How Nigeria Honoured the Memory of Sam Okwaraji
It’s been 26 years since Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji passed on clad in the colours of Nigeria’s senior men national team, the Green Eagles. The avid and devoted midfielder collapsed and died as a result of congestive heart failure during a World Cup qualifying tie against Angola at the National Stadium, Lagos.
Since his death, the football community in Nigeria has sustained an annual memorial in honour of the late midfielder. Perhaps not in the way many opine, the late Sam Okwaraji deserves before the 2015 memorial. Before this year, the media has been in the vanguard of honouring the remembrance of Sam Okwaraji.
This year (2015), there is a delightful twist to the celebration of the life and death of Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji. Only this time, the Nigeria Football Federation led the ‘procession’ of marking the commemoration of late Okwaraji.
So, what was done differently this year? Four commemorative actions have been identified; here they are:
Nigeria’s football governing body, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), initiated the hashtag WeRememberOkwaraji on their social media platforms. This initiative inspired followers and fans of the NFF to equally use the hashtag in all tweets and posts causing it to trend online.
2. Tribute At Federation Cup Games
During the quarter-final stage of the Federation Cup, the Nigeria Football Federation had directed and announced that a framed portrait will be displayed across all venues of the tournament. This was really special. It has never been done before; being the first time made it exceptional. Come next year, who knows what idea the NFF will reveal from their kitty bag not just for the late Sam Okwaraji, but also for the likes of Rasheed Yekini, Uche Okafor, Mudashiru Lawal, etc.
3. A Call After 26 Years
For the first time since the death of late Sam Okwaraji, according to record, the president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, put a call through to the late midfielder’s mother and siblings. The family it’s reported were ecstatic. You won’t blame them. No one from previous NFF administrations, National Sports Commission or even federal government official ever displayed this gesture until now.
4. 5-Point Resolution
Nigeria’s House of Representatives in the 8th assembly seemed undesirous to have it business as usual. The “Green Chambers” through a motion sponsored by Hon. Yusuf Ayo Tajudeen (Kogi), at a plenary on Wednesday, captured 5-point resolutions for implementation to honour late Sam Okwaraji.
a. The federal government names a stadium or sports centre after Sam Okwaraji
b. An urge to the federal government to “provide necessary welfare scheme” for the Okwaraji family
c. Imploring the Imo state government to name a stadium after late Okwaraji. A stadium was under construction Umudioka, Orlu in Imo state, which was to be named after the late icon. Until today, the stadium is unfinished and abandoned
d. The number 6 shirt of the midfielder is retired by the Nigeria Football Federation. The then NFA had promised to retire the shirt after Okwaraji’s death
e. A delegation will visit the mother and other family members as an expression of respect and solidarity.
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