By Damola Emmanuel
Reports have revealed that at least five Nigerians, including Hon. Cairo Ojougboh, an All Progressives Congress stalwart, died while watching the Super Eagles of Nigeria play South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in the semi-final of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Cote D’Ivoire on Wednesday.
Ojougboh, according to the family, screamed and died as the South Africans earned a penalty after Video Assistant Refere, VAR, disallowed Victor Osimhen’s goal and the North African referee awarded a penalty against Nigeria.
Osimhen’s goal would have sent the South Africans into a deep slumber and out of the competition but for an earlier infringement committed by a Nigerian player.
Although Nigeria went ahead to win the tension-soaked match 4-2 on penalties after more than 120 minutes of play, the victory came with a heavy price as no less than five Nigerians died due to shock and high-wire tension during or after the penalty shootout.
Apart from Dr Cairo Ojougboh, other Nigerians who died as a result of the tension they soaked during the match include: the Deputy Bursar of Kwara State University, Alhaji Ayuba Abdullahi; an Anambra-born businessman based in Cote d’Ivoire, Chief Osondu Nwoye; a sales reprsentatives, one Mikhail Osundiji; and a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, identified simply as Samuel.
The match ended 1-1 after extra time, with both goals coming from penalties during regulation time. The goals came after resilient Super Eagles Captain, William Troost-Ekong, converted his 67-minute kick and Teboho Mokoena equalised from a 90th-minute spot-kick for the South Africans.
The back-breaking equalizer by Mokoena came just after the Super Eagles thought they had scored another goal through a tap-in from the Napoli top striker, Victor Osimhen. But the goal was upturned after the referee checked the VAR for an infringement in the Nigerian penalty box in the build-up to the goal.
The dramatic twist in the tension-soaked match was said to have led to the death of the former member of the House of Representatives representing the Ika Federal Constituency of Delta State,
Ojougboh, according to the Family, reportedly screamed and subsequently slumped as soon as the South Africans scored the equalising penalty kick.
Mr. Sheriff Oborevwori, Governor of Delta State, confirmed Ojougboh’s death in a condolence statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Festus Ahon, on Thursday.
According to Ahon, the governor commiserated with Ojougboh’s family, the Ika nation, Agbor Kingdom, and the APC family over the demise of the renowned politician.
The governor, according to Ahon’s statement, said: “On behalf of the government and people of Delta State, I mourn the passing of an astute and grassroots-oriented politician, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, who passed on Wednesday.
“The news of his death was shocking, given his invaluable contributions to the politics of the state and the country at large. Until his death, he was a renowned chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, in the state.”
Similarly mourning Ojougboh’s sudden death, the President General of the Agbor Community Union, Chief Laurence Onyeche, said the politicican’s demise had created a big vacuum in the Agbor kingdom.
In a statement issued by the union’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Augustine Ekamagule, the President General described Ojougboh as a fearless politician.
“On behalf of the PG and members of Agbor Community Union, where the Ojougboh belong, we sympathize with the family.
“According to our President General of the Agbor Community Union, Chief Laurence Onyeche, Ojougboh died in Abuja while watching the Nigeria vs. South Africa match.
“He said an Ojougboh family member called him around 3 a.m. on Thursday, informing him that Cairo Ojougboh had passed away.
“The family said Ojougboh was watching the match, and immediately South Africa scored the goal, he shouted and slumped.
“All efforts to revive him were not fruitful. It was around 3 a.m. when the family announced his death. Rest in peace, great and fearless politicians of our time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NYSC Coordinator in Adamawa State, Jingi Dennis, said on Thursday that the corps member was confirmed dead at the General Hospital in Numan.
And in faraway Bouaké, the Anambra-born billionaire, Chief Nwoye, himself an avid football lover, reportedly slumped while watching the same match.
The news of his death was made known in a post by a Facebook user, Chukwudi Iwuchukwu, on Thursday.
The Facebook user wrote: “High Chief Osondu Nwoye was the richest Igbo businessman based in Ivory Coast before yesterday (Wednesday), but what the late Anambra-born billionaire did not see coming is that watching his darling Super Eagles play yesterday in Ivory Coast, where he lives and runs his flourishing business, was going to ultimately cost him his life.
“He travelled to Bouaké, the city that hosted the Super Eagles match yesterday, to watch his darling Super Eagles play.
“According to eyewitnesses, the High Chief was on top of the moon, shouting in his voice, when Victor Osimen scored that second goal, which was later cancelled by VAR.
“Maybe the shock of seeing the goal canceled and penalty awarded to South Africa was too much to bear for his fragile heart, which failed immediately, which resulted in the High Chief collapsing inside the stadium.”
The Punch newspaper reported that the deputy bursar of Kwara State University, KWASU, Alhaji bdullahi, reportedly died on Wednesday night while watching the same match. He was buried on Thursday morning according to Islamic rites.
The university’s Director of Information, Dr. Saedat Aliyu, confirmed Abdullahi’s death, describing the late deputy bursar as a “jovial and radiant person” who was always ready to assist other people.
According to her, “There is no dull moment when you’re with Alhaji Ayuba. He’s very jovial and ready to render assistance to anyone who goes to him for such assistance. He came to work on Wednesday and was full of life. He was jovial and radiant at the office.”
In Adamawa State, an NYSC member, identified only as Samuel, who hailed from Kaduna State, was said to have also passed away just before Nigeria’s final penalty kick, which secured the Eagles’ win in the match.