By Iwedi Ojinmah
A man died late on Sunday evening the 18th of March, in a car crash in northern Nigeria. In a country that has approximately 12,000 accidents annually, resulting in almost 6,000 deaths according to the National Bureau of Statistics, this should not be headline news, but another sad inexcusable marker regarding road safety in the country .
However when the man’s name is Chinedu Udoji, the loss, not to negate any other death as less important, becomes monumental and tugs at the heart of the nation collectively because Udoji was not just a professional footballer, son and father, but an ambassador for a modern peaceful Nigeria.
He was also my friend
Born on the 22nd of December 1989, Udoji started his football career in Jos, a city famous for launching that line of business for many great Nigerian players. From there he moved on to play briefly for the Federal Road Safety corps. But it was his arrival in Aba, to join the Peoples’ Elephant in 2009, that brought him to light and started a romance with the fans locally. It would eventually blossom into a full blown love-affair that ended up ensnaring the whole nation.
He was a no-nonsense player with the tenacity of a terrier. Built like a sleek armoured car, he played like a tank sealing off the back line while suffocating the opponents midfield. His tackles were bone crunching and when he was on top of his game and didn’t succumb to moments of mental indiscipline, was an impenetrable wall that opposing strikers simply dreaded.
Last photo: Udoji and his team line up against Enyimba
— Kano Pillars FC (@pillarsfc) February 18, 2018