By Onochie Anibeze

I was so surprised that I put a call to our Tony Ubani to confirm the report he sent in the last week of 2013 from Rivers.

The report was on the opening of Gokana Stadium in Rivers State.

It is a sports facility that has 8,000 seating capacity with tartan tracks, swimming pool and an indoor hall that can host basketball and other sports.

I felt good as I was reading the report. We should have many of this in our country, I thought. And then the surprise: It was built by a local government, not the state government.

Tony confirmed that the Gokana Local Government Area built the facility. Pleasant! Wonderful!! I told him it was so pleasant that my next column would be on it.

And so, fellow Nigerians, kindly join me in thumbing up this local government in Rivers State so that others can emulate the good work that it has done for the development of sports in our country. Tony’s report emphasised the point that it was the first time any local government would be achieving such a feat in Nigeria.

Let’s celebrate Gokana. Let’s encourage men and women of goodwill so that Nigeria can be a better place for us and our children and many more generations to come. If I had an award, the chairman of Gokana Local Government, Demua Ledee Demua, would be the winner.

All over the world, especially in developed societies, you find parks, play grounds or some open spaces just to ensure good environments that enhance healthy living in communities and cities. Nigeria is different. Even when you have such a plan in the original outlay of our societies it never sees the light of the day. Such spaces are usually sold to those who want to raise structures. And that’s how we have choked up residential areas especially when governments fail to open their cities by developing new areas.

As a boy growing up in Enugu, I played football at the Polo Park. Now, we have a mall there. Couldn’t they have given Shoprite a virgin land to build their mall? As a young Enugu boy, I also visited the zoo in the city. Now you have residential buildings in the same place. The past Enugu government sold the beautiful and serene place. The zoo is gone. I have just cited Enugu as an example. It is so in all parts of the country. The open parks we had in FESTAC in Lagos have all given way to buildings.

About one year ago, Stephen Keshi, the Eagles coach and Paul Okoku visited the primary school they attended in Lagos with a hope of donating balls and a few other things to the school. On getting there, they were shocked and disappointed to find a building sitting on the soccer field that produced them. What’s wrong with us?

Why do our governments encourage things that are not environmentally friendly and healthy? How can we get other local governments to emulate Gokona? Gokana leaders have not only made their community environmentally healthy they have also provided a springboard for potentials in the area of sports.

I see a number of people going to the stadium to jog, train and also socialise. In many years to come, one would see stars, who started training at the Gokana Stadium. Their talents could have possibly died if there was no Gokana Stadium. The chairman of Gokana has left a legacy that generations will benefit from. I recommend that they name the indoor sports hall after him when he would have left office.

I hope Gokana people know that the efforts of their local government would be in vain if they do not use the stadium.

I hope that the local government knows that they have to allow their people to use the stadium.

I hope that they know that they should, from time to time, organise sports events in that stadium. I hope they also know that they have to maintain the stadium.

I want to see Gokana organise school sports in that stadium. There should be competitions for students and elite athletes at the Gokana Stadium. There are so many other things that Gokana can do to produce athletes in different fields. I wish them well. I commend their efforts. And I want to tell other local governments to emulate them.

Local Governments in Nigeria do little or nothing to discard the toga of corruption that they wear. Often, we hear stories of them gathering only when they receive their monthly allocations. After sharing the money, they disperse and only return when the next allocation is due. Gokana stands out today. They have confirmed how wasteful and corrupt many other local governments are although we know that their allocations differ. Gokana has won my award as Local Government of the year. Take a bow Gokana.

Our  GM, Gbenga Adefaye, once said media houses should publish the monthly allocations of all local government areas so that their people can hold them accountable for the lot they receive.

Gokana officials and their chairman have added voice to Adefaye’s charge.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.