Nigeria News

NIGERIA: We planned to watch Australian Open together — Ositelu’s daughter

It was hard to believe that the ‘little house’ was the residence of a former Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area. There was no sign of magnificence or grandeur attached to the house — the usual norm of serving and past political office holders in Nigeria.

But a banner placed on the gate of his house on Green Street, Jakande Estate, Isolo, Lagos, by the Arena Group Ejigbo LCDA, doused any such doubts and told the story.

Deacon Ayo Ositelu is no more.

The seasoned sports journalist and former Chairman of Ejigbo LCDA died on Wednesday night in a Surulere hospital after complaining that he was not feeling well. He was aged 70.

“Deacon (Ositelu) bought this house about 15 years ago and this was where he lived since then. That was the kind of man he was. While at home, he wrote his stories under that tree,” a member of the family, who pleaded anonymity said, pointing to a tree inside the compound.

The small compound, which houses a bungalow, barely had space for visitors, who thronged in to express their sympathies to the Ositelus.

If one expected to see a fleet of expensive automobiles packed inside the compound, one was mistaken. The little space was occupied by just two old-looking cars.

“He was not a materialistic person,” our source added.

Inside the moderate sitting room, Ositelu’s wife, Aribike, was sandwiched between sympathisers.

“Other newspapers have written that my husband slumped. I don’t know where they got their story. But I am happy that The Punch wrote the true story,” Aribike said when our correspondent introduced himself.

At the dining table was 17-year-old Eva, Ositelu’s last child. She was being consoled by her cousins.

On the wall was an award given to the late journalist for sporting excellence.

Try as hard as she could, daddy’s pet, Eva, could not hold back her emotions. She would never see the father, who meant the whole world to her, again.

They were almost like inseparable twins. Both had planned to watch the 2013 Australian Open tennis tournament, which begins on Monday, together.

“I was in shock; I didn’t believe it because it was too sudden. I was at home that night when he was taken to the hospital. I just stayed at in the house praying and crying,” Eva said while trying to hold back the tears.

“He was the best father. He used to take me out. He hardly allowed me go out by myself. Sometimes he would cancel his appointments just to take me out to meet my friends.

“I was always at home with him. We did everything together; we watched tennis and music together on TV. When I was younger, he used to take me went out to watch tennis together.

“When the Williams sisters came, I followed him to watch their exhibition match. We used to watch the grand slams and other tennis tournaments together. We even planned to watch the Australian Open together.”

As passionate as he was with tennis, Eva revealed that his father never allowed the game to stop him from spending time always with his family.

“He didn’t allow tennis affect him at home. But since he loved tennis, everybody in the family became interested in the game,” she added.

Eva revealed her desire to fulfill her father’s wish.

“He wanted me to make him proud; I will try my best to do that now that he is gone,” she said.

Ositelu’s successor as Ejigbo LCDA chairman, Kehinde Bamigbetan, also shared his last experience with him, saying he never slumped before being rushed to the hospital.

“It was unbelievable to hear that he (Ositelu) had died. He sent me an SMS that morning around 9.30am. In the evening, I was in Ibadan for an event when my vice chairman sent me an SMS saying he heard that he (Ositelu) had passed on.

“I was surprised. So, I called his wife and she confirmed it. Even at 70, he was quite lively and healthy. By 7.30pm on Wednesday, his wife told me that he watched a TV programme, Tinsel, together with his family.

“Then he said he was tired and was taken to hospital where he passed on. I spoke with his wife and there was no incidence of him slumping before he was taken to Topaz Clinic and Hospital in Surulere.”

In Nigerian politics, predecessors and successors often times engage themselves in power tussles.

But Bamigbetan said that he never had any clash with the late journalist even for once. Rather, Ositelu’s experience became handy immediately he handed over power to the much younger Bamigbetan.

He said, “When I became chairman, I came here (Ositelu’s house) and we sat for hours. He told me about his own experience as chairman and that helped me immensely in running the council.

“From that point, we had an excellent relationship; our government was continuity. We will surely miss him”

Truly, Ositelu, nicknamed Arena, the name of his newspaper column, will surely be missed not just by his family but in the sports and political terrain, where he left his foot paths on the sands of time.

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