Obafemi Awolowo will be unhappy about the current state of Liberty Stadium
Many of us probably didn’t know why the Liberty Stadium was given that name prior to the decision of the former president Goodluck Jonathan to change its name in what was seen as an extensively political move aimed at being in the good books of people from the southwest part of the country but I was recently at the stadium and when I found out what the liberty in Liberty Stadium meant, I concluded that the people of the southwest would be angry at what Jonathan did, even Obafemmi Awolowo would be unhappy.
I found the foundation laid by Awolowo on 11/3/1958 and it was written on it that the stadium was meant to commemorate western Nigeria’s attainment of regional self-government. The stadium was meant to represent freedom and liberation. But in the blink of an eye, Jonathan wiped off its history without having any idea of its meaning.
I had the entire stadium to myself and it was a lovely experience because the last time I was alone in the stadium was in 1995 when I visited the stadium with my dad. Back then, Liberty Stadium was one of the stadiums selected for the world youth soccer championship tagged Nigeria ’95. I remember vividly that Lionel Messi played in that stadium. When I visited, the pitch was really cool and music, the official theme song for the tournament, was being played in the stadium even though it was a morning and no game was being played.
Fast forward to this year when I visited and the stadium has become a dark shadow of its former brilliant self. Those that are making use of it are schools holding their inter-house sports competitions, societies holding events, people holding ceremonies and, of course, churches holding revivals and crusades. Governor Ajimobi used the stadium for his inauguration as a way of keeping the turf at Lekan Salami Stadium Adamasingba safe.
As a made my way from the track to the center of the stadium, I took a swiping look across the very large but empty sports center and all I could was a monument to its glorious past and at the same time a real estate gold.
Since the stadium is owned by the federal government, I really doubt if the state government can be using it for any sporting activities. Even Lekan Salami Stadium has a better chance of hosting Super Eagles matches than Liberty Stadium. So what happens to Liberty?
Obviously it has to be offloaded by the federal government and can be sold or allowed to be managed by a reliable property manager who could develop it into a sports center. There are several other options also. Firms like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nike, and others that are into sports could acquire the facility and turn it into Nigeria’s sports center hosting great events.
And if sports is not viable, they can as well turn it into an ultramodern conference center.
Like I said in my opening remarks, when I stood right in the middle of the stadium, I didn’t see a stadium. I saw a monument to the glorious past and a real estate gold that is ready for a glorious future.