Celebrities, bad time and the pity party rhetoric, By Abiodun Ishola Ladepo

I know this may sound cruel or insensitive but I don’t believe it is.

Whenever I see or hear pitiful stories about a former Nigerian sports, music or acting superstar who is now languishing in penury and someone is trying to raise donations for them, I ignore it.

I resent the brazen emotional blackmail.

“Oh! He made Nigeria proud at the Olympics and now he can’t pay his rent.”

“Ah! He was the best pop musician Nigeria ever had and now he can’t pay his children’s school fees.”

“Ugh! She made Nigerians laugh as a comedian and now she can’t afford a bicycle.”

Give me a break!

Did you see some of these people when they were at the peak of their careers and fame…the kinds of obscenely insane lifestyles they lived?

My pity eye broke (oju aanu mi fo) in the mid-80s when I was a sportswriter in Nigeria.

Coman see Etim Esin (i know most of you don’t remember him)…young…very young…probably in his late-teens (he was in the Flying Eagles then, supposedly U-21) when he suddenly shot into stardom.

Paapaapaa, he bought himself a sleek Peugeot 505…better than the ones Henry Nwosu and Peter Rufai (remember them?) were driving. And he hired a chauffeur. He also hired at least one bodyguard. Each time you saw him off the field, there were at least four people around him tending to his needs.

Under-21 fa!

Etim was the life-of-the-party at some of the most expensive nightclubs in Lagos at the time. There was this particular club at Apongbon then. Etim would come in with a retinue of hangers-on and fete everyone present in the club to their satisfaction.

I was 24/25 myself at the time. But I interacted with many football stars. I was a regular at their Games Village camp off Adeniran Ogunsanya in Lagos.

I knew that many footballers had other professions.

Although Segun Odegbami and Adokie Amaesimaka were at or near the end of their playing careers when I covered sports for a living, they were engineer and lawyer respectively. You never saw them spending like spendthrifts.

I forgot Ademola Adesina’s trade…mechanic or carpentry…but he was building a house in Osogbo, his hometown, with all the money he was making. You never saw him throw money around.

Alloysius Atuegbu, Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala all already built houses in their respective villages. They never threw money around.

I believe Sunday Eboigbe and Bright Omokaro were said to have owned shops at Alaba market or something. They never threw money around.

Folorunsho Okenla, Felix Owolabi and Waidi Ekun (table tennis) were getting tertiary education as they excelled in their respective sports.

I asked Etim one day why he was blowing so much money and he told me: I be millionaire.

A Naira millionaire in the mid-80s was a huge deal. My salary, as a graduate, working for the preeminent…the flagship newspaper in the country…The Guardian, was a whopping N500 per month!

No, I didn’t miss a zero or two…N500 (as in FIVE HUNDRED) per month.

Who was I then to be questioning a millionaire about how he spent his money? Although, I knew Etim was screwing his own thigh (o n do ara e ni itan ni).

Few weeks after we had that conversation, Etim was shot IN THE THIGH one early morning as he was returning from a club. It was a robbery attempt or something. Although he survived it and still played football, it marked the beginning of the end of his career. He went to Europe and quickly fizzled out.

This post is not a dig at Etim per se. There are many superstars out there even today who are doing the same thing.

You see, the retirement age for a footballer who has not been shot in the leg is around 30. A 30-year-old footballer is like a 60-year-old civil servant or CEO of a company. What they have in abundance is experience…or skill. The stamina is no more what it used to be. While a CEO or Perm Sec can continue to perform excellently past 60, a footballer must be one of the very best in the world to still be competitive or relevant past 30.

Other sports, especially tracks, have even lower thresholds for performance as you age.

Music stars are also notorious for wasting their earnings in their primes…a bad thing to do especially in Nigeria where bootlegging and piracy eat away at their royalties.

They fly business class, paying as much as $6000 for a seat when they can pay $1000 in coach. They stay at $2000 per night hotel room when they can stay at a $500 per night room. And they rent chauffeur-driven limousines for $4000 per day when they can ride Uber for $300 per day. (Emi paapaa mo pe mi o serious at all.)

Some of them are one-album or two-album wonders and they go into oblivion. Few have the tenacity and inventive capabilities that have sustained KSA and Obey.

So, I look at all the GoFundMe requests and I ask myself: Didn’t Nigeria reward you when you flew her flag at the time you flew her flag? Didn’t your club pay you your salary when you played for it? What did you do with the money you earned? When you retired from sports, why didn’t you go to school or learn a trade?

Like I said at the beginning, it may sound cruel or insensitive but there are many other professionals…farmers, laborers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police officers, soldiers, politicians…even SOME🤣 civil servants…who served Nigeria well and quietly and who need post-retirement assistance. Nobody sees them. Nobody cares for them because they didn’t serve in public glare.

So, for me o, if you are a young person in a public school or you are learning a trade and all of a sudden your parent or guardian dies, I see you as someone truly in critical need and deserving of help. Not one yeye former superstar who blew his earnings on the good life.

Ko je bo se je.


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