During the glorious era of Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration in Ogun State, three stadia were built to boost sporting activities in the state. This was aside massive renovation of the existing MKO Abiola stadium in Abeokuta – the State capital. Amongst the three new stadia was the Gateway International Stadium Ijebu-Ode which was later renamed Dipo Dina Stadium by Ibikunle Amosun, the incumbent APC governor of the State. Others were Gateway International Stadium at Sagamu and Ilaro respectively. As earlier noted, the stadia were built to promote sport activities and possibly take away the youth from all forms of social vices by getting them engaged in sporting events. More so, they were intended to create jobs for the citizenry as they turned out to accommodate beehive of commercial activities which in turn improved the resource base of the State.
It is instructive to say that the building of the facility boosted Ogun State chance of earning the hosting right of the National Sports Festival in 2006 which arguably remains the best ever with a yield of about #92m profit margin. Towards 2009, the facilities at the Gateway International Stadium Ijebu-Ode could match that of any stadium in the world as it became one of the best Stadia in the country then to grant it FIFA’s approval as one of the venues chosen to host matches for the FIFA World U-17 Football tournament hosted by Nigeria. The synthetic pitch was a beauty to behold. The red track was well laid. The terraces were neatly fitted with different coloured plastic seats segmenting the sitting arrangement. A look at the dressing rooms and commentary box exposed you to the state of the earth equipment.
Perhaps, no city and state exemplified the carnival, spectacle and many gains of the U-17 World Cup than Ijebu-Ode for the 3 matches that held inside the magnificent Stadium. It was carnival all the way. Of course, the pace of economic activities especially those with entertainment content also quickened.
On the day of the first match, the fear of FIFA that the fans would not come in large numbers as experienced in other centres disappeared hours before the commencement of the match between USA and UAE. Ogun people, in their characteristic love for sport, trooped out enmasse – the fans, old and young, workers, traditional rulers, indeed from all walks of life came to witness the final admission of Ogun State into the rank of World comity of sports. The same spectacle was repeated during the second-round match between regional foes Argentina and Colombia on November 4 2009. And when Switzerland, the eventual winners of the tournament, took on Italy in a quarter final match at the same venue, even the skeptic agreed with the admirers that PDP administration ably led by OGD has successfully used sport as a tool for development.
On May 29th 2011, Senator Ibikunle Amosun was sworn in as the Executive Governor of Ogun State. One of the highpoints of his inaugural speech was the renaming of the Gateway International Stadium after Late Otunba Dipo Dina, the leading gubernatorial aspirant under Action Congress (AC) who was murdered in the previous year. This act of Senator Amosun was ostensibly to honour the late politician who happened to be the major obstacle to the governor’s emergence as the AC flag bearer towards 2011 general election. Hitherto, the previous PDP/OGD administration had renamed the facility after a sport lover and one of the illustrious sons of the state, Otunba Mike Adenuga for his love and promotion of sport in the country. Perhaps, this was a decoy to lure this sport lover into promoting the sport in the state as well. It is on record that the arrangement guaranteed the sponsoring of the state football team – Gateway FC by Mike Adenuga. Moreso, he would take up the maintenance of the stadium from the state government.
By and large, there is nothing wrong in Amosun’s decision to rename the stadium. Afterall, late Dipo Dina was an illustrious son of Ijebu just like Mike Adenuga. But what is worrisome and condemnable is the governor’s total neglect of the stadium since assumption of office.
A visit to that stadium now will spontaneously trigger the question; Why the celebrated public renaming of the stadium by Amosun? And the reply will not be far-fetched; Just a mere playing to political gallery. The sight of a once magnificent and eye-catching edifice has absolutely turned to an eyesore. The covered terrace has become so dilapidated that rain falls freely on the spectators. The VIP pavilion is more or less an oven because the air conditioners are not functional. One wonders if the power supply to the stadium has not been cut off. Most of the plastic seats on the terrace have been broken while some others have been removed. The ones that are adorned with foam have become so tattered that it will take a second thought for one to sit on if one doesn’t want to be a bug carrier to one’s household. The most heart aching of this whole episode of neglect is the criminal silence and ineptitude of the young Honourable Commissioner of Youth and Sport – Mr Efuwape. Especially when one remembers that it was under similarly young capable commissioner – Mr Bukola Olopade that this facility was built and maintained. To me, no excuse will be enough to exonerate Afuwape from this maladministration. As a young man who is privileged to be in a position of authority, one should strive to make his mark as whatever one does maybe a springboard to his successful future engagements. Today, Olopade has become one of the leading sports administrators in the country.
No doubt, the APC/SIA led administration is bequeathing a daunting task of governance on the coming administration in the state. But there is a more capable personality in a current member of Federal House of Representative, Hon Oladipupo Adebutu. His passion to steer the affairs of the state is unquenchable. This is evident in so many developmental programmes he has embarked upon over the years.
Kehinde Alaka is a member of LADO and The Opomulero (a socio-political group in Ikenne Local Government)