Sometime
in the early 90s, 1994 to be precise, a Nigerian club, Iwuayanwu
Nationale, now Heartland were returning from a CAF Champions League
or Cup of Champions Clubs match as it was known then.
They
had played in Tunisia against Esperance and lost 3-0 but their
Oriental Airlines Flight was forced to make an emergency landing at
the Tamanrasset airport in Algeria when the pilot noticed some engine
problems.
Two
of Nigeria’s best players of that generation in the home league,
Uche Ikeogu and Omale Aimounwansa died in the incident.
I
seriously doubt that there is anything in the camp of Heartland today
that serves as a remembrance to those two gallant soldiers. I am not
sure any member of the Heartland team up to the club chairman/
General Manager knows this story.
They
actually died representing a Nigerian football club in the search to
win the then elusive CAF Champions League trophy?
There
is also the case of Kayode Oluremi, a member of the Nigerian silver
winning team at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games who was involved in
a fatal motor accident which claimed his life.
The
most celebrated of them all is Samuel Okwaraji who also died while
representing Nigeria and we still debate his story and situation of
his family up till this day.
Between
the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, free thinker etc, man has
not taken a position as to where people go when they die, so let, for
the sake of this write up make believe that they just sit at some
place watching us all, wondering what could have been if they were
still on this earth.
How
do you punish the dead? They are dead and gone for ever so what could
hurt them?
Certainly
not the carcass of their bodies that would eventually rot and be
eaten by termite because nothing on this earth should bother the
dead, right? WRONG!
You
can punish the dead by making sure their family suffer for their
death. It becomes punishment when the dead man is/ was not guilty of
whatever you are punishing his family for.
The
dead get punished in Nigeria
Joseph Izu celebrating a goal for Shooting Stars
Being
Nigerian for the last forty something years has made me understand
how to punish the dead.
Most
of the learning was done in the last year as recently relegated side,
Shooting Stars have taken the time and effort to teach us all how to
perform this disgraceful act.
The sorry case of former
Shooting Stars Sports Club, 3SC defender, Joseph Izu aptly describes
how to punish the dead.
How and why he died is not in
the purview of this read but why he is being punished by his former
employers is what bothers me.
Joseph Izu died as a player of
Shooting Stars and had an existing contract with them.
It has been back and forth
between Shooting Stars and the late Izu’s family, led by his
younger brother, Rueben ever since, while the now relegated club
still owes him.
First Shooting Stars’
General Manager, Rasheed Balogun was reported to have told a
representative of the Izu family that the sum of five hundred
thousand naira was approved but only three hundred thousand naira
will be given to them to offset burial expenses.
They however received two
hundred and ninety thousand naira for the funeral.
On the day of the funeral,
Shooting Stars management team, who were present, handed over the sum
of one hundred thousand to Joseph Izu’s widow with a promise to
send another one hundred thousand naira but only ninety thousand was
received.
For a society that abandons
the dead, it is worthy of praise that the club was represented at the
funeral service of their late player (who died while holidaying in
his home town, far away from Ibadan) and they even ensured they
contributed financially to the burial.
Widow of Joseph Izu, Portia and daughter, Stephanie
However, whatever good deed
Shooting Stars did before, during and immediately after the funeral
of their late player counts for nothing if they do not pay what he
was owed and that is the much the family have been asking for.
I remember just before
Shooting Stars visited Port Harcourt for the league game against
Rivers United, Reuben Izu had used various media outlets to speak out
against the club only for the General Manager, Balogun to issue a
statement indicting the brother of the late player.
Balogun claimed Reuben was
going overboard because he wanted the money owed Joseph paid to him
and not to any member of the family. That certainly created some
ruckus, especially on social media and if the plan of that statement
was to create a diversion, then Shooting Stars succeeded.
Shortly after Balogun issued
this statement, the sum of one hundred and forty two thousand naira
was sent to the account of Pa Izu, Joseph’s father without stating
what the money was meant for.
Was that his salary? A gift?
No one knew what that was and a call to Balogun from Pa Izu did not
get an answer as the General Manager said he was indisposed and would
answer later.
Nothing more was heard from
Shooting Stars until recently.
During the 1st year
remembrance of his death, more accusations were made by the Izu
family in a press conference and once again, a statement was issued
from the club citing disagreements within Izu’s family over who
collects monies owed him.
I was in that press conference
and they spoke in one voice.
In all of these, Shooting
Stars still refused to reveal to the family how much Izu was due
monthly, how many months salaries he was owed at the time of his
death and how many match bonuses he was owed too.
Shortly after the second
accusation against the family, Shooting Stars sent the sum of one
hundred and forty two thousand naira to the account of Pa Izu and
still could not explain what that money was for.
What Shooting Stars should
have done
Joseph Izu had a contract with
Shooting Stars, details of which I am privy to. I have seen it and I
have a copy.
If the management of Shooting
Stars were sincere, they would pay the wages of a dead man to his
family rather than throw accusations that are uncouth.
Joseph Izu had a wife and
daughter at the time of his death. He also had living parents and
siblings.
Maybe if Shooting Stars had
shown proof of payment of all Izu’s wages to any of these mentioned
above that was not eventually accounted for, then they would have had
a point to all their accusations.
Joseph Izu was on a salary of
N300, 000 (three hundred thousand naira) monthly and was owed for 8
months in the 2015/16 season at the time of this death.
He was also owed a backlog of
N1, 560, 00 (One million five hundred and sixty thousand naira) as
salaries from the 2014/15 season.
Austin Popo, of the National
Association of Professional Footballers, NAPF in a press release
pointed out that Joseph Izu is currently owed N3, 810, 000 (three
million eight hundred and ten thousand naira for 2015/16 season.
Izu was also owed twenty one
match bonuses.

But what I personally do not
understand is why Shooting Stars have decided to punish their late
defender this way.
I have spoken with Pa Izu,
Reuben, his brother, wife and daughter too and the common denominator
here is they are not begging for any favours, but what their dead
benefactor had already worked for. How difficult is that?
I know the Shooting Stars
media team will put up a damning press statement after these 7
minutes go viral and probably accuse me of a lot of things, but the
best defense and statement would be one that has proof of payment.
An excerpt from the latest
press statement from Shooting Stars read, “Our Attention has been
drawn to a letter from one Reuben Izu to the Oyo State Government on
behalf of the family, appealing for the payment of salaries and
allowances the Club owed the Late Player”
While we acknowledge that
the club is still owing the late player, it is very pertinent to put
the records straight that, hardly would a month pass, without paying
into the account of Pa Izu Snr, the father of Late Izu, as requested
by the Family in the last 6 months.”
If hardly a month goes by
without paying money into the account of Pa Izu and only twice has it
happened in 12 months, then there is something wrong.
There is a lot that is wrong
with how we treat our sports people both dead and alive and we must
change that attitude now.
There is an Izu Joseph in
every one of us. Today, we treat this case as though it doesn’t
matter but as surely as the sun will rise and set everyday, we will
all need justice at some point in our lives.
It’s
Argentina again at the World Cup. Some things never change
it
seems like there will be no FIFA World Cup without a Nigeria v
Argentina game, or so it seems.
In
6 sojourns to various World Cups we have drawn Argentina 5 times so
there is nothing really left to say about that game except a piece
advise to Nigerians.
That
we beat Argentina in a friendly match does not count as the Argies
will be tipped to win the World Cup by 8 out of 10 pundits but
Nigeria will not.
You
know why? Form is temporary and Class is permanent.
Argentina
no be Nigeria mate (as we say in local parlance) as they have won the
World Cup twice and been finalists three
other times. Nigeria has no such track record.
For
Croatia and Iceland, we must understand that the Scandinavians may be
the most inexperienced side at the World Cup but what they have done
in two years means they should be taken seriously.
As
Ufuoma Egbamuno said on his radio show, “Iceland may not be
superstars, but the most organised in the group. Croatia are no
minnows. If we make second round, that’s success for me.”
The
point is, though ours
is not the easiest of groups, it could have been worse. We could have
been playing Spain and Portugal.
And
for NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, his time starts now in his desire
to win the World Cup.
Nigeria
must get out of that group and see what fate has in store for us. I
will enjoy the World Cup and you should too.

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