“In 1991, Austin Okocha had played himself into Rangers International FC to join his immediate elder brother Emma Okocha, who had earlier played for Vasco Dagama and Nigeria U-17 team. Austin’s trip to Lagos against ACB Football Club of Lagos changed his life and football career for good. Rangers FC coaches had debated whether to carry Austin or not as an “extra luggage,” a term used for the 17th player, who was taken along in case of unforeseen eventualities in the long distance trip for a League match.”
See Edwin Eze, Emma Okocha, Rangers International FC….History of a People, Snaap Press, May 2017, Page 97.
Okocha, after an intense lobby and persuasion on his behalf to the coaches by the young Rangers secretary, made the team to Lagos and was brought in to replace his elder brother, Emma, who had developed a groin injury. Some foreign agents, who had come to watch Monday Odiaka from ACB Lagos, play his last match before jetting outside Nigeria, saw Austin Okocha’s touches and settled for him. Incidentally, Monday Odiaka was dropped and those agents picked Austin Okocha and from there, Jay – Jay the magician, the Germans tag, Wunderbar, transformed his abject poverty heritage. From the midfield, Jay-Jay dominated a hilarious generation of black African football.
Until his death few weeks ago, Edwin Eze, that young secretary that pleaded with the coaches to give Jay –Jay a chance, was badgering gorgeous, as Alexander the Great. Alexander, the Prince from Macedonia, the most beautiful, had attracted the wrath of the gods. His status and mouthwatering Ethiopian features propelled by a steel ambition of a grand territorial expansion of the Greek empire, threatened the position of the gods. Consequently, the gods accosted him, ordering him to choose out of only two options; a long life of listless purpose, or a short passage of impacting footprints. Alexander the great opened his blue eyes and elected a brief sojourn of asterisk achievements. Accordingly, on his death at the age of 32, Alexander had unified the incessant warring factions of the city states. From there, he sailed to the Mediterranean, conquered Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. From Egypt, Alexander entered the history books, as the only military General, who had attempted and indeed succeeded in conquering the world!
Unlike Alexander the Great, Edwin Eze’s death at the age of 56 meant he did not choose a very young life. All the same, his grit, discipline, athletic prowess and outstanding field victories at a particularly sad and mournful period of our people’s history; inspired, uplifted those despairing youths, the children of parents, who faced and withstood the consequences of losing a civil war. Watching the Rangers presently, get clobbered by all and sundry, Edwin Eze would go away from the shadows and weep.
Like Alexander the Great, he was super gifted and was in a hurry. He combined his handsome features with broad intellectual prolifigacy acquired from his painstaking and back breaking marriage to books. He read himself into Calabar University, graduated to join my G.O.C. Regiment, then blossoming at the Satellite village, Enugu. That Regiment attracted eggheads like Professor Okey Ndibe, the One-eyed General C Don, the late Chike Akabuogu and the APGA Chairman, Danquay Oye. Okey Ndibe, was covering wrestling, Danquay Oye was the Base Commander, Akabuogu was flying the Concord and died in action in the last battle for Lagos! Whatever were their special contributions to the spectacular rise of that unforgettable provincial Daily, it was Air Marshall Edwin Eze that eventually took over officially, the Command of that moribund G.O.C. Sports Regiment.
Edwin Eze, last year, was meritoriously appointed Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Enugu. With that elevation, he joined the few out of millions of bureaucrats whose advisory roles and planning for governments currently, totter the development strides and the productive schedule register of their colonial predecessors. In his brief tenure as the Permanent Secretary, Edwin Eze demystified the place and brought farmers to hug the different national and foreign programmes initiated by the state government to increase productivity. I saw him on television ride in keke, on motor bikes to agric. seminars, mobilising the leaders and the superintendents back to the farms.
In a hurry to stave off starvation, he ran the race and from his sports background, he had the energy and accomplished. To the public and the media, he demonstrated an uncommon public relations élan. He had the education and his ministry was outpacing the other ministries in bringing the government and the people together to farm the land. Collaborating with him in writing the Rangers FC, a history of a people, I noticed Edwin Eze was very much in a hurry. Battling all odds in search of a classic, he did everything, including staying all nights for the book to be published before Christmas. This work is a combination of my twenty years research and his over two decades of service to that great African clubside; as the information officer, secretary, variously acting as the team manager. Going through the book again and again, it will be fair to actually label him the first and last true team manager of the Rangers International FC. Even though he was already a Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, the information ministry where he served as director, would at any given opportunity, come for his advice. Before his death, the Rangers were dwindling into an indomie foraging assembly and Edwin was worried to the bones. As we finished the book, and set to print, he rushed from his office and handed to me all his collections, items, clippings, mementos, pictures, publications of the Rangers FC. “G.O.C., adi ama ama, this book must conclude on building an archival centre to serve as a monument and permanent indentation etch of the glorious history of our people… These boys have to know the history they are carrying on their shoulders… when they step into the field. Those last lines are my prescriptions for the revival of the Rangers International FC and I’m surrendering all these to you in trust… Whatever happens, I pray a Rangers Archival Centre would be built after we are done with our work…”
Two weeks after Rangers International FC…. History of a People was published, Edwin Boy Eze, the air martial, sports impresario, great sports writer, editor, erudite author, football club secretary, peerless bureaucrat, permanent secretary gave up the ghost.
Edwin Eze’s golden footprints on the sands of time would be etched on the marble of the Rangers Archive Centre and Hall of Fame. Edwin Boy Eze is immortal. He was our last Rangers Trojan scribe. Edwin Eze with his collaboration in the Rangers International FC…. History of a People; Edwin Eze in his hurry to accomplish on earth and bomb the heavens, wrote himself to immortality.