No fewer than five Nigerians reportedly died while watching the penalty shoot-outs between Nigeria’s Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana of South Africa during the semifinal match at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Bouaké, on Wednesday.
Those who died included a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Cairo Ojougboh; the Kwara State University Deputy Bursar, Alhaji Ayuba Abdullahi; a sales reprsentatives, Mikhail Osundiji; a serving National Youth Service Corps member, identified simply as Samuel and an Anambra-born businessman based in Cote d’Ivoire, Osondu Nwoye,
The match ended 1-1 after extra time, with both goals coming from penalties at regular time. 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 Mokoena equaliser came just after the Super Eagles thought they had scored another goal through a tap-in from Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, which was upturned after the referee checked the Video Assistant Referee 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, who reportedly screamed and subsequently slumped as soon as the South Africans scored the equalising penalty kick.
The Governor of Delta State, Sheriff Oborevwori, confirmed Ojougboh’s death in a condolence statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Festus Ahon, on Thursday.
Ahon said 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 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 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.”
The President General of the Agbor Community Union, Chief Laurence Onyeche, said Ojougboh’s death had created a big vacuum in the Agbor kingdom.
In a statement issued by the Publicity Secretary of the Union, Mr. Augustine Ekamagule, the PG 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.
Similarly, the deputy bursar of KWASU, Abdullahi, was said to have died on Wednesday night while watching the same match.
learnt 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.
The NYSC Coordinator in Adamawa State, Jingi Dennis, said on Thursday that the corps member was confirmed dead at the General Hospital in Numan.
In 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.
He 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.
“All the frenetic efforts to revive him failed, as he was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“While the whole country was rejoicing yesterday, the people of the Amanuike community in Anambra State, where he came from, were mourning.
“They just lost an illustrious person, the richest man in the community, who was an iroko who provided shelter, shade, and succor to many in that community,” Iwuchukwu partly wrote on his Facebook timeline on Thursday.
Forty three-year-old Osundiji reportedly slumped as aresult of a suspected shock after the centre referee nullified Nigeria’s second goal scored by Osimhen.
Meanwhile, some medical experts on Thursday advised Nigerians, especially sports lovers, to stay away from highly staked emotional matches that might put them in dangerous health conditions.
The experts’ warming came while reacting to the reports of the deaths of the four Nigerians in a telephone interview with correspondents.
The Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Prof Adetokunbo Fabamwo, said people with pre-existing health conditions should avoid getting emotional about the outcome of a match.
Fabamwo said, “To start with, I don’t know what caused the deaths of these three Nigerians, but to me, it looks as if you’re keen to associate it with the excitement of the football match. This is a possibility, but we must not take our eyes off other possibilities. My advice is that people should not get unduly excited, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions.
“Some people are living on inadequately treated high blood pressure, or what we call uncontrolled high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a disease that may be silent in the body, and you don’t even know that you have it until somebody bothers to check and see that your blood pressure is in the sky.
“So people like that, if they get overexcited,may have a massive cerebrovascular accident, which may lead to death. It’s essentially that people, especially when they are watching epic matches, should not get overly excited. Everybody should be calm.”
Speaking on the need for Nigerians to embrace the spirit of sportsmanship, a sports manager and director of sports at the Federal University of Education, Osiele, Abeokuta, Dr. Balogun Adebayo, urged sports supporters to expunge the win-at-all-cost mentality.
He said, “You will be in that situation when you have the mentality that you must win at all costs. Nigerians should try to imbibe this spirit of sportsmanship. In sports, you win some and you lose some.
“All the teams that went to the AFCON had prepared for the competition. Once matches get to that stage, you should be ready for the result to go either way. must-not-lose mentality could be a major factor in what led to their death. Nigerians should not put themselves under unnecessary pressure.”
A medical officer, Dr. Oluwatuyo Olasubomi, urged Nigerians to know their health before subjecting themselves to situations that might affect their emotional balance and state of mind.
Olasubomi said, “Having a good understanding of your state of health is very important before you get involved in anything that can tilt your emotional balance or tilt your state of mind at any point in time. So, at any point in time, whether you want to watch a football match or do something that involves emotional instability, Nigerians should be careful not to get overly excited.
“One funny thing about Nigerians is that you know you are maybe hypertensive and you’re undergoing medications for something; you shouldn’t let the result of the football match be a main deciding factor. At that moment, you should decide that the outcome of the match should not affect your well-being.”
In 2013, another tension-soaked quarter-final AFCON match between the Super Eagles and the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire reportedly led to the death of an Abeokuta football fan, Moshood Owolabi.
The 40-year-old fan reportedly slumped as he watched the match with other spectators at the Promise Viewing Centre in the Oke-Sokori area of the town.
The victim was believed to be an engineer with the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, and the Federal Ministry of Works in Abeokuta.
The Super Eagles coached by the Stephen Keshi went on to win the tournament.