Within five years, five members of the victorious 1994 Super Eagles squad have died mysteriously. From the exit of defender, Uche Okafor in Texas, USA, in 2011, to goal poacher, Rashidi Yekini, in Ibadan in 2012, Thompson Oliha in Ilorin in 2013, goalkeeper Wilfred Agbonavbare in 2015 and recently, ‘The Big Boss,’ Stephen Keshi in Benin City, it has been one mystery death too many.
However, their deaths always bring back the sad memory of unfulfilled Federal Government promise of a house to the players after winning the African Nations Cup at Tunisia ’94.
Three years after his demise, the wife of late Super Eagles midfielder, Thompson Oliha, Ajara Mohammed-Oliha, says both the Federal Government and the Kwara State Football Academy (where Oliha worked before he died), have not been fair to the family he left behind.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Ajara revealed that she and her 12-year-old son, Aisosa Oliha, have been ‘struggling’ to survive since her husband’s death in June 2013.
In particular, Ajara, a native of Auchi in Edo State, accused the Kwara State Football Academy of ‘not redeeming’ the financial pledge of N1 million to the family three years after his burial.
She recalls: “On the day of my husband’s burial in Benin City, officials of Kwara State Football Academy were in attendance and they made a promise that they would support our upkeep with N1 million. Till this moment, they have not redeemed the pledge and it is disappointing. My husband truly served KFA and I have traveled to Ilorin on three occasions because of the money. The only language you hear all the time is the cheque will be ready soon.”
Speaking further, Ajara said: “Before my husband died three years ago, one thing he kept saying was that he did not want to die before getting the Abuja house the Federal Government promised them since 1994. He was always drumming it that he wanted to get it when he was still alive because Uche Okafor and Rashidi Yekini died without getting theirs.
“It is three years now, and we have been squatting from the house of one relation or friend to another because we have no place to go to. This is very unfair. I will appreciate if the Federal Government can fulfill its promise by making the Abuja house available to us. I learnt that some of the players have gotten their houses, so why is my husband’s own not available?
“I am making a special appeal to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola to help us out. My husband was Fashola’s friend in the All Stars football team, and I want him to use his position to deliver the Abuja house, not only for the sake of Oliha, but for all members of the 1994 squad,” Ajara stated.
Contacted yesterday, an official of Kwara Football Academy, identified only as Perpetua, said a representative of the state government actually made the pledge of N1 million during Oliha’s burial in 2013, adding that KFA has made several efforts to get the money for the family, but to no avail.
Two weeks ago, Keshi, who captained the victorious 1994 set of Super Eagles, died in mysterious circumstances in Benin City. He never showed any sign of ill health.
Keshi was the fifth member of the glorious ‘94 Super Eagles team to die. Defender, Uche Okafor allegedly committed suicide on January 6, 2011 in Texas, USA.
Midfielder, Thompson Oliha died in June 2013 in Ilorin, after complaining of malaria, while goal king of that glorious squad, Rashidi Yekini, died also in mysterious circumstances in Ibadan on May 4, 2012. Goalkeeper, Wilfred Agbonavbare died from cancer last year.
Oliha played for clubs in Africa and Europe during an injury-shortened career. He played for Bendel Insurance between 1985 to 1987, Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1988-1991), Africa Sports of Cote d’Ivoire (1992-1993), Maccabi Ironi Ashdod F.C. (1993-1994) and Antalyaspor (1994-1995).
In his days with the Super Eagles, Oliha was known for his powerful shots and aerial ability. Oliha made a total of 31 appearances for the Super Eagles, scoring two goals. He made his international debut in 1990, in a game against Senegal, and made his last appearance at USA ’94 FIFA World Cup, as a late substitute against Italy.
Before joining the senior team, Oliha had featured for the Flying Eagles at Chile ‘87 FIFA World Youth Championship. He retired at the age of 27, as a result of a serious knee injury. At the time of his death in 2013, Oliha was an assistant coach with the Kwara State Football Academy.