By Onochie Anibeze
The name of my village is Agu-Obu Owa in Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State.It is a quiet, very local and peaceful village that boasts of all the attributes of nature but has suffered in the hands of all governments that have existed since the time of state creations.
I really don’t know what those seeking political offices tell my people during campaigns. The current government of Sullivan Chime, I hear, does not give a hoot about the people here, just like his predecessors.
But home is home. I have to savour the palm trees, the streams, waterfalls, caves and hope that some day a government that will see us worthy of having pipe born water and tarred roads will emerge.
I have been here to spend my vacation in the typical cool village setting. It was here that I took Uche Okafor ‘s call on January 6 and early morning the following day I heard that he died, hanging in his house at Little Elm in Texas, probably few minutes or one or two hours after speaking with me.
Uche’s death has left me confused more than anything I have ever imagined. It has brought me pain and sorrow. It has brought me anguish.
The more I think about it, the more confused I get. My head has been heavy and pills have not helped me. Why would Uche call me and go and hang himself? Why would he hang himself? I never knew of any depression he faced and he never showed any in all my contacts with him. He was not bankrupt going by what I knew of him. His car business was not frustrating him and he lived well in terms of meeting some financial needs.
He was doing soccer analysis for ESPN and looked forward to serving Nigerian football in any capacity that the federation deemed fit . Aside his personal business runs he wanted an assignment that could facilitate trips back home. But in the main, he loved the game of football and wanted it to develop well in Nigeria.
He followed the game till he died. He had ideas that could help Nigerian football and he really wanted to serve the country more. Uche couldn’t have hanged himself on the basis of bankruptcy for I knew that he was fairly fine. He bought the fine house that he lived in and paid out with money he made from football. He had a house in Owerri and had some property among them a plot of land in Abuja.
Uche was not poor by all standards. Idah Peterside of Supersport had informed that Uche was to supply truck heads to somebody in South Africa. That’s not a chicken change business. Uche couldn’t have hanged himself because life was hopeless. I can’t fathom other reasons why a quiet, humble, brilliant and sane person would take his life. I spent some time with this my friend in his home in Dallas and he had spent time with me in my house in Lagos. We were that close.
He never failed to appreciate my performance in one of Eagles’ training sessions in Holland. I trained with the team and in one moment of sheer brilliance I overlapped from the left from the left crossed clinically for Amuneke to head in. My passes were still good even if fitness was not the same with the players. In the friendly that followed eagles were not complete and I almost won my first cap but for the late arrival of ben iroha who took my place. I can’t forhet the great days of eagles and the little contributions I made that the likes of uche kept appreciating
He loved the wife and daughter like Mike Emenalo pointed out. He worked for them and shared their deep affection. If Uche planned suicide for long, could he have been stopped? How could one know? Why didn’t I notice any depression in him if there was any while we discussed.
We spoke at least three to four times a week. The thought that their pastor, according to his widow, prayed against suicide attempt on New Year eve service has not helped my mental state. Part of the reason why I went on vacation was to fully recuperate from ill-health. Uche called daily while I was in the hospital and after. He showed unbelievable concern for my life. So, why would somebody who cared so much for another person’s life take his own just like that? Questions and imaginations have been ringing in my brain but I can’t find clues.
No death has shocked me like Uche’s and that of Sam Okwaraji who died playing for Nigeria August 12 1989 at the main bowl of National Stadium, Lagos. I say this because I was a kid when my father was killed while trying to escape from Kano during the pogrom that led to the civil war. Okwaraji suffered cardiac arrest and that was understandable although I went through unbelievable trauma thereafter.
We were very close too. He never failed to appreciate my performance in one of Eagles’ training sessions in Holland. I trained with the team and in one moment of sheer brilliance I overlapped from the left and crossed clinically for Amuneke to head in. My passes were still good even if fitness was not the same with the players. In the friendly that followed eagles were not complete and I almost won my first cap but for the late arrival of Ben Iroha who took my place. I can’t forget the great days of Eagles and the little contributions I made that the likes of Uche kept appreciating
He actually told me to bring Holy water to the hotel and that he would like to sprinkle it on his body and pray before entering the stadium. I forgot to send the Holy water to him and this haunted me for long. Sam died of cardiac arrest and the world understood. But I cannot understand Uche’s death by hanging. I can’t.
I’m still on vacation and had to send this piece from the East after reading online reactions of the story I did on Monday. This is my reaction. It is to let readers know that Uche could not have taken his life on the basis of bankruptcy or any financial hardship. It is also to tell Uche that whatever happened, God Almighty will take care of both the living and the dead. God knew how well you meant for all around you.
You loved and deserved love, not death by hanging or suicide. GOD, ACCEPT YOUR SOUL. Adieu, my friend.
Below is the reaction of Anselem Eze who played for Enugu Rangers and ACB the defunct Lagos side from where Uche was invited for the Seoul Olympic Games. Anselem now lives in Germany and captured his in this poetry, typical of him.
By Anselem Eze
In shock and disbelieve we mourn the painful parting of Uche Okafor
LORD have MERCY on us! Is your fury consuming us? Shall our generation not know gray hair? We are helpless before your anger. Forgive us our sins and make us know the shortness of life that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Like a phantom you raged through this troubled world determined to make it, you pushed the envelope of success until, like a sapling, you broke and left us all but an image of yourself and your beloved fiddle
Now the curtain has fallen on your acts on this mortal stage; you have taken the exit door; the drama of your earthly life comes to a close. You are now committed back to that eternity from which you came.
It is almost impossible to say anything that can console us at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointments that are floating in our mental skies. However, we can find some consolations that the risen LORD Jesus Christ has conquered death and sin forever and redeemed us from the bondage of hopelessness to hope. In addition, our Christian faith affirms that death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to a loftier significance.
STILL ON; AMID A DESERT PART WHERE EVERY SPRING IS DRY,
THERE, ALL ALONE, MY LOVED ONES GONE.
TO HEAVEN I LIFT MY CRY: WHEN LO, UPON MY FAINTING SIGHT,
AS ONWARD STILL I GO, AND THEN, AS ON MY PARTWAY LEADS
THROUGH SHADOWS, TOILS, AND STRIFE, I REACH A LOWLY QUIET
VALE, A SHELTERED SPOT IN LIFE: WITHIN ITS SHADES, WHERE
JARRING NOTES OF EARTHLY DISCORD CEASE, I GATHER
HEARTS-EASE DAY-BY-DAY AT GOD´S WELL OF PEACE!
ADIEU! Uche, we will miss you! Your brother Anselem Eze