In a recent visit to the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja on August 8, 2019. This writer observed that anthills have taken over the main pitch of the stadium. This is perhaps an indication that serious Sporting activities are not taking place there. Moreover, the goal post which was supposed to be there are no longer on ground, an indication that there is probably no immediate plan for its use.
Attempt made by this writer to speak with some Stadium officials who spoke on grounds of anonymity confirmed that the last time a sporting activity took place at the stadium was during the National Sports Festival which took place in December 2018. Since then, no sporting activities has taken place at the stadium and the pitch looks practically abandoned.
On the issue of maintenance an official who spoke to us confirmed that there is no plan for maintenance of the natural grasses. However, once the grasses are overgrown arrangement are made for it to be cut down. And this leads to the pitch at times experiencing grasses growing above a normal pitch height.
Further investigations revealed that priority and attention has now been given to Religious activities at the MKO Abiola Stadium than sporting activities. A staff who spoke with us confirmed that even before the renaming of the stadium to MKO Abiola, the stadium had hosted two major big religious programmes organized by a Christian and Muslim organizations.
Early this year, the stadium hosted the Molud at the Stadium, which had a large turnout of Muslim faithful who came to worship. Our correspondent confirmed from sources that there was no space at the stadium on that, as it was practically filled to its capacity. He further added that no sporting activity has ever attracted such large crowd in the past two years.
More so, the Deeper Life Bible Church program which took place at the Stadium last year is another strong indication showing that the MKO Abiola Stadium is losing focus on reasons for the stadium. When asked to comment on reason for more religious activities at the MKO Abiola Stadium than sporting activities. The staff who spoke to us on ground of anonymity said:
“I think the reason why we don’t have football matches on this pitch again is to enable most of these religious programmes hold”. “Imagine, all our football matches such as qualifiers for world cup and AFCON are now been taken to Port Harcourt, Asaba, Uyo and Benin. No plan to play any match at the MKO Abiola Stadium, and this is really bad”.
“The fact remains that the management are now giving priority to religious activities at the stadium than sporting activities, and this is not really good for the development of Sports in the country”.
However, in a chat with the AIPS Africa president Mr. Mitchell Obi, seeking his opinion on the relevance of the use of Stadiums for religious activities. Obi looks at it from the broader perspective. While he agrees that that the stadium should be used for sporting activities he also noted that nature forbids vacuum and that would have probably given room for the use of MKO Abiola Stadium for religious activities.
In his words, Mr. Obi stated “When sports activities and events are not encouraged and cultivated, what do you expect stadia created for such purpose be kept for…. Left fallow and unused, abandoned and tilted to decay”.
“Something has to give in the space of inactivity. By design and direction a sports venue or Stadium should not be used for religious activities, but in absence of Sports acts there is need to diversify the stream of revenues and the ready tap is religious programs. Interestingly, this can be accommodated without damage to the spirit and scope of the stadium. After all, dance an aspect of religion, is one of the earliest sports events known to man”, Obi concluded.
However, it is important to note here that the legacies which the late MKO Abiola laid down for Sports development in Africa need to be given priority at any Stadium named after him. Worse still, for a Stadium located at the Federal Capital Territory of the country, more sporting activities should be created to justify the renaming. The late MKO Abiola loves sports.