By Ben Efe

One of Nigeria’s foremost retired track and field athletes, Sunday Bada died suddenly in Lagos Monday night and left in its trail devastation and shock in the local and international athletics circles.

Bada was reportedly hale and hearty until 7.30 pm when he took ill as he was going to the Murtala Mohammed Airport to pick up his wife and by 9.00 pm he was confirmed dead in the hospital. His fellow athlete and colleague in the Nigeria Police, Chioma Ajunwa, described his passing as “unimaginable.”.

Bada who served Nigeria so well as an athlete and policeman was last week in Abuja for a meeting of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria to fine tune preparations for the London 2012 Olympics.

Late Sunday Bada.

He returned to Lagos on Sunday and on Monday met with ex-Olympians Henry Amike, Yusuf Alli and Pius Bazighe to plan for an up coming event and later he took leave only to be snatched by the cold hands of death on his way to the airport.

AFN president, Solomon Ogba was short of words to describe the demise of an “illustrious athlete”. “He was with me last week. His death is a rude shock.”

The federation’s secretary-general, Maria Wophil said: “He never showed any sign of illness when he was with us in Abuja and we took him to the Abuja airport only to hear that he has passed away. I’m very weakened by this sad new.”

Amike whom Bada shared his last moments with, found it hard to believe the former African 400m champion was gone.
“I just cannot comprehend it. He was bubbling with life when he was with Alli, Bazighe and myself at the National Stadium. He left us for the Airport only to hear that he was dead two hours later.  This is the saddest news of the year.”

Alli, said the federation had lost a rare gem who had contributed a lot to the development of athletics in Nigeria.
“We were together till 8 p.m. at the National Stadium when he said he wanted to go and pick up his wife at the airport. Before he left, his cousin said he didn’t like the way he was looking and that he should visit his doctor at Jibowu, Yaba. It was after this that he died, I am told,” Alli recalled.

Atlanta’96 Olympics long jump champion, Ajunwa narrated that she put a call to Bada at about the time of his death to find out what the ex-Olympians were up to, only to be confronted with the sad occurrence. “I put a call to him at about 9.pm on Monday only to find out that he was no more. It is a big loss to athletics, the Nigeria Police and the entire nation. He was one of our sporting heroes.”

The Confederation of African Athletics said on its website that Bada was a great athlete and his death was regrettable. “It was with deep sadness that the CAA learnt of the departure of Mr. Bada. The CAA conveys its condolences to the African athletics family, the Nigerian federation and the bereaved family in particular.”

Born on June 22, 1969 in Kwara State, he was a retired sprinter who specialised in the 400 metres event. Bada won several honors for Nigeria the famous being the 2000 Olympics silver, which was later elevated to gold by the International Olympic Committee. He also won three medals at World Indoor Championships, including a gold medal in 1997.

He set his personal best of 44.63 seconds at the 1993 World Championships where he finished fifth. This is the second fastest time by a Nigerian sprinter, after Innocent Egbunike best of 44.17 s. Bada’s indoor best of 45.51 secs  is the African record for the event.

Meanwhile, Cross River state governor, Senator Liyel Imoke and the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the 7th Obudu international mountain race, Sir William Archibong have expressed shock and disbelief over the death of Sunday Abayomi Olanrewaju Bada.

‘Nigeria has lost a fine gentleman and officer as well as an accomplished athlete who served his country meritoriously. My condolence and that of the good people of Cross River state go to the family of the deceased and the entire athletics family,especially the AFN and the National Sports Commission for what is truly an irreparable loss’, said Governor Imoke in a message signed by Patrick Ugbe,  Commissioner for Information in Cross River state.

In his own message, a tearful Archibong said the athletics family in Nigeria has lost a rare gem,a world champion and perfect gentleman.  ‘He was one of the greatest athletes Nigeria has ever produced and one of the best athletics administrators in the last three decades or so.

The success story of the Obudu international mountain race will not be complete without acknowledging the late Bada’s contribution.May God give his family and the entire athletics family and indeed Nigerians the fortitude to bear this loss’, said Archibong.

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