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February 17, 2024

When things just don’t feel right, by Francis Ewherido

Francis ewherido

As you grow older, health conditions and challenges manifest. To overcome the challenges or mitigate the risks, you undergo treatment, be on certain medication or take drastic decisions. Besides your personal physician (your doctor), you are your other personal physician.

You own your body, so you must understand it and do what is best for you. I have always been a sports lover, and I have always taken losses hard. From wrestling to boxing, basketball, tennis and football, it has always been so. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure at age 34. As I grew older, I knew I had to do something to avoid stroke or sudden death from these pains from sports losses. 

Some people feel a game is just sports. You win or lose, life goes on. It is wonderful for those with that disposition, but it is more than a game or sport for some of us. In insurance, you cannot insure the sentimental value owners place on a subject matter of insurance. That is because it is invaluable. The same applies to emotional attachment we have to teams and sports figures. Football might just be a game and the football team is just a team to you, but there is emotional investment. If it still does not make sense to you, just run along. 

Knowing my attachment to the Super Eagles and considering my blood pressure, I decided I will not watch live matches of the Africa Cup of Nations tournament. Hearing the result after the match was okay for me. Hearing the result of a loss is like the momentary pain of an injection to me. After that moment, the pain subsides or goes away entirely. But the tension of watching a Super Eagles match live can be terrible. When the Super Eagles progressed to the semi-finals, I decided to watch the match. I regret the decision.

After VAR cancelled Osimhen’s goal, I could see South Africa were playing, waiting for the game to end in a penalty shootout. I knew I had reached my limit. My body said so, and I stopped watching. My youngest daughter came to tell me later that we won. We won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory: It claimed the lives of five Nigerians – Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, who had been constant in Delta State politics since 1999, the Kwara State University Deputy Bursar, AlhajiAyubaAbdullahi; a sales representatives, Mikhail Osundiji; a serving National Youth Service Corps member, identified simply as Samuel, and a Nigerian businessman based in Cote d’Ivoire, Chief OsonduNwoye. 

I was firm that I would not watch the final after the tension of the semi-final. I already had mixed feelings that day. The deaths during the semi-final left a much soured taste in my mouth. The dead did not live to savour the victory. Then I read of the death of Prof. Emevwo Anselm Biakolo on Saturday before the match. He died in his sleep on Friday, according to the reports. I was not close to him, or so I thought. I ran into him a few times at Pan Atlantic University (PAU).

He was quite polite, friendly and looked every inch distinguished. Of him, my eldest brother, Most Revd Anthony Ewherido, the Catholic Bishop of Warri Diocese, said: “He was a genius of a man. Has always been very smart. I knew him since my minor seminary days and his family was living around us in Otovwievwiere (Ughelli, Delta State) then (early 70s).” Now I guess why he always gave me a friendly smile when I ran into him at PAU. I was too young to know him then, but he knew me by my surname. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. 

Before the AFCON Final, there was an EPL match between West Ham at home to Arsenal. Arsenal lost in the reverse feature at home 2:0 to West Ham. They have been tough opponents to Arsenal in the last six meetings. I decided to watch the beginning which would determine whether I would watch till the end. West Ham was annihilated 6:0 at home. My spirit was lifted. My team won. My daughter thought I would change my mind and watch the AFCON Final with her. I told her it was too risky for my BP. I asked her, “I am sure you still want your daddy around?” She nodded in affirmation. “I will not watch,” I added. 

The kick off time coincided with the start of our evening prayers. This made me happy. After prayers, I went to my room to continue with this my occasional long solo prayer. I was determined to be as far as possible from the final match. I was still praying when my daughter came to my room sobbing: “Daddy, we lost.” No response from me. Am I supposed to interrupt my prayers? When I was done, I continued listening to psalms until I drifted off. I have not watched the full match or highlights till date and will not. What for? Am I the coach to watch and analyse where we went wrong. 

The week has been very sombre. I was numbed further by the news of the death of Herbert Wigwe, his wife, eldest son and AbimbolaOgunbanjo in a helicopter crash. I do not know them personally, but I have tasted bereavements and it is an experience I do not wish anyone, especially in gruesome and unexpected circumstances. Unfortunately, we all will be bereaved at some point in life. I feel for their families. While growing up, “save us from sudden accidental (unprepared for) death)” was part of our daily family prayers. At times like this, I remember that prayer. I still pray it, but not as often as when I was growing up. 

While going through comments on the stories of the death of the Wigwes and Ogunbanjo, I saw the famous quote of Shakespeare: “When beggars die there are no comets seen.The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” The person was referring to the recent killings in the Middle Belt and other parts of Nigeria viz-a-viz the death of the Wigwes and Ogunbanjo.

With all due respect, such a comment at such a time is inappropriate and insensitive. I have been there before. It is rubbing pepper on the bereaved wounds. Mass killings have been going on for a while in Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and other parts of Nigeria. Nobody, except may be the perpetrators, are happy about it. In many cases, these people are villagers who are not known, but they are certainly not “beggars.”

They are Nigerians, fathers, mothers, relatives and neighbours, though not famous. So why the quote at this time? Wigwe and Ogunbanjo were prominent Nigerians. Even in death you cannot deny them that. When Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth died, CNN, BBC and other major networks suspended their usual programmes and gave their death and funeral consistent coverage. We are all equal before God, but some people get accolades and mention because of their positions and accomplishments. There is nothing anyone can do about that. Give people their flowers when deserved. That does not diminish other deaths. Every death makes humanity poorer.