Just in case you missed the news, here is an update: some more terrible things have happened in the last few days. Ace footballer and international star, Rashidi Yekini is dead.
He died on Friday. Yekini was by all accounts a devout Muslim and was quickly buried the next day, in accordance with Muslim rites. Going by reports we have, the mode in which he was buried is however unacceptable. No need to mince words here, the burial given to Rashidi Yekini is unbefitting of the man and his country.
Elsewhere, fellow countrymen and women of this late football hero will need no introduction to the name of or biography notes about a star like Rashidi Yekini. He would by now be a household name with all, regardless of their passion for or understanding of football.
Rashidi Yekini was however born in Nigeria and in that great multifarious and convoluted country called Nigeria, normal things don’t normally happen and obvious things are rarely obvious to many.
In Nigeria, vital issues such as national history and recognitions, public comments and procedures tend to be exceedingly subjective to variables that generally work against greatness and quality. National discourse and knowledge in Nigeria are largely dependent on ethnicity, socio-political affiliations and are generally managed mediocrely by self-interested agents whose goals tend to be in conflict with the greatness of Nigeria and free of consideration for prosperity.
Sadly, we therefore cannot take it for granted that people know and we consequently here have to remind all, including Nigerians, that Rashidi Yekini, the international player that participated brilliantly in the World Cup, African Nations Cup, and in the Olympics is really a first amongst peers.
Hopefully we shall have more, but forever, Yekini remains the first Nigerian to win the African footballer of the year award, the first Nigerian to score a goal in the world cup, first Nigerian to be the highest goal scorer in Europe, he is still, as we speak, the Nigerian player with highest number of goals scored ever.
Now brace yourself, in spite of all these achievements, Rashidi Yekini died like a nobody, without any national honor or monument or even plaque of recognition with his name on it in Nigeria. Let us now pause for a moment to think of all those that have been honored in Nigeria instead, let us compare that list to the name of Rashidi Yekini, let us evaluate what joy they have brought to Nigerians, let us ponder upon what great things they have done for the image of Nigeria. Let us now move our mind outside Nigeria and mentally travel to anywhere else in the world to investigate the status of anyone living or dead that has feats similar. How have they treated their own Rashidi Yekini?
Newspaper reports about his burial say he was buried over the weekend like a ‘commoner’ in a poorly attended ceremony without any of his colleagues in the national team in attendance. Save for the exception of Ike Shorunmu, ex-Super Eagles goalkeeper, the graveside was devoid of any high profile footballer. Yes this Muslim burial was quickly done but that is no excuse for the way his remains was put to rest. It could have been better managed, with better publicity and with more attendance. We have seen Nigerians rush to aid of powerful but inglorious figures with shorter notice.
The last days of Rashidi Yekini were not great either, he was said to be ill, depression was suspected and there were even voices of a bigger mental ailment true or false it does not matter anymore, at least not to him anymore, he is gone. Before going however, he did his best in his field, and many can testify that he entertained, he thrilled, he inspired and even made many of us his fans and fellow countrymen and women proud.
For what Rashidi Yekini and others like him have given, he has received little, too little from his government too little from his people and we are all guilty. This is however not a time to blame the government or the Nigerian Football Federation, the press, or those aides that advice and influence those in power and all those that could have given more to him while alive. It is a time to seek redemption and try to make sure our other true heroes do not end up in way that will put us to shame as people.
Let us today form a group with a clear simple aim of honoring Rashidi Yekini and other true heroes of Nigeria. We do not need to wait for the government to do that we do not need the government to approve that all we need is a group of men and women of goodwill that understand that by honoring those who gave us joy and pride through hard work we give honor to ourselves as a people and we provide a treasure for those to come.
And to death that took away prematurely Rashidi Yekini from us, I boldly say
Death, be not proud, though some have called you mighty and dreadful, for you are not so;
For those whom you think you do overthrow
Die not, poor Death…
*This article was first contributed by Prof. Kila eight years ago when ace footballer Rashidi Yekini died. Kila is a Jean Monnet Professor of Strategy and Development. He is currently Director of Studies at CIAPs, the Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies.