Office of the President
Federal Republic of Nigeria
7th, February, 2019
Barrister Solomon Selcap Dalung
Honorable Minister of Sports
Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports
Open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on continued closure of National Stadium, Surulere.
I wish to bring to your notice the continued closure of the National Stadium in Lagos which people have tagged as true reflection of a non-existent sports policy under your government.
The National Stadium which is the hub for sporting activities has been under lock and key since Saturday, February 2nd 2019 without any public notice by the Ministry of Sports, the Presidency or any of the security agencies whose men have been manning the facility since Friday, February 1st.
Many users were thrown aback when they saw gun wielding men of the Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Army in their hundreds storming the stadium on Friday.
Knowing that these men are saddled with the defense of Nigeria’s ‘external’ sovereignty or in cases of State of Emergency, many wondered the rationale behind government’s decision to deploy these men within Lagos and create artificial tension for people living around Surulere and its environs at this critical moment when we are heading into the General elections.
I won’t want to go into constitutional gibberish, but it is very clear that this recent decision was not well thought of and will continue to generate hot debates.
Looking at what the Stadium stands for, its continued closure has continued to rob the country, Corporate Organizations, Professionals and sports loving individuals of huge amounts running into millions and human capital.
For example, the Stadium management under the close supervision of the Ministry of Youth Sports collects a token of 100 naira from every vehicle that enters the stadium from dusk to dawn.
People who are familiar with the terrain can attest to the fact that over 2,000 cars come into the stadium on a daily basis. This has been put on hold for unknown reasons.
The stadium also houses many businesses ranging from small scale businesses, relaxation spots (beer parlors), sports shops and some football academies whose owners have been barred from gaining access to their businesses.
Your Excellency sir, under this harsh economic condition, the worst that your government can do is not to allow people engage and make money through legitimate means.
The human capital loss cannot be quantified because of this singular action. For the past 4 days, staff on the payroll of the Federal Government whose offices are situated within the National Stadium have not gone to work since the access restriction has affected everybody.
This means that activities of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, the liaison office of the Ministry and sports federations have completely been paralyzed as their offices are under lock and key.
For journalists like me who go to Stadium in search of stories from sports men and women (retired and active), the past few days have been so challenging as we are now forced to look for alternative means to generate stories.
For athletes preparing for the 2019 All Africa games in Morocco later in the year, their training programs have been disrupted at the pleasure of Mr President.
The dancers, fitness trainers and upcoming talents who have seen active physical exercise and sports as a means of escaping poverty and societal vices have been plunged into the dark sea where only the fittest survive.
As a father, Your Excellency sir, you can attest to the fact that just a single act of indulgence or evil association can eternally derail the course of a young mind.
The Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung having visited the stadium a couple of times can attest to the fact that on Saturdays and Sundays, the stadium averagely plays host to over 300,000 people who converge on the stadium for different reasons, ranging from the fun lovers, professional athletes, fitness buffs and traders who come around to display and sell their wares.
Sadly, these people are adversely affected by the continued closure of the National Stadium.
Your Excellency, according to unconfirmed reports, the continued closure is because of your campaign train coming to the venue on the 10th of February.
Sir, it’s surprising that the long abandoned decaying edifice has now become a bride overnight because of politics.
This same stadium was proposed to be taken over by Lagos State government under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for repairs.
The proposed takeover plan was reportedly shut down by the legislative arm of the government because of the lackadaisical attitude of the executive under your watch.
Come to think of it, just because of one person, many people have seen their lives and means of livelihood put on a hold till further notice.
Your Excellency, Lagos is not Borno or Yobe States where security of lives and property cannot be guaranteed because of insurgency.
Truth be told, if your party never deemed it worthy to shut down Teslim Balogun stadium (Venue of APC Congress and Presidential primaries) in 2015, why the sudden decision to place your life above the lives of thousands of the Stadium community?
I wonder if this was how other public spaces in other states were shut down when you went to campaign.
If not sir, why shut down Lagos?
What is the game plan?
Another school of thought said the stadium was shut down because of rumors that the PDP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku was planning to come to the National Stadium.
I could remember in 2015, opposition parties were allowed easier access to government facilities for political purposes.
3 years down the line, the level of intolerance towards opposition parties is becoming glaring and suffocating.
Mr President, I know that some times, you are unaware or shielded from some of these inexplicable decisions being taken by your party chieftains all in their bid to protect “MR PRESIDENT”.
But, since the buck stops on your table, you will be blamed for the failures or praised for the successes recorded by your government.
Democracy thrives more under an atmosphere where oppositions are vibrant and dissenting opinions are allowed.
Thank you Mr President for finding time to read.
Oni Guarantor Afolabi.
A loyal and law abiding citizen of Nigeria
@Guarantor2011 on Twitter