Embattled former Super Eagle Coach Stephen Keshi may have written his name in the annals of Nigerian football by winning an African Nations Cup against all odds and taken the team to the round of 16 in the last world cup. But a lasting reminder to his exploits which may keep his name echoing for a long time to come is under serious attack with no defence from unkind officials from his home state in Asaba: The Asaba Township stadium named after is almost moribund after several years of fits and starts.
As the completion of the Asaba Township Stadium lingers, spiraling into years with no date currently in sight, high brow grasses and rodents have taken over the stadium which is located in the centre of Asaba, the capital city of the oil rich Delta State. The completion of the stadium, it is believed, has been stalled by the ineptitude and the tight handedness of the officials of Delta State government.
Besides the grasses that have driven human presence from employing the stadium for whatsoever use, the structure is gradually falling apart as the body has lost its appearance to the scorching heat of the undying sunshine and the battering rainfall. When THE UNION visited the stadium, it saw a portion of the roof been blown off by the angry wind as the rains poured and washed the body of the stadium, named after Stephen Keshi, the sacked coach of the Nigerian Super Eagles.
Looking at the body of the stadium from whichever direction, it looks forsaken, as the weeds have constituted a barrier to any visitor. Although our correspondent was not allowed to have a full view of the inside setting of the stadium, especially the arrangement of the seats, the view from the distance was not a palatable one, especially in a state, which is seen as one of the richest in the country.
All entreaties by our correspondent to have a full view of the stadium were rebuffed as the security operative turned down the request, saying since the stadium has not been completed, the contracting firm whom he named Visioni Stabiloni, had left strict warning that no one should be allowed to see the inside setting of the stadium. As our correspondent persisted with reasons why he must see the stadium, the security official said access could only be granted with permission from the state government with an attached letter.
However, our reporter was able to see the Director General of Delta State Sports Commission, Victor Onagagamue, who said the project was in the hands of the state government and could only be delivered to the Sports Commission on completion. He said the new government had just resumed office and has much interest in the completion of the stadium, but is currently battling with salary payment and other issues and as soon as the government is established, searchlight would be beamed on the completion of the stadium.
He, however, declined comments on the role of the erstwhile Uduaghan’s government in the delay in completing the project. To him, it is a government project and it can only be delivered when it is duly completed. While the completion lingers, athletes and sports enthusiasts in Asaba, the Delta State capital, are yet to appreciate the efforts of the state government towards the completion of the long standing stadium which has been on many years.
The project whose foundation stone was laid by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001, in the heydays of Chief James Ibori, former Governor of Delta State and currently languishing in London prison, has shown no visible sign of completion in the nearest future. Immediate past Governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, toyed with the construction of the stadium as he paid little or no attention to the completion of the stadium before he left office on May 29 at the expiration of his government.
Governor Uduaghan named it after the recently sacked Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi, in its moribund state as reward for him leading Nigeria for winning the African Cup of Nations in 2013 after almost 20 years. But since the renaming of the stadium after Stephen Keshi, the stadium had not been visited for whatsoever reason. Not a few Deltans and sports enthusiasts have questioned the rationale behind the abandoned stadium in the state capital. Many of the sports enthusiasts who spoke to our correspondent defended the government in the delay as, according to them, delay in stadium construction nationwide is unavoidable, saying “it happens in every stadium in Nigeria, and Asaba stadium is not an exception, that is just it”.
Another sports fan who spoke on condition of anonymity in the stadium said, “we already have the human power to man the stadium, what we need now are facilities, the idea of someone coming to the stadium and meeting jungle and bush is not good at all, we do not just need facilities but modern facilities. “Most of the local stadia in the state are breeding ground for grass cutters, this is not good. Government should put them in proper shape so that they can be in use. The man power is already on ground, we have a staff strength of over 1000 athletes but where they will display their potential is the problem.” A food vendor in the stadium, Antonia Aguji, said “We are appealing to the government to complete the stadium, because so many people will benefit from it, there will be more workers, and that is a way of providing employment, people like us that are selling food will gain more.
The completion of the stadium will benefit the masses. So we are begging them to complete the stadium”. For the slow completion of the project, she said “it is just one small mini indoor game that is going on here, it’s only the likes of basketball and some other small games that are done here. So, we are waiting for the completion of the stadium”.
In February 2013, the immediate past governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, terminated the contract for the multi-million Naira stadium. After the termination and renaming, he assured Deltans that it would be completed within six months and directed that it be awarded to another contractor. He promised that he would complete all projects before the terminal date of his government. But three years after the promise, the stadium has been overgrown with grasses and a breeding ground for rodents and reptiles. The ball is in the new government’s field. Deltans expect it to score the goal by completing it.