The Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, on Wednesday declared the readiness of the state government to take over the National Stadium, Surulere, from the Federal Government and transform the facility from its present deplorable condition to a world class sporting centre.
Speaking after embarking on an extensive inspection tour of the facilities in the Stadium alongside the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung; Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick, and other top government functionaries, Governor Ambode said it was unfortunate how things had degenerated, but expressed preparedness to hit the ground running towards restoring the old glory of the stadium once officially handed over to the state.
Mr. Ambode, who recalled how enthusiastic and interesting it was for people in the past to visit the National Stadium even with their families to watch matches and have fun, said repositioning the stadium would not only help to bring about layers of employment but would also facilitate family bonding.
“This visit is very historic,” the governor said.
“I recall that during our campaign, we promised that we are going to use tourism, entertainment and arts and sports to drive youth employment as well as drive excellence. So, this is just one chapter in that roadmap to growing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lagos.
“With the state of affairs here, we cannot fold our arms and just leave this monument to just waste away. The last match that was played here was about fifteen years ago but the truth is this, the inner key to youth empowerment and youth employment is actually in re-establishing this edifice to its real world class standard,” he said.
Mr. Ambode thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for approving that the Ahmadu Bello Stadium be given to Kaduna State as well as Enugu Stadium and Calabar Stadium be given to Enugu and Cross River Governments respectively.
“What we ask for in Lagos is not as if we are being aggressive, we just think that we need to stand up for leadership here and take over the National Stadium,” the governor said.
The governor also commended the sports minister for spearheading the move to hand over the stadium to Lagos State and expressed optimism that the journey which had started would eventually lead to a formal pronouncement.
He said aside the fact that the state government was already planning to construct five stadia in the five administrative divisions of the State to grow sports, the government also has a functional agency in charge of facility management, assuring that the Surulere Stadium would be properly and efficiently managed once handed over to the State.
Earlier, Mr. Dalung lamented the dilapidated condition of the stadium which he described as a national disaster, just as he called for serious and comprehensive action to reposition the Stadium and return it to its pride of place.
While expressing confidence in the ability of the state government to transform it, Mr. Dalung specially thanked Governor Ambode for his interest and commitment to the success of the move to reposition the stadium.
“We have gone round and we have seen the edifice in a sorry state,” he said.
“Whatever we can do to arrest the situation, we must do it. In my village, there is an adage, which says once there is fire disaster, there is no choice of liquid and any liquid that can contribute to extinguish the fire, must be mobilized including liquor. But today, we have a disaster and we must do everything possible to extinguish it.
“I want to thank the Governor for finding time to come. I have received what I can call football gossip from football federation that if the Surulere Stadium is handed over to Lagos and renovated in six months, the next match of Nigeria against Zambia would be played here,” the minister said.
He also appealed to Governor Ambode to revamp the Stationary Stores Football Club of Lagos.
Some of the facilities inspected at the Stadium include the Molade Okoya Tennis Hall, 3000 Capacity Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Hall, Beach Soccer Pitch, Synthetic Football Pitch and the 38,000 Capacity Main Bowl Football Field.