Death struck the Nigeria football family again yesterday as a Member of the Executive Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation and Chairman of the Nigeria National League, Hon. Chidi Ofo Okenwa, died at 50.
Okenwa was also the Chairman of the Enugu State Football Association.
Okenwa family sources in Enugu told THISDAY that the football technocrat was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before the coronavirus pandemic lockdown but has been managing the situation until it took a different dimension on Monday evening.
According to the Director of Communications at the NFF, Ademola Olajire, “Hon. Okenwa was said to have been restless throughout the night and slumped in the early hours before being rushed to a private hospital in Enugu, where he was confirmed dead on Tuesday morning.”
President of the NFF, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, who was devastated by the sad news of one of his core loyalists on the federation board, paid glowing tributes to Okenwa.
The late Enugu FA Boss was part of a meeting of the NFF Executive Committee held via video conferencing penultimate Friday. It was that same day that Okenwa celebrated his 50th birthday.
“This is a huge shock. Each and everyone of us on the NFF Board is in absolute grief. Chidi (Okenwa) was a loyal soldier of Nigeria football and was a leading member of our intellectual wing. This is a terrible blow.
“He was one man you can always rely on to give candid advice. We bounced ideas off him regularly and picked his brain on many issues because of his wide knowledge and decades of experience in football administration. We will sorely miss him,” Pinnick said.
Similarly, a former FIFA-badged referee, Linus Mba said of the demise of Okenwa: “The news of Chidi’s death came to me this afternoon as a great shock.
“His death is not only a great personal loss but a great link that will be missing in football development in Enugu State and also in the organisational thrust of the NFF.
“We will soon start feeling the impact of the demise of Chidi,” observed the erudite retired arbiter.
Mba prayed to God to find Okenwa a very comfortable place in heaven.
In another condolence message, the Nigerian Referees Association (NRA), also expressed sadness at the death of the NFF board member.
President of the association, Otunba Tade Azeez, described the late Okenwa as friend of Nigerian referees.
“He was one of those who placed a premium for refereeing and never failed to identify with the NRA when necessary.
“Referees in Nigeria will miss the wise counsel of late Chief Okenwa while wishing the family, Enugu FA and members of NFF the fortitude to bear the loss,” concludes a statement signed by Kelechi Mejuobi, National Publicity Secretary of the NRA.
Brilliant, humble, eloquent, witty, thorough and committed to the development of Nigeria Football at all levels, Hon. Okenwa evinced capacity, zeal and fervour, and gave his all for the good ending of any project or assignment in which he found himself.
The remains of the late Chidi Ofo Okenwa has been deposited in a mortuary in Enugu and the NFF said they are in contact with his family with regards to a decision on the date of the final burial rites.