THE way Nigerians from all walks of life have responded to the reported illness of a former Captain of Nigeria’s national football team, the Green Eagles (now Super Eagles), Mr. Christian Chukwu (popularly called “The Chairman”) is a heart-lifting reminder that in spite of the many grave challenges that assail our sense of nationhood, Nigerians still share strong bonds of empathy.
Over the past weekend, the story came out that the former Enugu Rangers International Captain and current Director of Sports was seriously ill and needed urgent medical attention abroad.
The President of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, Mr. Amaju Pinnick, who disclosed that the football icon of the 1970s and 1980s needed at least $50,000 (about N18 million) for an urgent medical trip abroad to save his life, also said the Federation had already taken steps to ensure he got back to his feet.
Apart from the chorus of sympathetic voices raised among Nigerians, especially in the social media, billionaire businessman and philanthropist, Mr. Femi Otedola, volunteered the $50,000 medical bill for Chukwu.
It also turned out that the management of Enugu Rangers International and the Enugu State Government, ENSG, had already proactively provided the ailing football hero with financial assistance so far worth N2.7million both for his medical expenses at a top hospital in Enugu and also for the upkeep of his family.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Ogbuagu Anikwe, issued a statement detailing efforts already made by the ENSG to tackle Chukwu’s health challenge, making it clear that he was not an abandoned, helpless old man as otherwise portrayed. He also debunked the story that Chukwu was down with prostate cancer, saying that the nature of illness remained a closely guarded secret between him and his doctors.
We are happy that the ENSG is ready to do whatever it humanly takes to assist Chukwu overcome his illness. We also commend the NFF for its quick response and also Mr. Otedola for his philanthropic gesture.
Chukwu, who captained Nigeria’s heroic Eagles to its first African Nations Cup victory in Lagos in 1980, led a team that was famous for their exceptional football skills, sense of patriotism and readiness to make sacrifices to bring glory to Nigeria.
The tone and atmosphere of national unity commanded by the Eagles of those days in spite of hot rivalries among the clubs the players were drawn from set the stage for football’s status as the only factor that unites Nigerians.
The response of Nigerians to Chukwu’s travails is a great improvement compared to what happened to other icons in the past. This will encourage the youth to rededicate themselves to the service of the nation.