17th May, 2012
The death of Rashidi Yekinni has come and gone, yet I still cannot help but confess that I’m yet to come to terms with the tragic reality of the sad end of this departed soccer legend.
I certainly still cannot help the trauma and the shock that this great Nigerian patriot and celebrated soccer Ambassador is dead.
Could this really be real? An ex CAF rated greatest African footballer of the year; and first Nigerian among the living and the dead, to have scored a goal in the senior World Cup tournament, dying such an ignominious death of a chicken?
From every stretch of imagination, Yekinni was a soccer prodigy, and indeed a goal merchant, whose scoring skill and dexterity remain unparalleled, even to date.
I remember those memorable good old days, when the “gangling Rasheed Yekinni”, as one ace football commentator used to call him, struck terror at the opposition’s goal post. Rasheed Yekini, was no doubt the goal keeper’s nightmare and indeed a terror to the most daring defender in those good old days.
Yekini was unarguably one of the most consistent and dependable soccer heroes Nigeria has ever produced. In those days, his presence, both in the IICC, which he played for in Ibadan, and indeed the larger national arena, inspired joy and smiles in the teeming number of soccer buff; so much so, that Yekini was almost literally deified, particularly by the teeming mass of fanatical soccer worshippers of the ancient city of Ibadan. Yekini could simply be described as a soccer magician. No wonder his popular cognomen, “ye king”.
Only recently, soccer buff across the nation, and indeed the generality of Nigerians, were awakened to the sad news of his tragic death.
That this illustrious son of Nigeria died, particularly at such a young age, was enough sadness on its own. But particularly traumatizing was the tragic manner of death of a man who over the years, had acquired great fame of world-wide magnitude – dying such a tragic death in chains and manacles. This is highly unfortunate.
Were it to be a situation that was unavoidable, that would have been a different thing entirely. But this to be sure, was one glaring avoidable death.
To be sure, it was an open secret known to all, that Yekini’s health was all but normal, yet nobody cared a hoot. Everybody just went about their businesses, as if nothing had happened.
Not even the government, either at state or federal level or even his friends, particularly his close football colleagues in those good old days, considered it necessary to show any concern.
If before now, we have always been so quick in lambasting our so-called mercenary professionals flooding Europe and other parts of the world in quest of greener pastures, will one not hesitate or pause just a little, for a second thought before accusing them of unpatriotic selfishness, in view of the horrifying experience associated with Yekini’s death?
It before now, one is wont to doubt the veracity of the assertion, of the saying that Nigeria is not worth dying for and that you are indeed on your own, should the worst befall you, no matter your sacrifice for the national cause, the tragic saga of Rasheed Yekini, has certainly cleared such doubt.
Let me hasten to emphasise here, from what I read in the papers, concerning the grand burial of the celebrated ex-international, and from what I also saw on the TV, especially the calibre of people, who attended his burial – I mean the society’s big wigs from all walks of life and indeed the huge torrent of praises, encomium, and tributes showered on him, I could not help but simply be thrown off guard, and have since continued to wonder where all these celebrities had been all these period, of excruciating trials and tribulations, acute sufferings and agonizing hardship that Yekini had to contend with.
Of what use are all these mounting tons of empty platitudes, when the man was already gone? Can all the belated noisy praises and tributes revive him from the grave? Where indeed were these professional hero worshippers, at the crucial moment of acute torture of mother fate, when Yekini needed them most? Of what use are all the empty praises when the man is gone, and neither again knows nor appreciates all the belated crocodile tears being shed for him?
I remember the other time, when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the legendary Nigerian leader and eminent statesman, was celebrating his birthday. I remember a pocket of envious souls raising eyebrows, on the celebrations which they dismissed as too lavish. While one knew quite rightly that these are envious voices from the opposition political divide who are jittery of his popularity and achievements; the sorry tale of the sad end that befell this ex-football great will undoubtedly bring into poignantly bold relief, the utter senselessness of their ranting.
And for those who did not know, or had suddenly forgotten, it perhaps becomes pertinent to either educate or remind them, as the case may be, that Asiwaju himself will go down in the records as a foremost exemplar of the lamentably forsaken culture of appreciating our national heroes in their life time.
Remember for instance, that when it seemed that the entire world had forgotten Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar, the veteran musician, it was Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who built him a house, which indeed contributed to no small extent in rehabilitating the man, and redeeming him back to stardom.
Another case in point was that of Haruna Ilerika, the celebrated soccer idol of blessed memory, who after decades of languishing in the limbo of neglect, was eventually rescued through the benevolent gesture of Asiwaju and Fashola who in their characteristic sense of compassion, gave him a befittingly elevated appointment in the Lagos State Sports Council.
It need also be said that it was this culture of benevolent governance with a human face bequeathed by Asiwaju, during his eventful epoch as governor of Lagos State, which inspired his successor, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola to donate a befitting apartment to kokoro, the celebrated blind minstrel of blessed memory.
This is the ideal leadership we popularly yearn for, I mean that culture that deem it necessary to honour you while alive, rather than living you to rot away only to commence the empty past time of pouring noisy encomium and eulogies, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, when you are no longer alive, and of course, don’t know what is happening again.
These said, I hasten to emphasise that the generality of Nigerians, right from all the tiers of government, from the federal, state and local governments, and members of the soccer constituency of the departed football maestro, must indeed go down on their knees, and seek forgiveness for our collective role in killing Rasheed Yekini.
There is certainly no doubt about it, we all share the blame for our collective role in killing the man, either wittingly or unwittingly, because we allowed him to die.
May his great soul rest in peace.
•Ademoye, an ex-lawmaker, was Chairman, Committee on Housing, Lagos State House of Assembly.