Sport Recorder

Soludo, Don’t Let Abana Die!

Sports Recorder
January 17, 2023
By Emeka OBASI

Economists deserve special attention for you do not know how to place them. They propound theories which do not solve problems most of the time. Human wants are insatiable is the cover that guarantees Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and his men peace.

Kenneth Abana is not abstract Economics. He is living next door to the Anambra State governor. If you understand what Enugu Rangers represent in Igbo land, you must put a call across to the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor immediately.

Abana is a pioneer member of Enugu Rangers. Infact he was the youngest when Chief Jerry Enyeazu, supported by Chief A.W. Ibe and Ajie Ukpabi Asika, founded the all conquering football club in 1970.

They called the Inside Right ‘ Magician’. And he was indeed exceptional. The records recognise him as the star who scored the Flying Antelopes first international goal. It was in 1971 against Secteur Six, a military side from Niger Republic.

The Magic has not left Abana completely. What has departed from him is that right leg that did incredible things in the field of play. On November 16, 2022, he became an amputee. You can imagine losing your leg at 73 years.

When I say Abana is Special, I can bet my last kobo. In 1993,as Executive Editor of Sportstar, a weekly newspaper, I captioned a photograph, The Original Rangers. The picture was graciously handed over to me by Mighty Jets legend, Olayiwola Olagbemiro.

I got a letter from Abana who corrected me that the photo was that of Enugu Black Rocks, an amalgam of all teams in Enugu and was a little older than Enugu Rangers. He then went ahead to list the pioneers of Rangers.

The list had names like Godwin Achebe, Johnny Wheeler Nwosu, Mathias Obianika, Godwin Adimachukwu, Luke Okpala, Chukwuma Igweonu and Cyril Okosieme. There were Dominic Nwobodo, Sam Nwachukwu, Nwabueze Nwankwo and Peter Okeke.

Also included were Teddy Aniputa, Ernest Ufele, Emma Ojirika, Shedrach Ajaero, Sam Okoh, Godwin Nwosa, Patrick Ozuah, Ray Ohaeri, Emmanuel Okala and Abana. It was the first time I would see some of the names who began the journey.

Abana went ahead to attach nicknames. I knew Nwobodo as Alhaji, Igweonu as ‘ It’s a Goal’ and Okpala as Jazz Bukana. I never knew Obianika was Wonderboy. Abana tagged Adimachukwu, Alan Ball. Aniputa was also known as Aji Obi. Okeke became General Gason. Nwachukwu’s was Onyembi.

I loved the name General Gason. All the players were fresh from the Civil War and battle tested. Nwobodo was a Biafran Commando and lost his elder brother, Chris in battle. Achebe retired to the School of Infantry much later.

Enyeazu was a Major. That also was coach Dan Anyiam’s rank. The name Rangers had to do with strategy which was applied by the Biafrans. When General Gowon queried Enyeazu, the latter said he copied it from Glasgow Rangers.

Soludo knows the Rangers story so well. Unfortunately, some of the veterans are not happy with him. It appears the governor is playing politics with the Flying Antelopes. Abana looked up to the professor, tears flowed down his face.

When Peter Obi was governor of Anambra State, he recognised Rangers Veterans. Every month, the government set aside some money for ex- players welfare. It went a long way and they looked forward to payment regularly.

Willie Obiano succeeded Obi and did not abandon the Welfare package. Today,it is a different story under Soludo. He stopped the payment and has given no reasons for such act. Abana cried all through the amputation because he bore the responsibility.

Soludo may have his reasons but the Veteran Flying Antelopes were not paid millions. You know Obi does not give shishi so the Anambra treasury could not have been drained. I do not want to believe that Mr. Governor is planning to convert the Rangers handout to Treasury Bills.

How can Anambra abandon Abana? It is possible they want him to trek from Agukwu Nri to Isuofia for due attention. Abana who scored a goal in Accra against Great Olympics and again in Lagos against the same team in 1975.

And Abana played all those matches with injury. He continued until 1976 against Express of Uganda. Magician turned to coaching, doing fine with Premier Breweries, Onitsha, formerly Morning Star. In 1989, pains stopped him.

When Bulldozer Nwankwo passed on last year, Abana was the knowledge bank who supplied the names of the living Rangers legends. He was in touch all through with Life Patron, Rangers Veterans, Chief Benson Ejindu. I was also communicating with Ezeomeogo same time and remember Abana complaining that sleepless nights had become second nature.

From St. Murumba College on the Jos Plateau, Abana also trained as a teacher at Amansea. Now the man is at sea, sending distress messages to Soludo. Only that solution may be economical. Let us wait for the news to bypass the Niger Bridge and other Igbo Speaking environment.

****@Saturday VANGUARD.

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