By Adewale Ajayi
Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji, the dancing midfielder slumped and died on August 12, 1989 inside the mainbowl of the National stadium during a World Cup qualifier against Angola. His death, sent shock waves across the length and breadth of the nation as football fans retired to their beds, devastated, that one of Nigeria’s finest footballers have passed on, without a formal goodbye.
His death left a yawning gap in our shallow hearts anytime we remember his many legacies. His space, many have struggled to fill even till this day.
As if that was not enough, on May 4, 2012, another great Nigerian, the finest goal poacher this country ever produced, the man who scored Nigeria’s first World Cup goal, the black pearl and pride of the black race, Rashidi the gangling Yekini, died, leaving behind an aged mother, his siblings and millions of heart broken supporters.
A Nation has lost two of it’s finest footballers in just a spate of 24years. During this period, sports ministers came and left without thinking of how to immortalise these heroes of our glorious past, yet we wake up daily to recite the country’s national anthem with that frustrating cliche ” _the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain”_
The appointment of Sunday Dare as Nigeria’s sports minister has rekindled fading hopes, it has brought light to a dark tunnel and has restored laughter to the dead even in their graves.
On August 12, 2020, it will be 31 years since Samuel Okwaraji departed this sinful world. Since that day, he has not had a chance to turn in his grave until few weeks ago, when Nigeria’s sports minister Sunday Dare, honoured is aged mother.
The Oyo state born administrator gave out 50,000 naira to the mother of Samuel Okwaraji and promised to assist with a monthly stipend of 10,000 naira.
He did not stop there. A few days later, Dare did same to the aged mother of Rashidi Yekini and instructed the Nigeria football federation to follow suit with an additional 30,000 naira stipend to be paid to both women monthly and in tears, they have not stopped showing gratitude.
From their graves, both players shook their heads in appreciation, they moved their legs as if to say thank you even as they watched their mothers shed tears of joy after years of neglect from a country that got so much from their children but offered so little.
Even in Kwara state where Rashidi Yekini hails from, nothing has been done in the form of a monument to immortalize this great football icon. Same for Samuel Okwaraji, Muda Lawal, Thunder Balogun and many other heroes of our glorious past who died after years of patriotic service to fatherland.
From the East, West, South and North, the name on every lips for now, is that of Nigeria minister of youth and sports development.
Sunday Dare the dazzler, has dazzled Nigerians with his wisdom, he has succeeded where others failed and in less than one year, he has written his name in gold.
Dare is here to comfort the weak, he is here to reverse abnormalities and give hope to the dejected. He has flourished where his predecessors faltered.
He is arguably the first Nigerian sports minister to invest in the welfare of Nigeria athletes past and present. The plight of sports men is his top priority and he seem ready to accomplish so much in just 4years.
Apart from the late Rashidi Yekini and Samuel Okwaraji who are now smiling in their graves, late Sunday Bada, an Olympic Silver medalist will also be telling the angels good things about Sunday Dare in heaven, same as late Peter Ogaba and Ali Jeje.
Dare is not only concerned about the dead, he is also interested in the plight of the living.
Former Super Falcons Chief coach Kadiri Ikhana is one of the latest beneficiaries, same as ex international Sunday Eboigbe who has battled with ill health for several years with no form of support coming from anywhere.
Barely one month after he was appointed Nigeria Sports minister, Sunday Dare sprung into action by forcing the NFF to pay late Uzama Douglas’s outstanding match bonuses to his wife and three year old son.
Just when it seem like all hopes were lost, president Muhammadu Buhari has given Nigeria a sports minister that understands exactly what the people want, a tireless and workaholic man who is never ready to stop putting smiles on the faces of Nigerian youths.
A minister who is always on his toes looking for what next to do has found a comfort zone to excel.
He is a listening minister, a goal getter, a passion driven and always motivated personality who will stop at nothing but success and excellence.
Dare is the only man in history that satisfies the living and the dead.
From beyond, the ghosts of the faithful departed must be saying, that they are indeed very grateful to Mr Sunday Dare, the man God has appointed for a purpose.