Nigerian Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, on Friday unveiled the renamed stadium, Moshood Abiola National Stadium Abuja, as part of activities marking the Democracy Day in the country and in commemoration of the second anniversary of the renaming of the sports stadium.
President Muhammad Buhari renamed the national sports edifice to further immortalise the late African Pillar of Sports. The President this year officially approved June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria – a switch from May 29. The Late Chief Abiola was the winner of the annulled June 12 1993 Presidential election.
Sports Minister Dare in his welcome address, lauded the ways President Buhari has honoured the late Chief Abiola, and also applauded both Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Chief Keshington Adebutu for supporting the government with the provision of sports infrastructure.
Sports Ministers’ Full Speech
1. It is indeed a privilege to welcome the Special Guest of Honour, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, who is ably represented by the Hon Minister of FCT, Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello and all the eminent personalities who have graciously elected to grace this auspicious event with their esteemed presence.
2. Today’s event of the unveiling of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja is not just historic, but significant as we mark the second year anniversary of the renaming of this edifice by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari in honour of the widely acclaimed winner of the June 12th 1993 Presidential Election Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Significantly, it is also the 27th year anniversary of the election that was a watershed in our political history.
Please Permit me to walk the memory lane :
3. In July 1994 my editors, the trio of Bayo Onanuga, Dapo Olorunyomi and Babafemi Ojudu decided to dispatch me to Geshua in the outskirts of Maiduguri to find and interview Chief Abiola. It turned out to be my most dangerous assignment as a northern correspondent and journalist at that time. The News Magazine and Tempo magazine had become the champions of the struggle to free Abiola.
My assignment was one at the same time simple but complicated. Find and confirm Abiola was indeed in the Geshua prison and interview him. The later part was the most difficult. For several nights I hung around the prison walls. Bribed anyone that had information about Abiola and could get me to him. I finally got a note in to him. Got some inside information and the night before the day I was to meet him secretly my cover was blown. I ran out of my hotel without checking out and disguised out of Geshua. This man Abiola eventually paid the supreme sacrifice that watered Nigeria’s tree of democracy.
4. This and many other reasons are why today is significant for me and for most Nigerians and lovers of Democracy. First to God who has kept many of the actors and participants alive and most importantly to President Muhammadu Buhari who has demonstrated courage where other leaders before him failed and who has further validated his democratic credentials by recognizing Abiola’s democratic value, apologizing for the political injustice and declaring June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day. He also honored and conferred on Chief MKO Abiola with the highest honor of the land GCFR- post humorously.
5. This event is auspicious in not just the celebration of a great Nigerian, Pan Africanist per excellence and a great lover and promoter of sports, but another opportunity to reassure Nigerians that the labour and supreme sacrifice of this pillar and symbol of democracy was not in vain. Chief Abiola was just not a politician and business man, he was Africa’s Pillar of sports whose contributions resonates with diverse people around the world. Each time athletes participate at this arena, his love for sports and humanity will always be evoked and brought to the fore.
Sports engages millions of our Youth across the country. This government is committed to returning Nigeria to invest in bringing back our sports infrastructure and Grassroot sports development. We thank Mr. President for his support and his directive that we should audit sports infrastructure and come forth with a plan for his approval.
6. Twenty seven years after- Justice came through the hands of a democratically elected leader. It came from unexpected Quaters. President Buhari chose to walk the path where others failed to walk. He chose the path less traveled. Only a committed and patriotic leader can do that. We thank President Buhari for adding a significant chapter to the democratic culture of Nigeria.
Sportsmen, sportswomen and sports lovers thank Mr. President for honoring someone who remains unrivaled as the greatest sports lover, investor and Philantrophist. Abiola was a consummate sports lover. He invested his time and resources in sports development particularly football. Not many sports administrators will forget Abiola In a hurry.
7. It is therefore fitting and Proper for President Buhari to have named our national stadium,an iconic monument after such an illustrious citizen and a lover of sports. This renaming beyond its symbolism will remain a reminder through time of the indelible footprints Chief Abiola left in our political and sports development as a nation.
The naming of this stadium also will serve to beckon to other Nigerians with ways and means like Abiola to emulate Abiola and embrace, support and invest in sports development. Under this dispensation we have seen Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Chief Adebutu Keshington step up to the plate to support the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in the quest to restore our sporting infrastructure such as this. We thank them and several others supporting in their own little ways.
This event is an attestation of President Buhari’s vision and mission of giving recognition to worthy citizens and to encourage the younger generation to join him in building a strong, virile and indivisible nation. It also demonstrates the determination of the Administration to ensure that the achievements of our heroes past are forever etched in stone and their memories do not die with them. Chief Abiola will continue to be remembered for laying down his life so that our Democracy may thrive.
Finally, I wish to thank all our very Special Guests for sparing your precious time to grace this occasion of the unveiling of the MOSHOOD ABIOLA NATIONAL STADIUM. I wish you all God’s guidance and journey mercies back to your various destinations.
7. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria. God bless you all.
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