Sports generally and football in particular has become big business that governments at all levels and corporate citizens globally constantly sponsor sporting events on account of the benefits that come out of the games. This is hinged on its huge ability as a public relations vehicle, employment and financial generator. The provision of proper infrastructure to create the right environment to tap into the potentials therein is therefore of importance to corporate citizens who use sports as a means of branding and advertising their goods and services as well as governments vested with the mandate to manage the people’s commonwealth.
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State Dr. Godswill Akpabio CON, as a responsible chief executive, committed to the overall growth and development of his people has, with the approval of the state legislature, invested huge resources into building a magnificent stadium in the state. Work on the gigantic project has reached advanced stage.
On assumption of office in 2007 told the people that their lives would never remain the same hereafter. And so, when Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan GCFR, on 27th October, 2012, came to the State on a working visit laid the foundation for this edifice. “The promise keeper!” as Governor Akpabio is fondly called says that building a sports edifice such as the Akwa Ibom International stadium with multi-faceted facilities like tennis courts, swimming pools, basketball courts, tartan tracks for track events and others is laying the right foundation where our youths can nurture their talents and become big stars like Vincent Enyeama, Serena Williams and David Beckham with winning mentality and enormous earning power. He added that the country must consolidate on the gains of the Super Eagles that recently won AFCON 2013 top prize, as well as other sports ambassadors who have equally brought honour to Nigeria. The governor says sports must not be taken lightly as it means ‘unity’ in Nigeria.
The state government in its usual tradition of excellence has given the contractors marching orders to spare nothing at delivering a world class stadium with a timeline of 2014 delivery date, emphasizing that Akwa Ibom deserve nothing but the best. So in line with this, the contractors, Julius Berger PLC, have spared no machinery, technology, detail and manpower to meet the deadline. The conceptual design of this architectural master piece is detailed and breathe taking and accommodates all modern facilities that make a 21st century sports complex. It will not be out of place to give you a glimpse of what the finished stadium will look like.
The acrylic finishing of the stadium is unique making it visually friendly. The question of its durability in a harsh tropical climate like ours became an issue but, the Special Adviser on technical matters, Engr Etido Inyang allays any such fears. The construction of the stadium is progressing steadily and within timelines. This stadium complex sitting atop a massive 32 hectares of land is all work! Work! And work. The main bowl will consist of a 4-tier terrace seating arrangement, all covered, with a capacity for 30,000 spectators. The first phase of work on the pitch is completed, and training pitch equivalent in size with that in the main bowl is progressing well, there will be two parking lots and access; VIP and bus parking areas, VIP access and public access, coffee-shops, shops, restaurants, banquet-hall and many more.
Indeed the construction of the stadium is already impacting on the local economy as more than 700 people have been employed with lots of small and medium scale businesses springing up. For example, food vendors and other petty traders are having a field day making extra cash selling food and other wares to hundreds of workers on site and environs. Most of the construction workers who are mostly from the catchment area say the vision of governor Akpabio is already impacting on their lives as they now have jobs.
The construction of the stadium is already creating a buzz of developmental activities around its location as auxiliary infrastructures that will service the stadium are springing up. For instance, the construction of the 3rd ring road and other roads that will serve as major access into the stadium are well underway; the 4th flyover along Abak road in front of Federal Secretariat is already in place. What are key members of the administration saying about this vision and its effect on urban renewal, safety and choice of location, sports development and others?
Lots of sports talents abound in Akwa Ibom state as can be gleaned from the number of children and young adults who engage in different sports activities at street corners all over the state every day. Old Uyo township stadium that has served the people for years before and after the creation of the state is now ‘old school’ as some people would say and certainly cannot fit into nurturing of talents in a digital world. It lacks modernity and facilities to cater to these needs. But with the coming on stream of the new stadium with modern multi-faceted facilities, what does the future hold for sports in state?
If we can feel the pulse and predict the actions of His Excellency, Governor Akpabio, who loves good things and goes all the way out to get them for his people to enjoy, on the completion of this stadium next year; Akwa Ibom people can brace themselves up for high profile football matches and other sports meets to see action in this facility before he winds down his administration in 2015. The people call it uncommon transformation.