How Much Do We Owe Sam Okwaraji?
By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones
Fans and family of late Super Eagles star, Sam Okwaraji, are obviously justified at their refusal to be consoled over the death of this unusual patriot, intellectual and bundle of talents.
Many people may have only known the fact that late Okwaraji was a fantastic midfielder with an intimidating stature and captivating intelligence, but the Orlu born star was many more things outside the football pitch.
Okwaraji started off his career in sports as a table tennis player, and he clipped some local championships on his baton before veering fully into the more lucrative and more attractive game of soccer.
Academically, Sam was already, at 25 years of age, on the verge of earning his PhD in law.
He was also a notable patriot who was famed for not demanding his match bonuses from the Football Federation, but rather used his personal funds to cater for his personal expenses while playing for Nigeria.
Sam died in the line of duty, while sweating it out against Angola in a World Cup Qualifying match in Lagos in 1989. Autopsy results showed that he had an enlarged heart and was suffering from High Blood Pressure. Considering the level of passion he was ready to devote to anything, Nigerian, some people believe that Sam might have been aware of his ailments, but went on to adorn the Nigerian jerseys in pride.
But, has Nigeria reciprocated Okwaraji’s love for her or taken any steps to reward his loyalty and sacrifices to Nigeria? Information from his close family relatives, including his elder brother, Patrick, indicate otherwise. In fact, the then military President, General IBB Babangida was said to have made five promises on behalf of the Nigerian Federal Government, but none of these promises has been fulfilled.
During his time as Imo State governor, the Sam Okwaraji family confirms that His Excellency Owelle Rochas Okorocha showed genuine interests in the course of Sam Okwaraji and was always available to give favourable directives to genuine proposals concerning the late athlete. However, some of the plans lined up by the Owelle Rochas Okorocha administration for the family couldn’t take off, as the advocacy started in the twilight of that administration.
While calling on the FG to take steps towards giving this iconic sportsman his deserved honor, the State government should not completely shy away from continuing from doing what it can to support the Sam Okwaraji Foundation.