By Emeka Oparah

I have just read the cheering news from the Enugu State Commissioner for Information, Ogbuagu Anikwe, shared by Ikem Okuhu, regarding the health condition of former Green Eagles Captain and former Super Eagles Coach, “Chairman” Christian Chukwu. While the statement has put the issues of the condition and treatment of Chukwu in proper perspective, it has reminded me of something I had almost forgotten. And I mean the haste with which Nigerians rush to press with news of death and sickness of other people (even as they hide theirs) without regards to the feelings of the sick or deceased, their relatives and friends.

In as much as I know we all must die some day or even lose our glow and bounce due to circumstances of unavoidable distress of ill-health, I believe we must be mindful of and sensitive to the feelings of others. Naturally, human beings love to retain the best, the most exciting and most flattering images of themselves and their loved ones well into old age and long after their demise. It is because of this that many refuse to see the dead bodies of loved ones-so they do not degrade the mental picture of the person in their psychological possession.

As a personal rule-and I strongly recommend this to you-I always seek, find and use the best photos of people-living or not-whenever I write about them. It is a good habit to cultivate, I must say. So, I’m totally miffed when I see ghastly photos of the dead or injured. I feel even worse when I’m confronted by unflattering photos of otherwise bubbly, lively, ebullient people who are known or related to me. For those familiar with my timeline, I always use awesome photos of my late father and late younger brother and indeed all my departed friends and relatives for that is how I want to remember them.

So, you can imagine how I felt when I saw “Chairman” Christian Chukwu in those sorry photos looking poorly, aged, drawn, gaunt, really sick requiring assistance. I doubt that Chukwu knew when those photos and videos were made much less sanction their distribution. It is unfair. What is even more unfair is the fund-raiser purported to generate money to fly him abroad for “unnecessary “ further attention (according to the honorable commissioner). When you juxtapose the campaign against Anikwe’s statement today, you will realize the lack of charity and discretion in the process.

Beyond the goriness of the images and the gracelessness of their deployment, there is the more consequential issue of the welfare of sportsmen and women and indeed all who have represented Nigeria at international sports events. Chukwu’s teammate, Segun Odegbami, in a recent write up lamented the condition of George Omokaro, another ex-Green Eagle, who was languishing on admission at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).

He said: “…my friend and teammate in the Green Eagles, George Omokaro, has been in UBTH for several weeks now recuperating from another one of several surgeries he has undergone for debilitating arthritis in both knees in india and Nigeria in the past 5 years or so. This time, the new surgery was to extract stones from his kidney. For all the over 5 years he has been bedridden, jobless, hopeless and with an entire family to feed, he has been without any major financial support.”

“His (Omakoaro’s) situation weighs heavily on my mind. I wish I was in a position top do something, anything for him and others like him in the early stages of old age with their attendant illnesses that cannot be divorced from our intensive participation in sports at a young age without the essential healthcare and welfare to take care of us in old age”, Odegbami lamented.

Like Odegbami, Omokaro ‘s and Chukwu’s conditions with heavily on my mind, and I’m sad I cannot do much for those heroes, who gave part of their lives for Nigeria. By the way, I met Chukwu at the 2018 NFF Awards at the Eko Hotels, Lagos, and I recall telling a friend that I wasn’t happy the way he and his teammate and buddy, Emmanuel Okala, the former Green Eagles Goalkeeper and erstwhile Goalkeeper Trainer for the Super Eagles, looked. Okala is known to have challenges with his eyesight and that evening he looked poorly too. Yet, Chukwu’s case is different, better actually, in view of that statement by Mr. Anikwe, which confirmed the Green Eagles former captain as a employee of Enugu State Government.

I was actuated by the graciousness of billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola’s reported willingness to pick up Chukwu’s medical bill. I was also impressed by the effort of Amaju Pinnick-led Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to assist. I, however, think a sustainable platform should be established to take care of our national heroes. This cannot be over-emphasized. Whenever I see “Reserved Parking” for Servicemen and Veterans in Malls and public places in the United States, I feel emotional. In most US stores, Servicemen and Veterans are granted 30% discount on all their shopping and online purchases. Isn’t that commendable? And why can we not emulate such an honorable practice?

“The labors of our heroes past shall never be in vain,” says our National Anthem. Let’s mean it in words and indeed. I wish Chukwu, Omokaro and all other Green Eagles and indeed sportsmen and women and other Nigerian heroes the very best. Meanwhile, I must urge circumspection in the use of photos and videos of the sick and the dead. Personally, I have left so many good photos on Facebook you do not have an excuse not to use one to celebrate me(alive or dead)I beg of you.

Oparah, a Corporatre Communications practitioner, sent this piece from Lagos.

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