Muda Lawal Stadium: Facility crying for rescue
An attitude for which Nigerian successive administrations are allegedly notorious is gross failure to maintain and preserve infrastructural facilities. There is hardly a state of the federation where public property is not crying for rehabilitation. One of these eyesores lies in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital on the road which connects the rocky city with Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. It is sports complex named after the late Green Eagles’ midfielder, Muda Lawal. TUNDE BUSARI visited the stadium, returning with a sad tale of another abandoned project.
Watching students of Aminat International College, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, coming out of Muda Lawal Stadium located on Abeokuta-Ibadan road, gave an impression that the sport facility was in optimal use.
The students, appearing in different colours of sports attires, were in the stadium for their school’s 7th Biennial Inter-House Sports Competition. They were undoubtedly relishing the fun of holding their sporting event in the big, popular stadium named after a late footballer, Mudasiru Agboluaje famously known as Muda Lawal.
The one called midfield maestro on the field of football died in July 1991 following a cardiac arrest in his Ring Road residence, Ibadan. It was during his funeral ceremony that the Ogun State Government publicly changed the name of the stadium from Asero to Muda Lawal as a mark of honour to immortalize Lawal who was an indigene of Abeokuta.
The students, having been exposed to European Football Leagues played inside state-of-the-art stadia owned by individual club sides, were, however, not oblivious of the fact that their host Muda Lawal Stadiumis in a disappointing state not fit for meaningful sporting activities that could produce future champions for the state and country.
The conversion of a sizeable part of the stadium to the park of trucks is a feature which is gradually robbing the facility of its primary function as confluence of athletes, coaches and team managers.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that the trucks were relocated to the stadium allegedly by Ogun State Government as a measure against indiscriminate violation of road use rule by truck drivers in Abeokuta metropolis.
The government, it was learnt, had been fed up with truck drivers for allegedly parking their vehicles on the road sides thereby causing traffic gridlock among other hazard including avoidable auto-crash.
“It was as a result of this reason that the government gave a directive that the truck drivers should move to the free space at the frontage of the stadium. There is no doubting the fact that the decision is not right because it showed that the government was not concerned about developing the stadium to international standard.
“What we see in that place is not seen in other places. I mean, I have not seen a stadium which was converted to Motor Park by government. But because the stadium is government property, it can do anything with its property,” a man, who came to the stadium to watch the inter-house sports but who declined his name, told our correspondent in Yoruba language heavily spiced in Egba dialect.
The presence of the trucks may have foreclosed any effort to upgrade Muda Lawal Stadium with trucks and drivers growing in number under organized management. Business activities at the park resume just after dawn and close late in the evening with building contractors frequenting the spot to hire the vehicles.
What is in the main bowl, which features football field and sitting pavilion, is nothing better than a weather-beaten arena housing broken spectators seats, vandalized Press Gallery among other eyesore. The football field on which great players like Muda Lawal, Rashidi Yekini, Raymond King and many other late and living stars honed their skills, is better described as a semi-desert crying for urgent attention.
The track events section of the field where sprinters and long distance runners do their races is also disappointingly covered by dust. It was however learnt that the section had never been laid with tartan track right from the day the stadium was built in the 70s.
“With the state of the track events section, it indicates that there was plan to abandon the stadium. How can a track section of a field be left in this state in the past 40 years? It means the stadium is not important to the successive government. Otherwise, they would have laid tartan track to make it meet international standard of track events facilities. But to my surprise, it has produced a good number of athletes for the state before the MKO Abiola Stadium was constructed at Kuto,” another source said.
The supporting spectators’ seats, which form semi-circle round the football field, are said to be habitat of reptiles now because of its state of abandonment. The source exclaimed that he could not remember the last time he saw spectators watching any game at that spectator space.
“In the first instance, who would risk it? I think you went through and saw how bad the place is. This stadium has suffered too much of neglect. But because we have nothing to do, we all keep watching it. My point remains that the stadium can generate revenue for the government if it is well maintained,” the outspoken source remarked.
Besides, there is a block of offices in the premises of the stadium but the building, which is used by some officials of Ogun State Sports Council, is also in poor shape. It is submerged by dust thereby making its paint crying for a retouch.
Though none of the officials was disposed to speaking to our correspondent, their body language spoke volume of a set of despondent civil servants only living on hope that one day an administration would look to the direction of the stadium.
Looking beyond the perimeter fence that carved the stadium out of its immediate neighbours, one would see bush providing additional shield to the stadium.
“The surrounding of stadia I know are developed to accommodate outlets where sports kits and other sports-related items are sold. Refreshments for stadium users too are sold in stadium surroundings. But what do we have here is forest which is threatening the fence of the stadium,” another source said.
Despite the deplorable state of the stadium, it is still serving some local clubs and athletes who daily conduct their trainings on the field. Our correspondent ran into Gate Way Football Club, an Ogun State Government funded National League side as the players were about to enter the field for training.
Even though it was learnt that the team’s regular training ground is MKO Abiola Stadium, Muda Lawal occasional comes to their rescue when the latter was not available for use usually due to public engagement like political campaigns and other government functions.
The Head Coach of the team, Akeem Busari said what the government need to save the stadium from total collapse is not up to N100 million, an amount which, according to him, is far from that needed to build a new stadium.
Busari said grazing of the field should first be done in order to help the training of players, adding that a bald field is an anathema to development of footballers and indeed a cause of injuries.
“A field like this is not only a challenge to players, it is also making job of coaches difficult too. Football pitch has gone beyond impoverished space. The field must be well grazed to ease free movement of players and ball.
“Whenever I am here, I don’t feel happy because it is difficult to believe that this is the same stadium where Abiola Babes, Concord FC, Housing Football Club, Lisabi United used for their home matches in those days. It is much more painful for me being a former player too who was exposed to different stadia in different parts of the country,” he hinted.
The former Coach of 3SC FC and Bayelsa United FC stated that his team was at Muda Lawal Stadium for training because their regular MKO Abiola Stadium was not available for use, pointing out that Muda Lawal Stadium is equally important as alternative to MKO Abiola Stadium.
He made a passionate appeal to Ogun State Government to have a second look at Muda Lawal Stadium with a view to upgrading it to acceptable standard.
There is worry in the town about the state of MKO Abiola Stadium for being frequently used for extra-sports activities. A Sports writer, Afolabi Gambari, who also decried the condition of Muda Lawal Stadium and raised the alarm that the same fate of collapse awaiting MKO Abiola Stadium if serious measure is not taken to stop the abuse of the stadium.
Isn’t it crazy that it is in this clime that you see politicians converting stadia to campaign ground? Isn’t it sad that religious groups too are given permit to use stadium as revival ground? But in a country where nothing is impossible, this kind of things should not surprise some of us. I have since given up in this kind of exercise of saying the same thing on the use of public amenities,” he said.