Jeremiah Okorodudu, Please Forgive Nigeria! –Odegbami

A Dark Day for Nigerian Sports: Remembering Jeremiah Okorodudu

In the world of sports, there are heroes and legends who inspire and captivate us with their extraordinary talents and achievements. But what happens when these heroes, these icons of our nation, fall on hard times? It is a sad reality that many former athletes in Nigeria are left to suffer in silence, forgotten and abandoned by the very system they once represented.

Recently, we mourned the loss of Jeremiah Okorodudu, a renowned Nigerian boxer who left an indelible mark on the country’s boxing history. Known for his flamboyance and charisma, Okorodudu’s death at the age of 64 was a painful blow to the sports community. His passing came after a two-year battle with poor health, attributed to Stroke and Diabetes.

The public became aware of Okorodudu’s plight through social media, where heartbreaking images and videos of him lying in a hospital bed circulated. He cried out for help, pleading with the government and fellow Nigerians not to let him die. All he needed was a small sum of money to undergo a life-saving surgery – amputation of his foot. Yet, despite appeals to the public, his family could not raise the funds in time, and he passed away.

Okorodudu’s story is not an isolated one; it is a tragic reflection of the state of sports in Nigeria. Many former athletes live in abject poverty, facing neglect and societal amnesia. Their contributions to Nigerian sports are forgotten, and their welfare is disregarded. They suffer, both physically and emotionally, with no support system in place to help them when their sporting careers come to an end.

It is disheartening to see that the era of sports administrators personally funding and supporting athletes is a thing of the past. Nowadays, sports are seen as a sector to be exploited for personal gain, rather than a platform to uplift and care for our athletes. The scramble for positions of leadership in sports is driven by self-interest, rather than a genuine desire to improve the lives of those who dedicate their lives to representing our nation.

Okorodudu’s death has brought attention to the dire situation faced by many former athletes. Ngozika Ekwelum, an African boxing champion, suffers from urinary incontinence and depression-related issues. Kenneth Abana, a mercurial goal-poacher, lies critically ill in a hospital after having one foot amputated. Christopher Friday, once a shining star in football, now lives in perpetual darkness due to complete blindness. These are just a few examples of the countless athletes who are living in pain and poverty, waiting for help that may never come.

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The question arises – do Nigerian athletes die young? Looking back at the athletes who represented Nigeria at the 1976 Olympics, a startling pattern emerges. Many of them have passed away at a young age, with some dying before they turned 60. The athletes who stayed in Nigeria have faced tragic stories of neglect, poverty, and early death. This begs further investigation into why high-performance athletes in Nigeria face such a bleak future and whether the welfare systems in place in other countries contribute to their longevity.

Establishing a comprehensive welfare scheme for athletes should not be rocket science. Models exist worldwide, and even in Nigeria, previous schemes were created but ultimately misused or neglected. The few existing schemes remain under the control of those who do not account for their actions or prioritize the athletes’ welfare. It is a grave injustice that funds contributed by Nigerians for the betterment of suffering athletes remain untouched, while those in need suffer in silence.

Jeremiah Okorodudu’s death is a stark reminder of the failures within the Nigerian sports sector. It is a failure of the system, of his colleagues, of the government, and of those who could have helped but chose not to. He died with regrets and in pain, abandoned during his greatest health challenge. This is a tragic reflection of Nigerian sports and a wake-up call for change.

As we remember Jeremiah Okorodudu and his incredible contributions to Nigerian boxing, let us not forget the countless athletes like him who are still suffering. It is time for a reevaluation of our priorities and a genuine commitment to the welfare of our sports heroes. Let us ensure that their labor is not in vain and that they receive the support and care they deserve. Only then can we truly celebrate the greatness of Nigerian sports.

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