium was completed in Lagos opposite the National Stadium. First, it was difficult to understand why a stadium should be built close to another stadium much less the National Stadium. Was this a worthy policy? Second, all international football matches shifted to a much smaller stadium. How apt was this? Third, with the National Stadium and Onikan Stadium, was it necessary to build the Teslim Balogun Stadium? Anyway, the completion of the Teslim Balogun stadium renovation which was formerly AAC stadium, began an era of abandonment of the National Stadium. Two stadiums – the Onikan Stadium and National Stadium became abandoned.
In 2003, the Obasanjo administration opened the 60,000-capacity stadium in Abuja and duplicated its name as “National Stadium, Abuja”. Now, there were two national stadiums in Nigeria, one in the nation’s capital and the other in Lagos, the nation’s former capital. Again, with the completion of the National Stadium, Abuja now Moshood Abiola, Abuja, the National Stadium, Lagos became totally abandoned. Ironically, the Obasanjo administration that built the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja in 2003 abandoned the National Stadium, Lagos the following year, in 2004.
In 2014, the 30,000-capacity Goodswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo was built and the result was abandonment of both the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja and National Stadium, Lagos. Interestingly, a 60,000 capacity stadium was abandoned for a 30,000 capacity.
In 2018, Nigeria turned to Mohammadu Dikko Stadium briefly but today, it is the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba. Who knows how soon this stadium will be used and abandoned for another?
Sadly, the National Stadium, Lagos is now a den of religious, cultural and political activities just as the Moshood Abiola Stadium is fast deteriorating. Maintenance and not abandonment should be the watchword.
By Emeka Esogbue