A Couple of months ago, the Nigerian football community was worried when the news broke that one of the biggest icons of the game was down and needed help to stay alive. According to the report, Christian Chukwu, who led Nigeria to win its first African Cup of Nations trophy in 1980, was hit by an undisclosed ailment that made it impossible for him to do anything unaided.
Such was the worry, especially when it became known that he needed urgent medical attention abroad to survive, that some of his friends called on well-meaning Nigerians to support the bedridden hero.
Many Nigerians heeded the call and chipped in with their ‘widow’s mite,’ but the outcome was still not enough to fly the former Nigerian captain, popularly known as Chairman, abroad for the required care. And then in stepped billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola. The Forte Oil boss, who some people describe as a silent philanthropist, paid for and ensured that Chukwu was taken to England for comprehensive medical care.
The Guardian learnt that Otedola spent about N36, 635, 000 on Chukwu’s treatment, travel and accommodation expenses at Wellington Hospital, London. Now back on his feet, Chukwu, who returned to Nigeria on Friday, hosted some journalists in his Eko Hotel room after paying a thank you visit to Otedola. He talked about his experience and also expressed his gratitude to Otedola.
The former Enugu Rangers’ captain was his usual jocular self as he exchanged banters with journalists.“You can see that I am now fit,” he said. “I have been watching the on-going African Nations Cup and I feel like going to Egypt to play for the Eagles. I feel sharp and healthy thanks to Chief Otedola.” At the mention of Otedola’s name, Chukwu became emotional. He explained his feelings thus: “After God, the only person I know now is Chief Femi Otedola. He is God sent and I cannot thank him enough.
“This is somebody who was not known in our circle. He is not a sports administrator, he is not in the All Stars, but he came, when every hope seemed lost, to rescue me.”Recounting the severity of his condition before he went to London, Chukwu said: “If you saw me before I went for treatment, you will not believe I will be here now talking to you.“I had so many complications and I could not walk or talk freely.
“When I heard that Mr. Otedola has decided to take care of me, I marveled because I did not know him.“You see, there are so many rich men in Nigeria, but the problem could be that it is not in their character to help people or they don’t know how to do it.
“I pray that God will guide and protect Mr. Otedola in all he does. He is rich now, but I pray that God will make him richer in Jesus name.” Philip Akinola, Acting Chief Operating Officer, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Company, who represented Otedola on the occasion, expressed delight at seeing Chukwu back on his feet again.
“I’m happy to see him radiant again, unlike when I visited him in Enugu. He walked from the ground floor to his room on the second floor of his hotel, when he got to Lagos. That’s the joy of Otedola,” he said. “This is a challenge to others. It’s a typical example of taking care of people while they are alive.”Chukwu’s wife, Lilian, who was with him alongside his daughter and sister throughout the duration of treatment in London, also thanked Otedola for coming to their aid. “God used him to bring my husband back to life. He (Otedola) will never lack,” Lilian Chukwu said.