The biggest sports event in Nigeria, the 19th edition of the National Sports Festival scheduled for December 6th to 16th, is just less than three months away, where home based athletes are expected to compete for glory and to represent the country in future tournaments.
It is a bi-ennial event designed for the promotion of mass participation in sports from the grassroots level throughout the country which seeks to promote a keen and healthy competition amongst the competitors under an atmosphere of sportsmanship and friendly interaction with a view to enhancing and strengthening national unity.
Also, it is an event which aims to identify talents for further development, the provision of opportunities for hosting states to acquire and upgrade sports facilities and infrastructure and most importantly, foster national unity, using sports as a platform for socio-cultural integration.
For the aforementioned reasons was this festival put in place, and expected to host an event of this magnitude which would have over five thousand athletes across the 36 states of the nation competing in all sporting events, in the National Stadiumn Abuja.
The administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had expended a whopping $360million to the Schlaich Bergermann and Partners in building what was to be a cynosure in the nation’s capital.
The stadium, which was rated amongst the 50 most expensive in the world, the Abuja National Stadium, consists of a 60,491 capacity covered main bowl, presidential suite and viewing area, 56 corporate suites, modern turnstiles, box office, post offices, banks, media facilities.
Included also are two scoreboards and floodlights, shops and kiosks for snacks, a standby power supply system, Helipad, 3000 capacity indoor sports hall, 2000 capacity gymnasium, 2000 capacity swimming pool, 4000 vehicle capacity public parking lot, artificial lake, tennis courts, 3000 capacity hockey stadium, 400 capacity VIP car park, baseball and softball complex.
There are also the emergency service units, closed circuit security cameras, crowd control steel fencing as well as stand-by fire fighting.
17 years down the line, the Abuja National stadium has lost its magnificence, what used to be the Nigerian pride has been encroached by uninvited, unpaying spectators grazing on the arable grasslands that have become the stadium with their herders.
Driving in from the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja to the city centre, the stadium stands out as the first infrastructure that greets your eye on ingress into the nation’s capital. Going ahead into the stadium, you will be shocked at what you see, it will be as though you had just arrived at a ranch.
While seeking for a space to park your vehicle, you should be vigilant as not to harbour any creepy guests, as the whole place has become a fertile ground for grasses, definitely not the carpet kind.
Where do we start in describing the deplorable condition in which the stadium has fallen into, is it the overgrown grass that has engulfed the stadium?, the wrought irons, with a track and field guaranteed to maim the athletes and let’s not talk about the swimming pool swamped with conjugating organisms that are certainly not human.
Going round to see the facilities at the Main Bowl and the Package B area of the national edifice that will host the National sports festival, the condition in which it is, is one that begs for a miracle.
The track and field areas of the stadium are in worse shape, the tracks are peeling away leaving dangerous holes that can cause great havoc to athletes, the pitch itself has been taken over by wild grasses and one cannot believe that it is a pitch that has hosted international events such as the All African Games in 2003[COJA] and the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup finals where the Nigeria Golden Eaglets came runner up after going down 1-0 to Switzerland.
Different administrations have budgeted huge allocation and awarded contracts for the maintenance of the stadium but none has positioned the once astounding edifice to its past glory.
The obvious nonchalant perspective showcased by the Nigerian government when it comes to issues of maintenance culture is one that calls for urgent attention, because if the government continues to invest in projects without adequate maintenance on those projects, then it will be a waste of time because more problems would be created when they come crumbling, hence abetting our already increasing problems of infrastructural development.
The Nigeria Abuja National Stadium should be the permanent homestead of the Super Eagles and also used in hosting international events such as the just concluded 2018 African Senior Athletes Champions in Asaba.
For a successful talent hunt in the national sports festival, the local organising committee must swing into action in making sure that the government of Nigeria puts the stadium in good shape ahead of the sports festival.
The stadium should be given to private companies to manage if the government cannot oversee its maintenance. Nigeria should intensify the bids to host both continental and world tournaments, which will keep the stadium in his best form and will also drive the economy of the nation.