NSF 2024: Sports Stakeholders Knock Ogun Government Over Makeshift Cover Seat At MKO Abiola Stadium

Sports lovers in Ogun state as described the  ongoing provision of seat cover at some sections of the spectators' stand of the MKO Abiola Stadium as embarrassing, substandard and shameful.

The state government showed images of the MKO stadium's ongoing construction of cover seats with aluminum iron and plastic covers in a news release on Saturday.

In a release issued by the State APC Publicity Secretary, Tunde Oladunjoye stated that, the proposed arrangement of covering the whole spectators stand in the stadium by the current Governor Dapo Abiodun administration would add beauty and comfort for football lovers.

According to Oladunjoye, the ongoing renovation would further raise the  standard of the facility and prepare it for the 2024 National Sports Festival that Ogun State was recently given the right to host.

The release reads in part: "In keeping to his promise of raising the bar of sports and sporting activities in Ogun State, as a follow up to the shower of money on the state’s contingent to the just concluded National Sports Festival hosted by Delta State, Ogun State Governor, Prince  Dapo Abiodun, has commenced immediate renovation of the MKO Abiola international stadium Abeokuta.

"In this regards, the 10,000 capacity stadium will be fully covered to provide adequate comfort for the spectators. The reconstruction of the stadium which started yesterday, continued this morning as more materials and workers arrived the site. The facelift is expected to be completed in four weeks. 

"The stadium named after the winner of Nigeria’s June 12 presidential election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, who also hailed from Abeokuta, has been used as a multi-sports events centre for over two decades and it has played host  to state-owned and private football clubs including the Gateway Football Club and Abiola Babes International Football club.  

"While the stadium has also played host to local and international football matches, it has also produced stars that have proven their mettles globally in the world of sports. 

"Presently, about twenty percent of the stadium is covered. The proposed arrangement of covering the whole spectators stand in stadium by the current Administration will no doubt add beauty and comfort and further raise the  standard of the facility and prepare it for the 2023 National Sports Festival that Ogun State was recently given the right to host," Oladunjoye said.

However, the development received more knocks and condemnation from stakeholders in the sports sector.

Those who spoke on different sports platforms noted with dismay the poor quality and substandard materials used for the cover seats. 

Others said, the cover seat was a ruse to serve dignitaries for the coming Asiwaju Bola Tinubu political rally coming in the state on January 9.

They wondered how a stadium with bad pitch and no sporting events becomes, describing the state government move as ill-timing and waste of resources.

A former Kebbi state SWAN Chairman who hails from Ogun state, Bolaji Kasali described the purported renovation as disgraceful and ridiculous.

Kasali who was part of the participants on Digital Sports platform, stressed that, "This is definitely an attempt to at playing the ostrich; a poor and shameful one at that. All those involved in this sham are well educated and exposed, they know what a covered stadium is and this is definitely not one. Nobody should try and pull wool over our eyes. There are more important sporting facilities at the MKO Abiola Stadium that needs upgrading and equipment rather than this disgraceful cover being put in place. 

"I can't understand covering a stadium with a bad pitch and not presently hosting a sporting event. My take is that this ruse of a cover being put at the stadium is not even for the purpose of sports, but the political crowd coming for the BAT campaign. This timing of the cover is not right when no major sports event is holding now and we have a political campaign coming up soon."

According to a retired Referee and member of Nigeria Referee Association (NRA), Mr. Michael Bamigboye maintained that the renovation was far below International standards and a mockery of the entire state indigenes.

Bamigboye emphasized that a state that produced ex-internationals and great sports personalities should not be engaged in such a shamble display of unprofessionalism.

He said, "we should stop deceiving ourselves. Can this work stand the test of time? Just go to the Stadium and look at the way the work is being done and the materials being used as well. If you can recollect, the pitch was changed from natural grass to astroturf, then, years after, it was changed back to natural grass, just have a look at the pitch, the grass became brown despite being wet on regular basis, which led to the banning of the pitch by NFF and deprived both Gateway FC & Nilayo Babes playing their league matches at Ijebu-Ode and Ikenne respectively. The State Government should award the contract to a reputable Contractor and make sure that they use good materials."

A sports writer with Blueprint Newspaper, Hakeem Adegbenro described the state government action as jokes taken too far.

Adegbenro said how can a serious government invested money on a makeshift cover stand when there are no major sporting events taking place in the state in the next one year, except for political rallies.

He urged the governor to immediately stop the ongoing 'mess' called facelift at the stadium and probe the contractor and ministry handling the project.

A football coach in the state, Ayomide Somide, claimed the stadium has become a shadow of itself since inception of the current administration in the state.

Somide expressed disappointment at poor state of facilities at the MKO Abiola stadium in Abeokuta which according to him denied many youths to explore their talents.

He claimed the facility has become a pool for spiritual bath of different faith.

"The mini bridge inside the stadium was destroyed when they started packing sand from the stadium and selling it! The destroyed the road that leads into the cricket pavilion and co.

"Funny enough, the MkO stadium is not just about the main bowl pitch, the whole stadium now is used more for spiritual baths of different faith! We have only one extra pitch, the others are made/created by grassroots teams. It is a shame!! If not for grassroots teams, and cricket, that place would have become a zoo."

Meanwhile, several efforts to get the Sports Commissioner's reaction on the new development at the stadium were unsuccessful.

As at the time of filing this report, his MTN line was unavailable and text messages sent to his mobile phone were not replied.

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