Veterans mourn Okpalaoka, lament neglect of past heroes
A nation that fails to recognise and honour the “labours of her heroes past” stands to lose the vital link to a progressive future.This was the view of Chief Jonathan Ogufere when the Association of Sports Veterans Nigeria (ASVN) paid a condolence visit to the family of the late Amelia Ijeoma Okpalaoka, one of the country’s greatest female athletes and sports administrators.
Leading an array of veterans of note that include Fabio Lanipekun, Chuka Momoh, Prince Isidore Oduah and Police Commissioner Chioma Ajunwa, the association’s president, Ogufere extolled the virtues of the sports amazon, who ruled the tracks and field in the 60s.Ogufere told the son, Chief Azubuike Okpalaoka, that her mother’s diligence and hard work was evident in her role as treasurer of the Association of Sports Veterans.
“…We know what she can do.” As far back as 1965 she won the gold medal in the maiden All Africa Games in Congo Brazzaville; a record that was only broken five years later.
Before then, she was only one of the few girls that Nigeria presented for the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958 and also wore the national colours in the Tokyo Olympics of 1966.”An athlete “all rounder” she was also versatile in javelin, discus and sprints.
A Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), the 76-year old veteran left active sports into mainstream sports administration and retired from the National Sports Commission in 2001 as a chief sports officer.Chief Ogufere wondered why such a sports colossus would “die quietly” without attracting the loud participation of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports.
Responding to the encomiums poured on his mum by the veterans, Chief Okpalaoka thanked them, and promised that the family would uphold the high standard of values his mum stood for.Other veterans in the entourage include Mr. Herbert Omokhaye, General Gregory Adebiyi, General Emmanuel Okaro, Mr. Linus Mba, Mr. Paul Bassey, Mr. Kunle Solaja, Mr. Godwin Enakhena and Barrister Ifeanyi Ezeogba.
In another development, the veterans have expressed sadness over the loss of Mrs. Murna Adebiyi (56), wife of General Gregory Adebiyi, a member of the veterans. Mrs. Adebiyi, who marked her 56 birthday on January 1, died after a brief illness.The veterans pray that the good Lord will grant General Adebiyi the “fortitude to bear the monumental loss…”