Mothers of late ex-internationals, Sam Okwaraji and Rashidi Yekini have been placed on N30000 monthly by the Nigeria Football Federation.
This is coming barely 24 hours after the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sport Development announced on Thursday that they have placed both matriarchs on N10,000 monthly stipend.
According to the NFF, they will henceforth review the situation of surviving mothers of Nigeria’s ex-internationals that died in active service for the country and resolve what to do for them on a monthly basis.
NFF tweeted, “In furtherance to and in appreciation of the recent pronouncement of the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, to put the mothers of the two late ex-internationals Sam Okwaraji and Rashidi Yekini on a monthly stipend on a monthly stipend.”
“The NFF has decided to support this noble initiative with a further monthly stipend of N30,000 to each of the two matriarchs.”
“In addition, the NFF will henceforth review the situation of surviving mothers of our ex-internationals that died in active service for the country and resolve what to do for them on monthly basis.”
Rashidi Yekini died in May 2012 after retiring from football in 2006. His professional career, which spanned more than two decades, was mainly associated with Vitória de Setúbal in Portugal, but he also played in six other countries besides his own.
Yekini scored 37 goals as a Nigerian international, and represented the nation in five major tournaments, including two World Cups where he scored the country’s first-ever goal in the competition. He was also named the African Footballer of the Year in 1993.
Samuel Okwaraji, who played internationally for Nigeria, collapsed and died of congestive heart failure in the 77th minute of a World Cup qualification match against Angola at the Lagos National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos State on 12 August 1989.
In 2013, Samuel Okwaraji’s septuagenarian mother, Mrs. Jane Okwaraji stated her displeasure at the treatment accorded to the memory of her late son in a documentary that was commissioned by the Chike Okagbue Foundation (COF) on the life and times of the late football star, as well as possible efforts if any at immortalising his values,
While she wondered why Okwaraji has not been immortalised by the Nigerian state for his sacrifices, Jane noted that younger generation of Nigerians would not be compelled to give their best for the glory of Nigeria, adding that Okwaraji would have been able to live out some of his dreams that included building a world class youth football academy and a mini stadium, among others.
She asked: “Would it be too much to name the stadium in which he died after him after such a wonderful sacrifice? It is usual to retire the jersey number in which a star footballer died as a mark of respect for such a star but in the case of Sam, it did not happen. Besides, there was no insurance payment for him and we could not get his entitlements from his club abroad because Sam, as it were, did not wait to formally obtain permission from his club before coming to play for the country and died in that match.”
While recollecting someof the qualities that stood her late son out, she said Okwaraji was a very brilliant boy who went abroad to study law at St. Peters University in Rome, Italy, and from there played football and became a professional player.
“When he told me he was coming to play for Nigeria, I asked him what it was all about because I knew that by then he had qualified as a lawyer. But he was very keen on playing for his country and said that he wanted to bring Nigeria to the world map through the World Cup. I didn’t know what he meant then, but he told me that he could be a footballer and a lawyer as well and I respected his wish,” she said.
When asked about government’s efforts at immortalising Okwaraji, his mother said: “That has been my pain all these while, they haven’t done anything to immortalise this boy because he gave his life, money and education for this country and nothing has been done to immortalise him. He slumped and died at the National Stadium in Lagos. But when you go there, you will see his statue that was erected at the gate but I don’t know if that is the kind of immortalisation that befits Sam.
“Nothing has happened irrespective of the kind of burial Nigeria gave to him. It was a very famous national burial that saw markets, banks and all government offices in Enugu closed for him and people lined up the streets for Sam who was given a lot of respect when he died because they brought him home like a king.”
She continued: “It was so painful to me when he died because he was close to my heart and knew what I wanted and would always care for me, but I lost him and it was a terrible loss to me. The government indeed made promises to help me out with the care of my children when Sam died because he was the family’s provider but nothing was done.
“I was at home for a whole year and didn’t teach, receiving condolences from people all over Nigeria for the death of Sam who was multitalented, because I could remember he got a recommendation and congratulatory letter from the Korean government for one of his art works which was chosen as the best in a primary school art contest.”
Okwaraji’s mother said she still feels the pain of Sam’s death 25 years after. “I have regrets and I cannot hide them,” she said. “I feel the pain because I am sure if he lived amongst us, I wouldn’t be kept in this condition. I know he could have done so much more for me because he cared for me. The boy really cared for me while he was alive.
“I am so surprised that a government could make false promises and also fail to fulfill the pledges it made. The government could not feel the death of the 24-year-old boy who died labouring to bring glory to Nigeria. That is so unfair. Nigeria has disappointed me because the government promised to help train my children to any level of education and at the same time help the family but they have failed.”