L-R Udo-Obong, Monye, Awazie, Bada's widow, Sumbo, Chukwu and Gadzama
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
While alive, Sunday Bada loved the Nigeria Police Force with a passion. Everywhere he was, Bada was quick to let everyone know that he was a police officer who loved his job.
As a celebrated sports personality, Bada and Atlanta Olympic long jump gold medallist, Chioma Ajunwa, were the face of the police. The two of them were inspirations to other police sports men and women.
At 6ft plus, Bada’s image in his police uniform, made the mobile unit of the force very enticing. He was a gentleman and an officer.
But on December 12, 2011, death snatched him away at just 42 years while still in service. Cardiac related problems ended his dream of making it to his retirement from the police. While the sports world was deep in shock, including the world athletics body, IAAF, sending condolences to its Nigerian affiliate, police authorities promised to do everything to keep his memory alive.
Members of his immediate family, his wife (Sumbo) and two sons (Tobi, Timilehin) and daughter (Teniola) took solace in what the police promised to do for their departed bread winner.
However, one year and eight months gone bye, the Badas are yet to hear from the police. Neither his entitlements nor his pensions, (if any), have been paid.
Bada’s widow was even asked to pay back N120, 000 to the police treasury as over payment on her late husband’s last salary paid to his account before anything can be done to compute his entitlements. Sumbo complied immediately. Since then, it has been one story or the other.
Determined not to allow the death of her husband truncate her children’s education, Sumbo who runs a boutique on Toyin Street in Ikeja and also into telecommunications and building, had to relocate to Dublin, Ireland for greener pastures.
Bada’s teammates who were to have been honoured last Wednesday by President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, 13 years after doing Nigeria proud, winning the Sydney Olympic gold medal (following the disqualification of Team USA quartet), were all shocked to hear Sumbo’s story.
While waiting for the vehicle to take her and the ex athletes namely, Enefiok Udo-Obong, Jude Monye, Clement Chukwu, Nduka Awazie and Fidelis Gadzama to the Villa for the Presidential reception, Sumbo revealed to THISDAY what she has been going through with the police.
“We are yet to get my husband’s benefits since he died in December 2011. When I didn’t hear from those in charge of the matter, after I was made to pay back N120,000 to the police as over-payment on his last salary, it has been a case of come today, come tomorrow,” observed the fair-complexioned mother of three.
She admitted taking the matter to the Inspector General of Police, M.D. Abubakar.
“The IG promised to help when I when to see him in UK. He even gave the family his personal money for which we were very grateful to him.”
But the usual bottlenecks in government departments have made the payment very difficult.
“Since returning to Nigeria in March, I have gone to see the IG on a couple of times in his office in Abuja without any tangible result. I even begged to be assisted to get jobs to do since the benefits are not ready but nothing concrete has come out of it.”
Sumbo dismissed speculations that the family has been getting any kind of support from anywhere since Bada’s demise.
“Those who know me know that I am not that kind of a woman that will sit idle and be expecting help. Because I know that my children’s school fees bill runs into around N1m every term, I do all I can to keep them in school. I am only disappointed that those my husband used all his efforts to serve diligently can turn back to be handling issue of his benefits this way.
“We only got N200,000 from the police for his burial expenses in his village in Ogidi, Kogi State. The National Sports Commission also gave us N500,000 for the burial expenses that was all. I was surprised to hear that I got N3m for my husband’s burial. From whom?” queried the widow.
She however admitted that she made attempt to see Gov. Babatunde Raji Fashola after extracting a promise to assist the family but did not succeed in doing that.
Bada’s colleague in the Sydney 2000 4x400m relay team, Jude Monye, who resides in the United States of America, was shocked to learn of Sumbo’ s predicament.
“What kind of country are we living in?” queried the Olympic gold medallist as he could not comprehend why there was delay in paying Bada’s benefits.
“This kind of thing does not happen in civilized world. How can a man who served this country diligently in both sports and police be given this kind of treatment in death? This is certainly not how to make people want to die for this nation,” observed the former athlete.
Udo-Obong, who anchored the 4x400m team to the gold, was equally sad that this kind of treatment is been given to Bada post-humously.
“Those of us who were Bada’s friend and teammates can testify that he loved the police job. He was at every moment telling us that the police have been good to his career. That was why at any formal occasion, Bada was always in well ironed police uniforms. So why treat a man who was always projecting the good image of force with this kind of levity now that he is dead and gone. This is not acceptable at all.”
As the athletes are meeting President Jonathan next week Wednesday, one thing that will be on the minds of the Sydney Olympic gold medallists is how to let him know that one of them who brought this honour to Nigeria is been given the treatment not befitting a national hero.
Bada was a Nigerian sprinter who specialized in the 400 metres event. He won three medals at the World Indoor Championships, including a gold medal in 1997. His personal best time was 44.63 seconds, and with 45.51 seconds indoor he holds the African indoor record. He set a national record in the 4 x 400 metres relay at the 2000 Olympics, where the Nigerian team also won gold medals after the disqualification of the USA.
Between 1990 and 1997, Bada was the national champion in 400m and returned to claim it in 2001. Since retiring from active athletics, he served severally on the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) board. He was the technical director of the AFN up till when he passed on two years ago. As a police officer, he held several positions including serving as the commander of the Border Patrol unit. His last posting was at the Special Fraud Unit on Milverton Road in Ikoyi before his untimely death.
In his reaction, Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, however insisted that he was not aware that Bada’s benefits have not been paid. He stressed that he would not want to drag Bada’s name into controversies, insisting that his wife knew of one or two reactions from Bada’s extended family.
“As much as I do not have the exact details of the matter, I do know that if certain details of personnel were not updated before death occurs, it can lead to situations where benefits are delayed. For instance, if a man joins the force as a bachelor and fill his brother or mother as a next of kin and did not make any attempt to update the information in his file, if death occurs unexpectedly, it becomes an issue for the immediately family because the officers in-charge of paying such benefits will not want to run into any problem, paying to the wrong person. I am not saying such is the case of Bada,” observed the police spokesman.
Mba further said that Bada’s wife should make attempt to find out while there is a delay.
“Bada was a well loved officer in the force. Anybody will be willing to assist his family. His wife should find out the reason why there is a delay. Again, if it is the group benefit that involves all civil servants, it may take time as it is done in batches. You cannot have previous batches waiting to be paid then you expect the queue to be jumped to pay recent cases,” Mba further clarified on the matter.