It was a huge relief to read the other day that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State has reacted quickly to the story of Christian Chukwu’s ill health and is promptly picking up his medical bills. Many people had felt heartbroken to read that the former Green Eagles Captain who took Nigeria to her first African Cup of Nations trophy in 1980 had been abandoned in his hour of need. It is gratifying to see from Governor Ugwuanyi’s action that our political leaders are fully aware of their responsibility to protect and preserve our heroes.
Well…happily, that is exactly what Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has been doing since he assumed office in 2014. And the records are there. For instance, shortly after he was sworn in, the issue of designing and implementing a special welfare package for the first generation of players of Rangers International Football Club of Enugu was tabled before him. These were the players whose rugged performance on the field of play had helped to restore the pride of a bruised people still smarting from the Biafran War. Governor Obiano had felt deeply touched by their plight and had promptly directed his Principal Secretary, Sir Willie Nwokoye to show him a list of the players.
“I listed the members of ex-Rangers of Anambra extraction and took to him,” recalled Sir Nwokoye in a recent exchange. “Governor Obiano asked me “are these all the people who played for Rangers immediately after the war?” I said “no, these are Rangers players of Anambra extraction.” And he told me that Rangers was Rangers and that it did not matter which state the players came from. He directed me to go back to my office and recompile the names of all the people who formed the first generation of Rangers players. I did the compilation with Emmanuel Okala, former Rangers and Green Eagles goalkeeper who is also Senior Special Assistant to the governor. We drafted a list of 58 players and Governor Obiano signed off on the document, authorizing me to pay them a welfare package every month. And from 2014 till today, my office has administered that welfare package every month without fail. You may choose to find out. The ex-Rangers meet on every last Tuesday of the month in Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu,” Sir Nwokoye further revealed.
Hinting that Obiano is usually touched by anything that has to do with people who used their talents and gifts to help Ndigbo stage a speedy recovery from the War, Sir Nwokoye revealed that when he got wind of the appalling living condition of Chukwuma Igweonu, a first generation Rangers player, last year, Obiano had quickly doled out N1.5m to help renovate his house in Enugwu- Agidi.
It would be recalled that in 2017, Anambra had organized a concert that was tagged “A Night of Nostalgia” where all the pop stars of the 70s had performed. The musical talents whose songs had served as a balm on the ache of the people after the war were given a big stage for what might be a farewell performance to most of them and handed a cheque of N1m in a show of appreciation. I remember feeling deeply touched on that night when I saw Pal Akaronu who was reputed to be the Quincy Jones of that era, producing songs that endure to this day. Also on the stage was Chief Zebrudaya (Chika Okpala) whose sublime jokes helped wipe the tears away from many cheeks. Bands like sweet Breeze, Semi Colon, Wings, Funkees, Wrinkars Experience, Aktion, the Apostles, Sokay Ohale, One World and Founders 15 also performed.
So, yes, we do not abandon our heroes in these parts. Of course they need more support. Of course we ought to do more. But it is certainly not a case of abandonment. In fact, Governor Obiano has an impressive record in preserving these memories. That is why to date, there is no higher tribute to the memory of the Biafra War than Ozoemezina; the memorial he organized in 2015. You may check it on YouTube.
By James Eze