“Otedola has made me, I can play football again,” Christian Chukwu, the 68 year-old former Captain of Enugu Rangers, former captain of the Green Eagles and former Chief Coach of the Green Eagles, reportedly joked when he paid a ‘thank you’ visit in Lagos to Femi Otedola, who footed the medical bill for his treatment at a UK hospital. He was further reported to have said: “If you saw me before I left for London, you won’t believe I’ll be here talking to you. I think I won’t be making a mistake if I say after God, it’s Otedola in my life.
“I had many complications and I couldn’t walk. When I heard Otedola brought out money for my treatment, I marvelled because in my circle, we didn’t know him before then. We have people with us but maybe they forgot or it’s not in their character (to help)… I don’t know how to thank Otedola enough, God bless him.”
Chukwu is reportedly suffering from prostate cancer which has affected his legs. It was said that he needed $50,000 for a life-saving operation. Norbert Okonkwo, media officer for Enugu Rangers, was quoted as saying that the Enugu State government donated a ‘princely’ sum of N1.5 million Naira towards his treatment- though there was a photo op where the Enugu State government gave the impression that it was footing the medical bill for Chukwu’s medical treatment in Enugu. There was also a report that a GoFundMe appeal for him raised only $4,305 of the $50,000 needed – before Otedola intervened and decided to bear the full cost. Otedola reportedly decided to pay for the full medical treatment as a “token of support to a great Nigerian who served his country to the best of his ability”. As it turned out, Chukwu’s medical treatment ended up costing Otedola over N36m.
In her study of Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi operative responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps in support of the Nazi’s Final Solution during the Jewish holocaust, Hannah Arendt, the German-American philosopher and political theorist argued that Eichmann performed his evil deeds without necessarily being an evil person because he merely accepted as right the premise which informed his evil deeds. Arendt was to popularize the notion of ‘banality of evil’ from the title of her book: ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil’ (1963). That phrase is often used to suggest that evil is not only pedestrian but also commonplace. A counterpoise to this, some will argue, is that though evil deeds are common occurrences, good deeds are probably even more trite than evil deeds, but are quite often taken for granted or not adequately acknowledged.
In the current conjuncture where despondency seems to have taken over the nation, where the fault lines of religion, ethnicity and regionalism have become deeper than ever, my aim is to use Femi Otedola’s acts of generosity to highlight possible sources of hope for the country. Femi Otedola, a 56 year old Yoruba billionaire boss of Geregu Power Plc from the South-west did not wait for the many Igbo millionaires, the government of Enugu state (Christian Chukwu’s home state), governments of the South-east or even the Nigerian Football Federation to bear what he could have rightly called their ‘burden’. The normal trend is for many politicians, public officials and even corporations to focus their acts of charity either on their home state/ethnic homeland or where they have their businesses. Otedola is not a politician and it is doubtful if his charitable intervention on the Christian Chukwu case was actuated by the need for publicity.
Given that shortly after the Civil War, the Rangers Football Club of Enugu probably did more than any group to lift Igbo spirits from the doldrums of defeat, and that Christian Chukwu was a leading star in the story of the Rangers team, one would think that his home State Enugu, or the South-east governors or the numerous Igbo millionaires would be falling over themselves to pick up Christian Chukwu’s medical bill. But No. Were Christian Chukwu’s medical bill to be a national contract or political appointment, it would have been ethicised, with the usual stereotyping and of course charges of marginalization.
It should be recalled that Otedola previously settled the medical bills of the veteran actor, Victor Olaotan, who was at risk of double amputation following a ghastly car accident. A few days ago, it was also reported that Otedola has taken over the medical bills of ailing Nollywood actor Sadiq Daba – from the Northern part of the country. The actor, who was recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CPD), for years battled with leukaemia and prostate cancer and travelled to the United Kingdom for treatment and returned only in 2017. After living a relatively normal life for some two years, there was a relapse and he became ill again. Otedola intervened because he reportedly loved watching the actor as a kid. On why he chose to foot Sadiq’s medical bill, Otedola was quoted as saying:
“For me, taking care of Sadiq’s medical expenses is my little way of showing appreciation and gratitude for the good memories he created for me and others in the past.
“I must say that even though I don’t know Mr. Daba personally, he is a face I am familiar with through the old TV drama production “Cock Crow at Dawn” which I used to watch while growing up.”
Otedola also reportedly agreed to foot the medical bill of Peter Fregene, former Nigerian goal keeper, who has been bedridden since 2001.
There are certainly several Otedolas around, some doing their bit from their small corners of the country (unrecognized and unsung) to lift up fellow Nigerians, irrespective of where they come from:
Just consider these:
An 83 year old Abubakar Abdullahi was the Imam of Nghar village in Plateau State. In June 2018, amidst deadly faith based communal clashes that engulfed 10 villages in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, he hid 262 Berom Christians in a mosque in his house, at the risk of his life, until the conflict was over, and thus saved them from possible annihilation. He was recently announced as one of the recipients of the 2019 US International Religious Freedom Award.
Part of his citations on the US Department of State website read:
“Imam Abdullai selflessly risked his own life to save members of another religious community, who would have likely been killed without his intervention. On June 23, 2018, ethnic Fulani herdsmen, who are predominantly Muslim, launched coordinated attacks on 10 villages in Barkin Ladi, killing hundreds of ethnic Berom farmers, who are predominantly Christian.
As Imam Abdullahi was finishing midday prayers, he and his congregation heard gunshots and went outside to see members of the town’s Christian community fleeing. Instinctively, the Imam ushered 262 Christians into the mosque and his home next to the mosque. The Imam then went outside to confront the gunmen and he refused to allow them to enter, pleading with them to spare the Christians inside, even offering to sacrifice his life for theirs. Although the gunmen killed 84 people in Nghar village that day, Imam Abdullahi’s actions saved the lives of hundreds more.” Abdullahi was said to be born in Bauchi State around 1936 and has reportedly lived in Nghar for 60 years.
Consider also the case of Joseph Blankson from Rivers State who in 2018 single-handedly managed to pull 13 people from drowning when a boat he was in had an accident and capsized. After pulling 13 people from drowning, the 36 year old father of two became exhausted as he went in and out of the river, rescuing one person after the other. While trying to save the 14th person, Blankson tragically drowned. He turned out to be the only casualty in that accident – sacrificing his life to save people he did not even know.
With the country’s nation-building process mired in deep crisis, the Otedolas, Imam Abdullahs, the Blanksons and several others like them across the country, remain the hope that all may not be lost for the country.