From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Through a football tournament, friends, family, workers and well-wishers relieved the sweet memories of the late Olivia Uchechi Ihionu, daughter of Chief/Mrs Sam Ihionu, chairman, Reliable Steel and Plastic Industries Limited, Onitsha, who died in a tragic circumstance at Holy Ghost Adoration Ground, Uke, Anambra State recently.
Olivia, 31, was until her death the chief marketing officer and head of marketing department in her father’s company.
With a masters degrees in Public Administration (MPA) from Newcastle University, UK and Business Administration (MBA) from Sunderland University, UK, she was poised to conquer in all spheres even as she looked forward to her marriage scheduled for December 2017.
Unfortunately, death came knocking on August 15, 2017 when she attended a vigil programme at Uke with some family members.
On her way to ease herself after a downpour, she slipped and fell into the gutter and was carried away by the surging flood.
Her body was later discovered in a nearby community after several hours of exhaustive search, leaving the family members devastated.
Sources told Oriental News that the late Olivia was a cheerful lady who had so many ideas burning in her to execute.
One of such was the initiation of a football tournament/championship for members of staff of their company as part of relaxation and encouragement of team spirit where winners would be rewarded.
She was said to be at the forefront of making the championship a reality before her demise.
Though the parents, members of staff of the company were still mourning her demise, they felt that going by the numerous ideals she stood for when she was alive, the best option though painful was to celebrate her short but eventful life instead of mourning perpetually.
Thus the football tournament in her honour lasted for three weeks as various teams from the company slugged it out for a coveted trophy.
The final match of the tournament played last week at the Metallurgical Training Institute field, Obosi, near Onitsha, was the first major outing for her parents since she was buried in their hometown, Akokwa, Imo State.
During the tournament , eulogies were poured on the departed lady just as the competition stirred the need for inter-factory matches and cross-breeding of talents among companies and their workers in Onitsha.
The football match was a keen contest between Divine Real Madrid team – staff from Marketing and Supply Chain department and Divine Barcelona team – staff from the Blow Moulding department of the company.
Interestingly, the late Olivia’s department, the Divine Real Madrid won the match with a lone goal even when their opponent, the Divine Barcelona team fired shots from all corners with their coach, Kingsley Iheagwaram turning to an emergency prayer warrior, clutching his Rosary, and calling on the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede for their victory, all to no avail.
In a speech presented by Olivia’s mother, Lady Maria Ihionu, managing director of Reliable Steel and Plastic Industries, she appreciated God for His grace upon them, noting that conclusion of the tournament was a dream come through.
She said that she was convinced that Olivia was smiling in heaven by seeing them gather for the final match.
Mrs Ihionu noted that the competition was initially conceived as an event to relax the stress and strain of factory work as the saying goes that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
She noted that the competition was initially termed “Divine Championship,” but the name was later changed to “Divine Olivia Memorial Championship” (DOMC) in honour of the departed director and her daughter, Olivia for her immense contributions to the establishment.
“She had passion for the game and was at the fore-front of making the championship a reality before her demise. We hope to keep this championship as a tradition in her memory. It is our intention to develop talents, give opportunity to our young people and reduce crime among our youths. For I believe that our people can tap from the huge economic potentials of the footballing world when provided with the opportunity,” she said.
While appreciating the Chairman of the company, her husband, Chief Sam Ihionu, chairman, Reliable Steel and Plastic Ltd, for sponsoring the tournament, she said she would be among the happiest in the world if by tomorrow, someone who has worked in the company and from the team would be selected to play for Enyimba FC of Aba, Real Madrid FC, Barcelona FC in Spain and other foreign clubs.
She described the two club finalists as another version of El Clasico.
“I encourage factory owners around Onitsha to emulate this gesture and equally challenge them for inter-factory matches. I’m looking at the possibility of having Onitsha Major Manufacturers League in a few years from now,” she said.
In a chat with Oriental News Chief Ihionu noted that though it’s hard to do, he has accepted his daughter’s death as the perfect will of God, adding that it was just fit and proper to keep her memories alive.
He said that as an industrialist based in Onitsha, he has also seen the grim reality that the task of absorbing the teeming population of many unemployed people in the country today lies in the hands of the private sector people since the government has not shown much zeal in that area.
Ihionu said that the industrialists not only provide direct jobs, but also nurture the potentials of the staff so that they can be groomed for better opportunities.
He expressed optimism that the novelty match which they started in Onitsha would catch the bug among other companies in the commercial city which was the reason he invited other industrialists to join him in witnessing the tournament.
On the challenges faced by industrialists, he regretted that apart from power supply which has become a general sing-song, the government does not finance the right people in business.
He said getting loans from the Federal Government through the Bank of Industry has been very difficult, making them to rely only on commercial banks.
He said they provide virtually everything, including road infrastructure on their own while the government is more interested in collecting taxes as he called for a true commitment and support from the government.
Olivia’s brother and the Company Human Resources Manager, Ben Chux Ihionu in a remark described the tournament as a “good game”.
He said that though they lost someone very dear to them, her spirit lives on in so many positive footprints she left in the sands of time which they would continue to emulate.
Apart from the presentation of trophy and medals, cash prizes were awarded to the winning teams while Okalawa Francis and Bartholomew Okwara were also honoured as highest goal scorer and best player of the tournament respectively.