By Moshood Adebayo
Nothing suggests that the man, whose remains lie below the ground at Olasode Compound, Ijaiye, Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun State, was once a nationally recognized football hero, when he was alive. At least, not with the untidy environment and unkempt tomb which tiles are already peeling off.
Aside from that, the roof over the tomb is dilapidated with the green-white-green paint on the iron barricade around the tomb deeply faded. The iron has rusted and also shaky, suggesting that it can give way any time.
Before The Sun set for him on July 6, 1991, he was a pride to his state and indeed Nigeria, having brought honour, fame and won laurels for his dear fatherland.
But today, at the Olasode Compound, where the remains of his parents were also interned, everything around him suggests negligence and abandonment!
But for his name boldly written on the shed of the tomb, a visitor may pass-by without knowing that the deceased was once a national figure with records of attainments and achievements
Generally, the environment is filthy. Pieces of paper, used water sachets, rags and other waste materials litter the tomb’s environment.
This is what has become the lot of the resting place of the late ex-soccer ambassador and international, Mudasiru Babatunde Agboluaje Lawal.
The tomb is not just an eyesore, but is also begging for attention as it elicits emotion from residents and visitors who usually lament the situation.
Lawal’s tomb is located beside his father to the right and other relations while to his left is that of his mother, Sariatu,whose remains were said to have been exhumed from Akute, Ifo Local Government Area of the state and re-buried beside an uncompleted building which residents claimed belong to the Lawals.
Locating Muda’s resting place is not too difficult, even to a first timer visiting the place. From the popular Kuto Motor Garage, an intracity cab takes one to Ijaiye Oja Ale, from where a short trek takes one down to the compound.
Before he attained national limelight, Muda was a trained automobile mechanic, who played football with the then IICC Football Club of Ibadan, Oyo State at a tender age of 21.
He was also said to have played for the then Stationery Stores FC of Lagos, Abiola Babes FC of Abeokuta and later returned as player/assistant coach to his soccer alma mater, IICC, which was rechristened Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) Football Club.
Sports analysts said even in death, he still held the records of five consecutive appearances at the African Cup of Nations. At a time when participation and selection of players into the national team was based on merit, Lawal was said to be always among the First 11.
Olatunji Ogunwolu, a 24-year-old banker, expressed dismay at the state of the tomb. “For a man, who brought honour to his fatherland, he needs to be remembered and honoured by both the state and federal governments. He has been totally forgotten.
Ogunwolu expressed his pain this way: “Although I have been told by my father and other family members that Muda Lawal once played for Nigeria, I find it very difficult to believe this, even though I have read about his football exploits when he was alive.
“The condition of his tomb and everything about it does not suggest that it was the same much talked-about Muda Lawal that his remains lie there in the Olasode Compound.”
Mr Hezekiah Siluade, who served as a guide to Sunday Sun during the visit also lamented the situation of the tomb.
“When I started living in this area and was shown the tomb, I found it difficult to believe that Muda once played for his fatherland. I imagine what will be the lot of his wife and probably children if his resting place could be like this.”
“I think Lawal deserves more than this, having brought fame and honour to the state and indeed the country. I appeal to government to take over the maintenance of the tomb as well as make it more befitting.” he said.
Sanni Nurudeen, a mechanic near the tomb, who claims responsibility for tidying up the tomb from time to time also lamented what he described as total negligence of the area by Lawal’s family, the state and federal governments.
“His name is larger than what we are seeing through his neglected tomb which can best be described as an eyesore. Before I came here about three years ago, the entire place, including the tomb was covered with weeds
“Unfortunately, it was not only Lawal’s tomb, but that of his late parents and relations who are all buried here. Sometimes, when I look around his tomb, I always think whether it’s worth dying for Nigeria.”
Rotimi Adeosun, who also spoke, appealed to the government to accord Muda due respect even in death.
“As a person, I think Mudashiru deserves more than this”, he said.
A sports enthusiast, Sola Akorede, extolled the virtues of the late star player whom he described as the best mid-fielder in Nigeria’s football history.
“Muda was a great football hero, whose exploits would for long be remembered, particularly as the only African to have played in five consecutive Nations Cup competitions between 1976 and 1984.”
Although the Ogun State Commissioner for Sports and Youths Development, Mr. Afuape Afolabi, could not be reached for comments, an official of the ministry who requested for anonymity recalled that the government in the past had assisted the family.
“I am moved by the picture you painted about the condition of the tomb, but it is more of a family affair than the state government. However, the ministry will visit the place and see how it can give it a face-lift,” he assured.