Gone Forever

Okey Isima
Okey Isima

Okey Isima, former Green Eagles player, and Justice Esiri, a Nollywood actor, succumb to stings of death

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Mar. 4, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

DEATH came striking in a hurry and went away with two eminent Nigerians, Okey Isima, former Green Eagles player and Justice Esiri, veteran Nollywood actor. Isima was the first to go on February 18. The 56-year-old ex-footballer died after a prolonged illness in Abuja. His death has been generating reactions from many Nigerians. The Nigeria Football Federation expressed sadness at the demise of Isima, whom it described as a great footballer.

Emeka Inyama, chairman of the NFF media and publicity committee, said that the death of Isima was a national loss especially the football family in the country. “The news of the departure of Isima, at a time we are still celebrating the Super Eagles’ triumph at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, hit us like a thunderbolt. He was a gentleman on and off the field. We are deeply saddened by his death and we pray that the Almighty God will grant him eternal rest and grant those he has left behind, including the Nigeria football family, the fortitude to bear the loss,” he said.

Justus Esiri
Justus Esiri

Christian Chukwu, captain of the 1980 Eagles, said that the exit of the former teammate was a great loss to Nigerian football. He described him as a true football stakeholder. “In fact, I have not recovered from the shock since I heard the news. It was shocking. I never knew Okey Isima was ill, he sounded healthy to me when we spoke last. We were very close when he was playing for Rangers and also in the national team before he left for Standard FC of Jos,” he said.

Also in his tribute, another member of the 1980 victorious Eagles, Adokiye Amiesimaka, said that Isima’s contribution to his fatherland through football would remain evergreen. “My condolence goes to the family of Okey Isima over the shocking news of the demise of my former teammate in the national team. As a footballer, he served Nigeria very well helping it to win the Afcon for the first time for his country in 1980. May God’s grace and strength abide with his family, relations and close friends,” Amiesimaka said.

Isima was a great Nigerian footballer who made the record of being a member of the 1980 Eagles that won the African Cup of Nations for the first time in the history of Nigeria. He was a member of the Nigerian team to the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow as well as the 1982 African Cup of Nations in Libya. He also played for Rangers international of Enugu and Standard FC of Jos, before travelling to the United States of America where he continued his professional career.

Incidentally, a day after Isima’s death, Esiri exited the world on February 19. Esiri, a veteran actor died in his hometown, Abraka in Delta State, after a brief illness at the age of 71. In a condolence message, Ibinabo Fiberesima, president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria said the industry was shocked with the death of Esiri and will miss his presence forever.

Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta State governor, described the late actor as a legend who brought prestige and honour to the movie industry in Nigeria. “He was not only one of the pioneer actors in the country, the late Esiri also brought uncommon touch and professionalism to his trade. He was renowned and honoured wherever he went. He was a legend,” Uduaghan said.

Esiri attended Urhobo College Effurun in the then Bendel State. He was at the Maximillan University, Munich, German, 1964, Prof. Weners Institute of Engineering, West Berlin, 1967 and the Ahrens School of Performing Arts, 1968. He started his acting career in Germany. He was the only Nigerian male performing on stage between 1968 and 1969. He worked for Voice of Nigeria and German service as a translator. He was performing on stage in Germany when a delegation from Nigeria invited him home to perform in a government-sponsored programme, the “Village Headmaster.” He never returned to Germany.

The veteran actor had won several awards in the industry including THEMA Awards, NTA Honours Awards and AMAA Awards. He was also the star actor in acclaimed productions such as Wasted Years, Forever, The Prize, Six Demons, Corridors of Power, Last Knight, The Tyrant, The investigation, The Ghost. He was also reputed to have performed on more TV Network drama programmes than any Nigerian actor.

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