By Trigo Egbedi
Everything about him was modestly tailored. He was never given to flamboyance all through his private and social life, and – to observing folks who were privileged to keep him company – he was quite sensitive to the media glow that others would gladly pay to frolic in.
I’d rather restrict my testimony on Prince ‘Laide Adegboyega Adeboye to what I knew of him in the sporting spectrum while he lived. After all, I’ve already paid a fitting tribute to this unassuming icon of professional boxing, via this column, in the days following his shocking death in the early hours of January 26 in a Festac Town Clinic.
In death, Prince Adeboye did not immediately transform into the magnetic colossus that he was not while he lived. Not that he would have wished for a more earth-shaking affair than the elaborate lying-in-state designed for him by the domestic boxing family pennultimate Friday inside the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, preparatory to the homeward journey to his birthplace in Ijebu-Igbo, in Ogun State.
It was not an event that attracted any particularly recognizable social heavyweights from outside the boxing fraternity and Adeboye’s expansive family circles in attendance. And, of course, the devoted staff of the thriving LaiClean laundry and dry-cleaning outfit he had operated for over a decade.
It didn’t really come as a surprise that Prince Adeboye’s lying-in-state attracted just a limited representative delegation from the celebrated Lagos Island Club where he had enjoyed uninterrupted membership running into three decades and beyond.
This was the same Island club that the late prince had brokered a relationship bringing together the club and the Nigerian Boxing Board of Control by way of organizing boxing tournaments in the former’s Island facility.
It was gratifying, though, that the Island Club rep was one of the two persons who delivered tributes.
I was, also, not one bit surprised that the lying-in-state came up and went without the presence of the Federal Government of Nigeria, to which had been dispatched – through the Ministry of Sport/National Sports commission – official invitation to attend.
This is, after all, the same ministry that has over the years made no secret of a love affair with the football sport into which it has sunk billions of Naira year in, year out – all to the detriment of the other disciplines in contention. It’s no exaggeration that boxing occupies a distant back seat in Government’s list of favoured sports.
Nevertheless, it was gratifying that Prince Adeboye got no less than all that the boxing family had designed to honour him on the way home. For the first time in a long while board members, boxers, managers, promoters, trainers, referees and other categories of licensees closed ranks to pay final respects to a man most deserving of the honour.
Even the major Global, Regional and Continental sanctioning bodies to which Nigeria enjoys affiliation were not left out. Where the Commonwealth Boxing Council, the African Boxing Union and WBC were unable to dispatch representatives to Lagos/Ijebu-Igbo (due, reliably, to visa problems) their presence was made manifest in the form of moving tributes delivered by e-mail.
Were it possible for him to wake up and witness the gathering of a sincere sporting family, Prince Adeboye would gladly have departed flashing his trade mark smile, satisfied that his sweat of five decades was not in vain.
Yes, it was our own way of according Red Carpet Farewell to one who merited it.
This portion is intended as a short trip to the backyard of cousin, Amateur Boxing, equally separated from brighter times these many, many years gone.
I was attracted by a headline carried in one of our local Television channels, in which a one-time chairman of the Nigeria Amateur Boxing Federation was credited with describing the game as dead.
David Johnson is not likely to get my vote should he aspire to a significant political office in present-day Nigeria. I have never hidden my feelings towards him. My stand is informed, altogether by his contribution – or lack of it – leading to the collapse of the game since the era of the late Brai Ayonote.
After nearly 20 years into his death the Nigerian Air Force Group Capt is still freely revered in iconic proportions, considering his accomplishment as administrator in taking the country’s boxing to heights hitherto not dreamt of. The accomplishment has not been matched till this day.
Well, it was not until recently that I had the opportunity to put David Johnson’s comment in perspective. He was one of the stakeholders present at a Four-state tournament held in Calabar where the media had sought to have his views on the state of the game.
In response, David Johnson did not say anything that is not true, as I found out. He was only putting the death of amateur boxing on the doorsteps of the Federal Government which has deliberately chosen to divorce all other sports in preference to the football game.
For the first time David Johnson has said what he should have said while in office many years ago. He was not indicting his successors, as many had thought.