Nonagenarian mother of late footballer, Sam Okwaraji, Madam Janet Okwaraji has urged the Federal Government and other relevant authorities not to abandon the sacrifices his son made for the country, saying they should immortalise him to encourage national sacrifice.
Speaking when a delegation from a non-governmental organization, The Compassionate Heart led by Rev. Fr. Frankline Muo, visited her residence in Abakpa, Enugu State to celebrate the 2019 Mother’s Day with her, she lamented that 30 years after her son slumped and died on active duty for the country, nothing had been done to reciprocate the selfless sacrifice.
Okwaraji slumped and died while playing for the Super Eagles against Angola at the National Stadium, Lagos in a FIFA World Cup qualifier that ended 1-0 in favour of Nigeria on August 12, 1989.
Mrs Okwaraji said her late son loved the country and did all in his power to contribute to its growth, stressing that “he excelled as a young boy and combined study with football to the point of pursuing a doctorate degree programme in Germany before the unfortunate incident that claimed his life.”
She stated that she decided to open a school in memory of the late footballer after waiting on the government to ‘immortalize him to no avail,’ pointing out that, she would always remember him ‘for being a good and hard working boy.’
Explaining their visit, Rev. Fr. Muo said the organization decided to identify with Okwaraji’s mother because “Sam would have celebrated his mother on mother’s day if he were alive.” He added that though his stay on earth was short-lived, “he left indelible footmarks”.
“I am appealing to the government and all and sundry not to abandon his family. Sam left his base overseas to play for the country 30 years ago and died while doing this national assignment.
“Since his death, nothing has happened to show to reciprocate this gesture. He was not doing it for money because, he came each time he was invited to play and return to base. So we believe that the greatest love we can show to him is to immortalize him,” he said.
Presenting food items and cash to Madam Okwaraji, Rev. Fr. Muo, who was represented by the Rev. Prince Umezuruike, said it was their little way to assist the family to look after her at her old age, promising that they would continue to identify with the family.
Oko Emmanuel, who is the Coordinator of Sam Okwaraji Remembrance, said he was touched on returning to Nigeria last year to discover where Madam Okwaraji was living, stressing that he had visited the tomb of the late footballer in Umudioka Orlu, Imo State to discover it had been abandoned.
He stated that his group had taken it upon themselves to mobilize support to uplift the living standard of the mother and her family, insisting that there was need to take the family into account to encourage patriotism in the country.
The elder brother of Sam, Sir Patrick Okwaraji, while thanking the organization for the gesture, said the issue of his late younger brother had prevailed for a long time and should be addressed by the government.
Narrating that he was present at the stadium during the Nigeria –Angola match where Sam collapsed and died, he stated that it was something that Nigerians should learn from the development.