By Patrick Omorodion
A few days ago I posted this “Chukwu must not die. Enugu government, NFF, and Femi Otedola rally round him. Many more support are expected,” on my Facebook wall. The crux of the post is that the Enugu State government, Nigeria Football Federation, NFF and oil magnate, Femi Otedola have rallied round him, to do what? To help save his life.
As a result, a friend and colleague, Yomi Idowu who read it, reminded me that Emmanuel Okala, one time first choice goalkeeper of the senior national team, the Green Eagles as they were then known, was equally ill and should be assisted. I shared his post on my Facebook wall and since then my wall has been bombarded with various comments as if I committed any offence by bringing Okala’s health situation to people’s awareness.
I want to ask, if Chukwu could be assisted, why not Okala? Both men brought honour to Nigeria and played in the same team. In a team, there must be a captain and that was what Chukwu was. His role as a defender was not greater than Okala’s as a goalkeeper. It mustn’t be NFF or the government of Okala’s home State that must always help but good spirited Nigerians whom God has blessed. God blesses people to be able to help others and not to keep it for themselves alone. Do foreigners who donate to the course of Nigerians have any obligation to do so? No. They are humans and feel touched to help because they love their neighbours as themselves as God demanded of us all.
When in 2016 our Olympic football team were stranded in the US and were at risk of missing their opening match, it took the benevolence of an American airline to fly them to Brazil early enough to play the game which they still won.
The dexterity of the players who put all the inconveniences and jetlag behind them to still win the match against Japan overwhelmed a Japanese billionaire, Dr. Katsuya Takasu who donated the sum of $390,000 to the players and their coach to share.
Rather than commend the donor, a minister who should hide his face in shame for bringing disgrace to the country bt abandoning the team, first wanted to know why the money was routed through Samson Siasia, the team’s coach rather than through his office. He added another shameful dimension, querying the source of the money, alluding to the fact that it might be drug money.
The comments, most of which were quite unsavoury, condemned the ‘special’ treatment always given to sportsmen, especially footballers, whom they said were paid during their playing days and deserve nothing from the government again.
Majority pointed to soldiers whom they say risk their lives protecting the country, policemen who battle men of the underworld every day to enable us sleep well at night and move about freely at day time without molestation but don’t get such assistance.
These critics were right in their comments as it concerns the right of the soldiers and policemen as well as other Nigerians who work for the development of Nigeria. But the similarities end there as sports people, particularly footballers in this circumstance, are not employees of the government but volunteers who answered national call to serve their fatherland.
While the soldiers, policemen and civil servants are all employees of government on full salaries with other attachments like medical, transports, feeding, leave and inconvenience allowances, footballers are entitled to only match bonuses and camping allowances.
The allowances of the government workers mentioned above are paid monthly for 12 months for the duration of their service which maybe up to 35 years. This is in addition to the gratuity they collect when they retire and the pension they collect monthly till they answer the final call by God.
What do the sports people or footballers get and for how long? Many people forget that the actual competitive life span of every sports man or woman doesn’t last beyond 10 years. And during this 10 years, they don’t compete monthly but seasonally.
In the life of a gifted footballer who God keeps fit always for instance, he may only attend two World Cups and five Africa Nations Cup in his 10 years as an active footballer. Compare his bonuses and camp allowances in those competitions to what the government worker earns every month for 12 months in 35 years and you will see that they footballers should be commended for their service to fatherland.
The reason Nigeians complain about the allowance footballers earn is because it is always in foreign currency. But even at that, it is nothing compared to what the government worker earns and continues to earn till he passes on. So Nigerians should stop comparing our sports men and women who do not only bring happiness and joy to our homes but are better image launderers for our country than all the politicians put together.
So still on helping people at critical moments of their lives, it doesn’t have to be Chukwu or Okala, if a neighbour has a life threatening ailment and we are in a position to assist, let us do it, if not for the individual’s sake, then for God so that He will continue to bless us.
If we keep saying because somebody worked and was paid his or her salary or even gratuity and therefore should live with his pain and die, then we are not being humane and the call for citizens to be patriotic always will be a waste of time.
Thoughts like these as well as the fact that the country doesn’t care for her citizens account partially for why individuals steal the country blind, hoping to cater for themselves and their families in critical times when no one will care after serving their country.
May God touch our hearts so that we could be guided by what was written in the Holy Book which tells us in Mark 12:31: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ It concluded by advising us that “There is no commandment greater than these.”