Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why Rashidi's death may never be investigated, By Segun Odegbami

Published:

Writing last week’s article was difficult. Having to write a follow-up on the same subject this week has been even more challenging. But for some reason, as the world continues to mourn his death, I just can’t seem to be able to get away from the subject. Even the final match of UEFA Club championship this weekend takes a back stage; it is to Rashidi Yekini that my mind keeps wandering.

Unfortunately, the above headline reflects what is likely to happen, or never going to happen with the matter of his death. Even as the world continues to wonder, ponder and cry out about the circumstances surrounding the death of one of Nigeria’s greatest football players of all time, it is looking very unlikely that any investigation will ever take place to unravel the mystery. Why?

The consequences of doing so now appear to be too high a price to pay for the indiscretion of those that perpetrated the act that led to his death. In the past one week, following strident calls for an inquest into the death, many people have observed a deafening silence from those that should otherwise have been hollering the most. As more and more people thronged the Ora village residence of the Yekinis to console the family (his mother, sister and Mariam, the first and only daughter around), close observers have been wondering about the total disregard by the family of the public outcry for an investigation into the unacceptable circumstances surrounding the sudden, unexplained passage of the breadwinner of the family.

Immediately after the news of his death the mother was reported to have said that her son was mentally unstable. Why would any family member describe their late son in any derogatory term or language that diminishes rather than extols the dead, when the rest of the world is eulogising and celebrating him? No one, not the surviving and mourning mother, not the grieving sister and brother, not the uncle and his children, not the Kabiyesi of Ora himself, not any one of the family members and beneficiaries of Rashidi’s munificence when he was alive and the going was really good, has so far indicated any interest and joined the chorus of those calling on the security agencies to investigate their son’s death. That is the surprise.

To date no petition has been lodged with the police by Yekini family to kick-start an investigation process. What that clearly tells everyone is that there is the truth and there is expediency. In this case they do not go together.

During the week there were some developments. The media did follow-up stories on the matter. Neighbours of the deceased in Ibadan were interviewed on radio and television to tell what they knew, saw or felt about the matter. The stories they told, made me decide to send people to Ibadan on a fact-finding visit, findings were intriguing. My staff connected with friends and neighbours for first-hand account of their experiences.

From all the information gathered and now publicly acknowledged in several recent interviews, in the evening of the fateful day, Rashidi was forcefully taken away from the front of his house by people some of whom were known to him and the neighbours. He was returning from his football training session when he met five people waiting for him at the gate of his residence. He obviously recognised a few of them because he alighted from his car and walked up to them. Neighbours swore that there was a discussion followed by a scuffle and Rashidi resisted being forced into a waiting car. This obviously attracted neighbours as he shouted to them to call the police. Somehow, before anything could be done he was overpowered with the help of the clerics and driven away. The abductors did not even attempt to hide their faces or disguise their intent. Some of them were known faces in the area and had been seen visiting Rashidi in the past.

Ordinarily, from what was known about Rashidi’s attitude to such previous visits, he would never have alighted from his car, walked up to the visitors and had any form of conversation if one of the most important persons in his life had not been there – his mother! That is the crux of the matter till now.

Neighbours were very sure about the fact that his mother came with the team. The others in the group were Rashidi’s younger sister, his cousin (son of his late father’s younger brother) and two clerics in religious robes. The last two persons were not known faces.


The Problem

That is the problem with this whole matter – that the mother who gave birth to Rashidi 48 years ago, actually led those who took him away and returned with his corpse three weeks later.

No one is accusing the mother of killing her son. No! Indeed, no one would ever imagine that she set out to harm him. The only rational explanation for her participation must be that she believed that Rashidi had mental problems since he stopped sending home money and was reported to be distributing money to people on the streets of Ibadan. She must have been convinced that he needed spiritual help or any form of intervention. She actually confirmed this to Rashidi’s neighbours when she returned to the house two weeks after Rashidi had been taken away to retrieve some things from the house. She was reported to have told the neighbours when they came to enquire about him from her that his condition was improving and that he would soon be back. That would never have been the attitude of one that had an ulterior motive. For an illiterate woman living far away in the village, not really knowing what was wrong or was happening to her son, to have taken the steps she took, there must have been a mastermind directing her. That is why there should be an investigation!

With his sudden and unexpected death outside a proper medical establishment, all those involved in forcefully taking Rashidi to a herbal or spiritual home should have questions to answer.

Ordinarily, this means that his mother, his sister and his cousin would all be invited, possibly detained, questioned and probably charged to court. But these are the same people that constitute all the family Rashidi left behind! These are the same people Rashidi had provided for but kept at a distance from himself for decades. These are the same people that the whole world is now trouping to in Ora village to express condolences and possibly give support to. The ‘culprits’ have become the chief mourners and the beneficiaries!

That is why there has been no investigation to date. That is also why there may never be any investigation to determine the cause and circumstances of Rashidi’s death, to reveal the identity of the clerics, to gain knowledge of where they took him to and what happened there.

Rashidi’s death is particularly painful because it was unnecessary and avoidable. I pray that even in death he will find the grace to forgive all those who had a hand in his death because ‘they knew not what they were doing’. May his soul rest in peace!


The story of Joe Appiah

In December of 1973 we were both invited to the national team after representing the old Western State at the first national Sports Festival. 100 football players had been selected from the entire festival and assembled in Lagos to constitute the core of a new national team, the Green Eagles. It was observed during the screening process at the National Institute of Sports training ground that several Ghanaian players had also been invited. Ghanaians had invaded the Nigerian football scene in torrents in the early 1970s, leaving behind the political and economic crisis that had engulfed their country at the time. So good were some of the players that those of them that had names that sounded Nigerian were conveniently left in the team and they represented the country for many years. There were others whose names and looks did not disguise their nationality. Those ones were screened out. One of those decamped was Joe Appiah.

He was in WNDC Shooting Stars at the time whilst I was still in Housing Corporation with Muda Lawal, Kunle Awesu and a few others.

A few months into 1974 all of us joined Joe Appiah in Shooting Stars and so began one of the most successful stories in the annals of Nigerian club football. The Shooting Stars team created several records in the country’s football with their highest achievement being the 1976 Africa Cup-winners Cup, the first continental cup to be won by a Nigerian team. Joe Appiah was a very important members of that team.

Since joining Shooting Stars in 1971 or so, Joe spent all his playing career in the team.

After he retired from football, he remained with the team helping out in various capacities. So deep was his love and commitment to the team that through several governments and administrative changes Joe has remained a permanent fixture in the team. Since he stepped into the shores of Nigeria in 1971 he has not returned to Ghana even for one single visit. He told us then that he would live and die in Nigeria. He kept his word. He married a Nigerian and had children that all bear only Nigerian names.

Culled from Mathematical 7 (Segun Odegbami’s blog)

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