Giwa- Osagie

By Emeka Obasi

Professor Osato Giwa-Osagie, call him the best goalkeeper Nigeria missed. This fertility expert was an outstanding sports man, from Kings College, Lagos to Cambridge University. He excelled in athletics, hockey and cricket. Ibadan gave him a red card from soccer.

Giwa-Osagie was at Kings College, between 1959 and 1965. That elite institution produced the first school boy to play for the Nigerian senior national team. R.A. Wilson played against Gold Coast in an inter colonial match in 1938.

On a certain day, Kings College traveled to Ibadan to face Government College. In goal for the Lagosians was Frank Onasere Osato Giwa-Osagie.  The hosts enjoyed a good game and were able to spell Emotan. Government College, Ibadan won 6-3.

The Kings College goalkeeper, a Prince of Bini Kingdom, felt humiliated. He decided to hang his gloves and stay away from the soccer pitch, blaming the disaster on inclement weather.

Giwa-Osagie said : “It was a cold, rainy day. I could not grip the ball firmly, it was slippery and because of that result I retired from football.”

That could have been a hasty decision. In 1984, Wilfred Agbonavbare, in goal for the Green Eagles, conceded five goals against Hawks of Togo in an international game. The goalie later turned out better and was at the USA’94 World Cup with the Super Eagles.

The Giwa-Osagie story as told on the Nigeria Television Authority [NTA] fast growing programme, Discourse, anchored by Ololade Adeniji-Adele, reminded me of a similar story told by Chief Lucky Igbinedion at  Dennis Osadebay House, Benin in 2002.

Igbinedion had taken some of us to the Ogbe Stadium to display his soccer skills preparatory to the Edo 2002 National Sports Festival. He played well even as governor. At night, he regaled all with his retirement from goalkeeping.

As a student in the United Kingdom, Igbinedion said he was the school goalie. The man almost died of cold because while players ran around the field pursuing the ball to keep warm, the keeper froze in the rear since there was less action there. That was what sacked him from his duty post.

Prof. Giwa- Osagie was wrong. He never stopped keeping. He continued to catch shots, represented by babies, after qualifying as a medical doctor, specializing in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. At 41 years in 1986, professorship was attained at the University of Lagos.

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Giwa-Osagie was at Cambridge University and Kings College Hospital Medical School in the United Kingdom. Sent by his father, Chief Frank Sunmola Giwa-Osagie, on the advise of one  Mrs Long, he also found a wife there.

There was so much between father and son. Chief Giwa-Osagie, the first Nigerian Director of Prisons, was born on March 14 [1919]. Prof. was born on March 24 [1947]. Both attended Kings College and married from outside Bini Kingdom.

Mrs Margaret Etotan Giwa-Osagie was Itsekiri. Her daughter-in-law, Angela Patricia Robinson, is Jamaican. The younger Giwa-Osagie did not offer more than biscuits and apple when he first met his wife abroad. Onyeka Onwenu’s brother, Richard, witnessed it.

This professor is a global citizen. He has gone round but chose to stay home in Nigeria. Giwa- Osagie speaks French. The man speaks Igbo, Yoruba, Bini, Itsekiri and English.

The nature of Chief Giwa-Osagie’s job meant he moved round the country. So his son followed him.Primary education was from Enugu to Port Harcourt, to Warri, Lagos and Kaduna respectively. That helped his profession too because patients felt less pain anytime he joked with them in their language.

Prof. Giwa-Osagie loved to see his uncle, Prof Tiamiyu Bello-Osagie, in medical gear. He also found that attraction in Drs.George Garrick and Bassey Ikpeme. When he sat down for the Cambridge University examination as a lone candidate, under the supervision of Mr. Gaius Anoka all his thought was on white overall and stethoscope.

Even in retirement, the man is not tired. He was named first Emeritus professor of O and G in the history of the University of Lagos. As chairman, National Hospital, Abuja, his welfare package made the workers highest paid in the country.

Prof. is glued to Ikoyi club where he unwinds. He is also a good dancer as he mingles with younger doctors and students. Do not be surprised to see him dance better than Techno. And that is the Obarisiagbon of Benin.

Giwa-Osagie loves to hang around with friends Like Engr. Dotun Adomolekun, Oladapo Ashiru and cherishes his tortoise and parrot. With all her love, Madam is not complaining. “He is not domesticated,” she says.

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