Politicisation Of A Remodeled Waterlogged Stadium
The sleepy 10,000-capacity Lekan Salami Stadium, situated at the Adamasingba area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, came to life on Wednesday, with all attentions paid to the much-advertised unveiling of the stadium, remodeled by the administration of Governor ‘Seyi Makinde.
Entry into the stadium was made free, though controlled as tickets were given to those who had the opportunity to witness the historic occasion. Many residents and sports enthusiasts across the 33 local government areas of the state and beyond thronged Adamasingba in their thousands.
The crowd defied the late evening heavy downpour, all in a bid to witness the unveiling of the stadium, and particularly to watch their darling Ibadan football club, the Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), playing live, once again, on a familiar terrain after a long period of absence due to lack of a good stadium in the state.
Dignitaries from all walks of life, including political heavyweights and traditional rulers, and the low and the mighty, graced the event. They were full of praises and commendations for Governor Makinde who they said worked to ensure the return of the stadium to a glorious path, after years of neglect.
Prominent among those at the event were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; a former military governor of the old Oyo State, Major General David Medayese Jemibewon (rtd); Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State; Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo, former Governor Rashidi Ladoja; former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala; Adebo Ogundoyin, Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly; Chief Jacob Adetoro; former Chief Coach of the Super Eagles, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde; former Skipper of the national football team, Chief Segun Odegbami, and several others.
Former Vice-President Abubakar described the opening of the remodeled complex as a well directed effort, just as Chief Alao-Akala also commended Governor Makinde for a good job well done on the stadium.
The former governor of Oyo State charged the incumbent not to rest on his oars but ensure the maintenance of the edifice for the next five years, adding “from there, we move on. ÀaWe congratulate the person that made it possible for us to see this day. So, congratulations to Governor Seyi Makinde for making it possible. We were all here at Adamasingba.”
Senator Monsurat Sunmonu, who was also a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, said the remodeled stadium would boost the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state, adding: “We will have footballers and teams coming from different countries for international matches in Ibadan.”
The Oyo State chapter of the Nigeria Society of Physiotherapy (NSP) also commended Governor Makinde, saying that, by revamping the stadium, he has shown that he cares about the physical development of the state and its people.
The Oyo NSP, in a statement by its Special Adviser on Media and Strategic Communication, Faysol Oluwakemi, advised the government to properly maintain the stadium to retain its standard and also implored the people to pay more attention to sporting activities and make maximum use of the stadium.
Two football matches were played, as part of the activities to mark the event. The first one was a novelty match between former players of the Nigerian national football team, the Super Eagles and ex-players of the 3SC.
The second was an international friendly between the present team of the 3SC (also known as the Oluyole Warriors) and NK Tabor Sezana, a Slovenian Football League side.
The former Super Eagles players present included Peter Rufai, Ike Shorunmu, Abiodun Baruwa, Austin Eguaveon, Taribo West, Tijani Babangida, Austin Okocha, Garba Lawal, Dimeji Lawal, Friday Ekpo, Victor Ikpeba, Mutiu Adepoju and Bright Omokaro.
The international friendly, which ended 4-0 in favour of the 3SC, was a glimpse into what is expected of the Oluyole Warriors as they seek to return to the prestigious Premier Division of the Nigerian Professional League next session. The team played to the admiration of the audience and the four goals were scored by Chinedu Enuademu, Akilu Muhammed, Malomo Taofeek and Anthony Okachi.
Undoubtedly, the beauty of the remodelled stadium cannot in any way be downplayed. Indeed, that the state governor did a yeoman’s job in turning around its fortunes cannot be over-emphasised.
However, alongside the glamour, glitz and blitz that attended the unveiling came some ugly developments which could have taken the shines off the unveiling ceremony and also marred the commendable efforts of the Governor Makinde-led administration.
As the unveiling progressed, news filtered in that three prominent traditional rulers in the state, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III and the Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba (Dr) Abdganiy Salawudeen Adekunle Oloogunebi, were turned away from the stadium, allegedly by some overzealous security operatives.
Within a twinkle of an eye, social media handlers and online media practitioners feasted on the news items, even as some people started giving it political colourations. However, explanations were made on what really happened at the stadium.
It turned out to be a total falsehood that the Aseyin of Iseyin was turned back from the stadium. Oba Oloogunebi was, indeed, in the stadium all through the ceremony. This is just as it was said that the Alaafin of Oyo and the Olubadan of Ibadanland were not ‘bounced’ by any security operative, as insinuated.
The Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Oloogunebi, in a statement he personally signed, vehemently said nobody denied him entry into the stadium. This was as he clarified that Oba Adeyemi and Oba Adetunji were not prevented from going into the venue of the unveiling.
The Aseyin said he got into the stadium and witnessed the events alongside other traditional rulers and dignitaries invited for the commissioning ceremony.
He, however, admitted that some security men displayed overzealousness at the entrance of the stadium. He added that such was expected, given the number of crowd that besieged Adamasingba and the space created for people to get into the main bowl of the facility.
Rather than barred, the traditional ruler said the Alaafin of Oyo and the Olubadan of Ibadan turned back at the gate because of the miscreants that wanted to force their ways into the stadium.
“I would not know why somebody would say I was turned back by security men. I attended the event and was ushered in, although the entrance was rough due to mammoth crowd of miscreants that wanted to force their ways in and the way they were resisted by the police and other security agencies.
“Baba Alaafin and Olubadan are not of my age. You cannot expect them to withstand such rigour and that is why they turned back and went home. People should learn to draw a line between politics and good governance.
“The project is not for Seyi Makinde but the whole of Oyo State to be proud of. We should rather appreciate the governor for doing what many others have failed to do overtime,” he said.
In the same vein, Governor Makinde, through his media aide, Taiwo Adisa, denied stopping the Alaafin of Oyo and the Olubadan of Ibadan from coming to witness the unveiling of the stadium.
Adisa said the two royal fathers were too important to the state government to be prevented from attending the event, having been duly invited. He added that seats of the traditional rulers were already reserved, and that the government valued their presence.
“The inability of the monarchs to gain access into the main bowl was because of the huge enthusiastic crowd that swarmed on the stadium and obstructed the movement of the monarchs’ convoys to the designated VVIP Drop Off zone, which was the easiest channel to their reserved seats.
“What happened was that security operatives advised that the drivers of the revered monarchs make their way through another gate, since their convoys were unable to access the VVIP Drop Off Zone from the gate they entered through.
“From the VVIP Drop Off Zone, it would be easy for the monarchs to access the VVIP Box without meandering through the stairs, as that would have unduly stressed them given their age.
“It is unthinkable that some individuals would try to create a wedge between the palaces of the respective monarchs and the state government, which holds them in high esteem,” Adisa said in statement.
The other dark patch on the unveiling ceremony was the torrential downpour which exposed the underbelly of the beautifully-looking turf of the stadium. Like a wild fire in the harmattan, the news went round town that the remodeled Lekan Salami Stadium is a sham; that the renovation, given the amount spent on it, fell far below standard.
Shortly before the commencement of the friendly match at 8pm, the heaven opened up, releasing rain in torrents and more than half of the pitch was flooded with water, thus making the turf slippery and disturbing free-flow of ball.
The rain marred what could have been a beautiful display of football artistry, both by the host team and its visiting counterpart. The football pitch became so waterlogged that the players found it difficult to make even short passes to each other.
Expectedly, Lekan Salami Stadium and Governor Makinde became butts of jokes on the Social Media. Many went as far as saying a typical swimming pool is far better than the stadium. Some others alleged that the state government spent #5.3 billion on the remodeled stadium, saying the amount expended cannot be justified.
However, explanations also came in from both the official quarters and from the contractors that handled the remodeling project as regards what really happened to the football pitch and the actual amount spent on project.
The Oyo State government, in a statement by the governor’s media aide, explained that the remodeled Lekan Salami Stadium is an ongoing project, adding that the contractor is yet to hand over the project to the government.
Adisa said it would take three months for the pitch to solidify in order to make the automatic drainage system to become functional. He added that the unveiling became necessary so as to enable the 3SC returns to Ibadan, having been playing their matches outside the state for so long.
“Besides, the pitch, as seen on Wednesday, is work in progress because the contractor has not handed over the project to the state government. The contractor had explained that the pitch needed three more months to fully solidify so that the automatic drainage system would become fully functional.
“But the unveiling had to be done to ensure that our darling Shooting Stars Sports Club returns to Ibadan, having been forced to play their matches outside the state for so long owing to absence of a good pitch in Ibadan.
“The contractor has given his assurance to address the challenges of the pitch and, by the time the works are completed, Oyo State would definitely have the value for its money, which has always been the priority and intention of Governor Makinde,” he stated.
Also giving a further insight to what happened at the stadium, the project manager of Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Limited, the contractors that handled the remodeling of the stadium, Engineer Femi James, said the drainage system was not responsible for the waterlogged pitch which hindered movement of the ball during Wednesday friendly match.
Rather, he attributed the problem to the torrential rainfall, noting that the continuous raining in Ibadan in the last 12 days had weakened the ground and it could not hold water any longer.
James, however, promised to fix the hitches within four weeks. He said what happened was a blessing in disguise as it created the avenue to test-run, identify and fix the problems before the expiration of the deadline for completion of the project, which is six months time.
“It was an opportunity for us to test-run. Nature really wanted to help us by bringing down the rain in torrent, to allow us identify the problems and solve them. So, with our expertise and experience in this business, we know exactly what we need to do to avoid a reoccurrence,” he assured.
The project manager also explained that it was not true that #5.3 billion was spent on remodeling Lekan Salami Stadium alone. According to him, the amount also covered the renovation of 10 other sports complexes his firm is currently handling across the state.
Aside the Lekan Salami Stadium, James said the amount is also for renovation works on the other stadia in the state, including Eruwa Stadium, Olubadan Stadium, Ogbomoso Stadium, Saki Stadium, Iseyin Stadium and football fields in some public schools across the state.
Without mincing words, the remodeled stadium is a beauty to behold. This was after it has suffered several years of neglect by successive administrations in the state.
The construction works of the stadium, then known as Adamasingba Sports Complex, began in 1976 during the military administration of Major General Jemibewon (retd). Built on 130,000 square metres of land formerly occupied by the Ibadan Race Course, the sports complex was opened on May 28, 1988.
With the exception of the administration of Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala that did some major works on the stadium, including laying of red tartan tracks, no serious maintenance work was ever carried out on the sports complex ever since it was commissioned in 1988.
However, upon his resumption of office on 29 May, 2019, Governor Makinde promised to positively touch all sectors of the state, with a view to improve the standard of living of the people and residents of the state.
He demonstrated his resolve by seeking to renovate the existing infrastructures and also build new ones in order to make Oyo live up to its status as the PaceSetter State. The remodeling of the Lekan Salami Stadium is a demonstration of the determination of Governor Makinde to live up to his promise.
Following the unveiling and the attendant controversies, some lessons must be learned by all concerned across board namely, the state government, the contractors and the discerning members of the public, all in the bid to promote peace and further champion the cause of public interest.
The state government must learn not to be in a hurry to unveil a project which is still a work in progress; the contractors, Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Limited, must learn not to do hush-hush job; and the public must learn to distill and sieve their facts and truths before going public with false narratives that can cause disaffections and heat up the polity.
Moving forward, the contracting firm should be made to identify all the errors noticed in the course of the international friendly match. Provisions should be made to provide more covers for spectators during football matches in the stadium. This became necessary given the fact that some parts of the covered seats cannot provide shelter from rain, as witnessed during the rainfall that attended the unveiling ceremony.
Governor Makinde should put in place water-tight security to protect the ultra-modern equipment and other facilities at the stadium. The people, irrespective of their political leanings, should cooperate with the government to ensure the protection and proper maintenance of the facilities at the stadium. They should know and understand that the edifice is for the general good of the public.
It should be assumed that maintenance arrangements have been put in place. Again, the words of Alao-Akala, who said he was at the event as an elder statesman that has the duty of been involved in progress and development of the state, are apt here.
The former Oyo State governor told newsmen at the sideline of the unveiling: “If I am to advise, I will just say that he [Governor Makinde] should formally give the stadium to somebody to maintain on a fixed rate annually.
“We lack maintenance culture; our maintenance culture is very very poor. For it not to deteriorate and for it not to get bad again, we have to get somebody who will continually maintain the place.”
Indeed, it will not be out of place to congratulate Governor Makinde for giving the Lekan Salami Stadium a new lease of life and turning it into a beautiful edifice. The people of the state, and especially the management, technical crew and players of Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) and their supporters’ club members are the direct beneficiaries because the main bowl of the stadium is now their home ground.