From YINKA FABOWALE, Ibadan
•No, his family did – Neighbours •Seek probe of late footballer’s death
The late Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini, may have died as a result of depression arising from loneliness that characterized the latter part of his life.
Mourning fans and sports commentators said the late football star had become too self-withdrawn and cut down on social contacts and interaction that worsened a depression that apparently killed him at a private hospital in Ibadan, Oyo State, early Friday.
They regret that colleagues and the government for which the player sacrificed his life and talent did nothing to save and rehabilitate him from his ordeal.
But Yekini’s neighbours on Oni and Sons Street, off Ring Road, Ibadan, where he lived until Easter Monday, April 9, when his family allegedly came to forcibly take him away, are alleging foul play. They insisted that the late player was hale and hearty until his relations forcibly whisked him away, only to learn of his death on Friday.
Youths in the area, who besieged his compound on 23 Oni and Sons Street, yesterday, demanded a probe of his death. Specifically, they want a post-mortem on the corpse, which was interred at Yekini’s hometown, Ira, in Kwara State yesterday, to determine the actual cause of his death. Sunday Sun learnt in Ibadan, which the late football star made his home for about two decades, that he lived the life of a recluse since about five years ago. He reportedly evicted his tenants in one section of the sprawling property, consisting of three buildings painted in white about two years ago, choosing to live alone without his three wives and children.
He was noticed to have developed queer behavioral patterns, shunning greetings and keeping to himself, which suggested mental illness. It could not be ascertained if he sought medical/clinical help for the condition.
It was also rumoured that the condition was caused by a failed love affair.
Deputy Registrar of The Polytechnic, Ibadan and a fan of the late player, Mr Adewunmi Ogunjimi, told Sunday Sun: “He had a mental problem and it is a shame that the Nigerian society and government left him. Nobody came to his aid. I still saw him about a month ago, roaming the streets near my mechanic workshop along Eleyele Road, near the Railway Junction. That is where his white car was parked. Now that he is dead, people will begin to say name this stadium, name that institution after him. We are just a nation of hypocrites.” Ace sports editor and presenter at Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS) TV and Radio, Mr Fatai Oyedeji, described the late Yekini as a loner.
“He is someone that kept to himself. Even as a footballer, he is somewhat of an introvert and rarely mixed in camp, when training. But, I understand he has had a problem for sometime now that caused him depression. I still ran into him at Chicken Republic about a month ago and I saw him drive himself. He shall surely be missed,” he said.
A mutual friend of Yekini and one of his former team mates, Mutiu Adepoju, told Sunday Sun that he tried to help him and called him several times on phone, but that Yekini would not pick the calls. However, Yekini’s neighbours disagreed that he was mentally unstable. Although they admitted that he kept to himself and sometimes refused to acknowledge greetings, they said he related well.
A youth leader in the community, Kunle Michael, described the late Yekini as “a very healthy and peaceful man. He greeted everybody, although sometimes when you greet him he may not answer you.” Michael said news of the late footballer’s demise was a rude shock, because he was agile and healthy until the last Easter Monday, when his mother and two siblings simply identified as Wasiu and Sekinat in company with two Alfas (marabouts) took him away by force.
“He didn’t want to go with them, so they leg-chained him. He was bleeding. It was obvious he struggled with them. You know he was a tall and heavily built man. He just arrived from Liberty Stadium, where he did his regular work outs, when they came. Apparently they did not know that anybody saw them. He asked us to call the police.”
Speaking on behalf of youths of the area, Michael said government must investigate Yekini’s death as, according to him, the circumstances were mysterious.
“How come he did not die all this while, only to be reported dead after they took him away?” he queried.
Specifically, the youths want to know where the late footballer was before being declared dead in a private hospital.
“We have reason to believe that he was only rushed to the hospital when things got out of hand,” said Michael, saying the date he was brought and admitted at the hospital must be established. Another neighbor, Mr. Yomi Ojo, also dispelled insinuation that Yekini suffered from a mental disorder.
He told Sunday Sun: “This is a man that drove himself about. If he was not well, would he drive? Can a mad man drive himself? If you go into the house now, you will see the peacocks he was rearing as pets. Every morning he fed them, jogged and exercised. Can a mad person have such an organized lifestyle?”
Yet, another fan saw the neighbour’s suspicion as unjustified and far-fetched, saying the relations of the former striker could not have wanted to harm him, but must have tried to help and treat him. Two other neighbours, Mr Temidayo Ajala and Mrs Toyin Michael, described Yekini as a kind-hearted philanthropist, who would be sorely missed.
“He normally stopped by my shop to play with my children, whenever he went out for his morning exercise. But it is the widows he was supporting that will miss him most. He was very generous and helped a lot of people. You may not know, but Alhaji (Yekini) usually gave widows around here money every month and he wouldn’t want you to thank him for it. If you did, he may not talk to you again,” said Mrs. Michael.
When his stock of foodstuff ran out, Yekini, she said, normally went to Alesinloye market with a woman who came from another part of town to assist him to replenish.
When Sunday Sun visited Yekini’s home yesterday, the compound was desolate and overgrown with thicket. Save for the cackling of the peacocks, there was no sign of life in the entire building. The late footballer’s green Toyota Corrolla car, which his neighbours said was the only one he drove himself around in, could not be seen in the garage.
Some youths, however, gathered in front of the house discussing his tragic end. Sunday Sun learnt that Larry Badmus had led a delegation of the Nigerian Footballers Association on a visit earlier in the day.
Yekini, it was gathered, had bought the property, which is near to renowned industrialist, Dr. Lekan Are’s residence, from Chief Bisi Akande, former Chairman, Oyo State Water Corporation, and moved in about 1994.
Commenting on mental disorders, a psychiatrist at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Dr. J.O. Malik, said anyone suffering from the broad range of mild or severe mental illness – depression, anxiety, dementia – required social support, which according to him, should be provided by relations, bosses and colleagues at work place and the community to overcome them. But, more importantly, he said, such patients should urgently be taken to hospital for appropriate treatment.
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