Magnus Eze, Enugu
The social and traditional media have been on fire since photographs of ailing ex-Super Eagles captain and coach, Christian Chukwu, popularly called Chairman because of his commanding role in the football field, became public.
Chukwu’s age-long friend and patron of former Enugu Rangers players association, Benson Ejindu who is based in the United States of America had posted on his Facebook wall, photographs of the football legend being assisted to come down staircase and also embarked on fund raiser of $50,000 to handle his overseas treatment. He added that “Leftover funds will help set up a health and welfare account for all ex-Rangers players.”
The pitiable condition of the ex-sweat merchant, as depicted by the photographs elicited public outcry just as people started contributing to the fund. It was gathered that $4,305 was raised within 48hours of the GoFundMe appeal came up.
Billionaire businessman and chairman of Forte Plc, Femi Otedola quickly offered a lifeline to the ailing former Green Eagle captain, by agreeing to pick his medical bills. Former House of Representatives member, Hon. Ned Nwoko, had also reportedly offered N5million.
But the Enugu State government has said that the money for the Chukwu’s medical bills was not the problem even as it accused Ejindu of promoting lies and misinformation about the iconic former Enugu Rangers player.
Commissioner for Information, Ogbuagu Anikwe in a statement on Tuesday, explained that the government has been picking the bills since the attention of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was drawn to his failing health. “So, far, a total of N2.7million has been spent by the Enugu State government on his treatment,” he said.
Anikwe said that government did not make Chukwu’s ill health public out of respect to the wishes of both the Chukwu family and the request of his doctors who wanted a space to quietly deal with the emergency situation that brought him to hospital on a stretcher.
He, however, revealed that Chukwu was currently walking with a stick and had even granted interviews to the BBC and a couple of local media.
He debunked the impression that Chukwu is now a destitute old man abandoned to his fate in the face of an emergency health situation.
According to him, Chukwu is currently the Director of Sports in the Rangers Management Corporation, a public service job that enables him to meet his basic health needs.
“In the circumstance, Christian Chukwu is an employee of the Enugu State Government. This was one of the strategies that Rt. Hon. Dr. Ugwuanyi, the Governor of Chukwu’s home state of Enugu, designed to take care of sportsmen who had served the State or the nation in their youth,” Anikwe stated.
He further explained that to date, the doctors taking care of Chukwu have not released a medical report of his health condition to anyone, not even to the state government that has been picking up his bills.
Even as Anikwe expressed surprise on the call for overseas treatment; he also assured that if at any time the hospital doctors or the Chukwu family indicate that overseas treatment is required, the State Government will be notified and will respond appropriately.
How Ugwuanyi knew about Chukwu’s sickness
The SunSports reliably gathered that it was the immediate past Executive Chairman of Enugu Sports Club 1929, Chief Ben Etiaba who drew Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s attention to Chukwu’s failing health.
The governor, as President of the club had gone to inaugurate some legacy projects of the outgoing administration on March 23, at the Golf Section of the club when Etiaba hinted him of the ex-football star’s issue.
Gov. Ugwuanyi immediately dispatched the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Joseph Udedi to find out the true situation and report to him, accordingly.
Udedi said: “The governor instructed me to go and see Christian Chukwu. I got there, saw that he was sick, we discussed; then I talked to the medical director of the hospital who told me that he needed to be stabilised; diagnosed and to know the actual thing that’s happening to him. They had assembled five specialist doctors to work with him, and the medical investigation was going on but due to family decision and doctors’ issues; we didn’t go to the media to start broadcasting that Chukwu is ill and this was what we’ve done.”
Meanwhile, a Nigerian legal practitioner based in South Africa, Austin Okeke has called for the establishment of pension scheme for Rangers FC players and indeed, footballers in the country.
According to Okeke, “Looking at the condition of Christian Chukwu and indeed other soccer players who had faced or are facing similar health challenges, I propose the that we must establish a pension scheme for our professional players, into which contributions must be made by both club and players.”
He also asked that a medical scheme be established for them, stressing that the only way to predict tomorrow is to plan for it. “We should begin now to concern ourselves with matters that are important to our health and wealth,” he advised.
We thank Otedola, others but…Sports commissioner
Enugu State Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Joseph Udedi has said that there was no basis to raise funds for the ex-Green Eagles captain, Christian Chukwu, when the state government was already picking his medical bills.
As the sports commissioner, what’s the situation with Christian Chukwu?
Christian Chukwu as at today is very stable. About three weeks ago, the Chairman fell ill and was taken to Nikea specialist hospital in the GRA. One of his close friends informed me about his illness at the Golf section of Enugu Sports Club when His Excellency, the governor was commissioning a project at the golf course. There, the governor instructed me to go and see Christian Chukwu. I got there, saw that he was sick, we discussed; then I talked to the medical director of the hospital who told me that he needed to be stabilised; diagnosed and to know the actual thing that’s happening to him. They had assembled five specialist doctors to work with him, and the medical investigation was going on but due to family decision and doctors’ issues; we didn’t go to the media to start broadcasting that Chukwu is ill and this was what we’ve done.
However, there and then, when I came; I called the General Manager of Rangers, Davidson Owumi where Christian Chukwu is employed as Director of Sports. The governor gave him the appointment to take care of himself. I told the Rangers Management Corporation that Chukwu is their staff, therefore, he’s entitled to medical treatment, so they deposited N200, 000. The same evening, I met with the governor and informed him about his condition, there, he gave me N1.5 million as deposit to the hospital which I paid and the consultant, medical director and the team of specialists they assembled took care of him. I visit him every evening; sometimes in the morning, to know how he’s faring, he’s stable and can work. When he came to the hospital, they brought him on stretcher; he couldn’t stand nor walk but as at two-three days after he was brought to the hospital; they were able to make him to stand up and walk. On one of the days he was about to go for another medical investigation at Memfys hospital; he was coming down the staircase and the sister took a picture of him, then there is this friend of his, Benson Ejindu who lives in the United States of America, who’s also interested in Chukwu’s welfare, so the sister sent the photograph that went viral. The man instead of ascertaining the medical record or how Chukwu was feeling in Nigeria posted the pictures on the Internet and started raising fund online.
The question is, somebody you don’t know his medical records; the doctors have not talked about any overseas surgery, there was no surgery at all, so how’re you raising the money, how did you know about the cost, do you know what was happening to him? So, I was astonished, I felt even though he may have good intention but the fact is that you need to arm yourself first with good information; so that’s the genesis of the media outcry and a lot of people started pushing uninformed, misinformed stories, outright disinformation and all that.
But what’s the current situation?
As at today, the doctors are treating Chukwu and the government is picking the bills, so far the government has put in N2.7 million, paid to the hospital.
So, what would happen to the promises like the one from Femi Otedola to pick the $50,000 bills?
Nobody can write off $50, 000 medical expenses because there was no basis for the $50, 000. But I sincerely thank Otedola and other Nigerians for their interest in Chukwu’s ill health. At the same time, the $50, 000 is unimaginable- there was no basis for such amount of money now because from every indication, the doctor needs to tell you, this is the ailment that this man is undergoing; at least there must be a referral before we talk of overseas.
By now the results of the investigations must have been out; what is actually wrong with his health?
There were so many tests going on, I don’t want to go into his privacy. His wish is that it should remain private to the family and the doctor. So, we need to respect his wish. That’s the situation.
So, are you saying that Chukwu hasn’t been abandoned?
What’s abandonment there, the government is paying his bills, the government gave him an appointment since 2016, he’s been in Enugu state government employment; so where’s the government, who abandoned him? Nobody, the governor has designed the appointment for him as a way of upkeep; he gets his monthly salary and allowances since 2016 till date. The truth is that the governor has designed a programme for taking care of the elder statesmen and women in Enugu state whether it’s for Rangers or any other person.
The case in point is Christian Chukwu; immediately he left the Super Eagles as a coach, he returned to Enugu and the governor gave him the job, it’s a means of helping him get salary every month and allowances to sustain him, so how can somebody that’s earning such amount of money (N700, 000) now that he’s not active in sports by anybody’s imagination be said to be abandoned.