Nick Igbokwe: A great sports icon goes home

The sombre Otolo Nnewi town was woken by a sudden influx of crème la crème of both the academic and the sports community who had to travel from far and wide to honour a man of many parts who incidentally was many things to many people.
Even the harsh February harmattan that was hitting hard at its peak in the eastern Nigeria meant nothing at the face of the task of bidding a befitting farewell to a great academician and sportsman. It was as if in consonance with the great loss, even nature stoop in obescience at Otolo as the clement weather for told.
Thursday, February 6, 2020 will ever remain remarkable as it was the day a great sports administrator and a distinguished lecturer was finally laid to mother earth at his modest home at Otolo Nnewi. St. Claver’s Catholic Church, Akwunweke, Otolo, Nnewi where the burial mass was conducted hosted families, friends, associates and colleagues who defied odds to gather and pay their last respect to a man who in all truism deserved it and more.
Recall that sometimes in December 2019 the media was agog about a lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) that was found dead in his office. That particular incident threw the university community and the sports world into mourning that was precisely December 6, 2019 that the news of his death broke.
The media was a washed with the sudden news and the gossip mill was frenzy with different sides to the reportage of what really happened but Prime Pointers who was present at his burial can authoritatively reveal that the autopsy report on him stated that he died of natural circumstance. As unfortunate as his death is, people are yet to come to terms with it especially his his beloved wife who has remained distraught ever since his death because Nickoto as he is fondly called was full of life and beamed with energy on the day of his demise.
Many that had close encounter with him found it hard to believe that death has snatched Nick because nothing about him betrayed his state of health prior his sudden death.

His wife stated that on the day of his death, he returned home unusually early from his daily routine. After having some rest, he decided to go back to his office to attend to his post graduate students’ work that was begging for his attention but promised to be back home around 8pm. When he did not return as he promised, his wife called him to know his whereabout and he responded that he was still working.
An hour later, she tried to reach him again but the response was still the same and that was their last conversation, so she decided to let him be, assuring herself that her heartthrob will ever return home as soon as he is through at the office despite the lateness.
However, she explained that when it got towards midnight without any news from Nick, out of concern, she decided to go check him out at the office since it was unusual of his routine. On getting to his office, she started by hailing her pet name for him right outside the premise even before seeing him so he could be aware of her presence.
“Obi m o, am here,” she called, as she walked towards the door.
On opening his door, she saw him sit with his face on his table and walked towards him while jokingly querying his being at the office at such late hour but there was no response from him. So she was startled, on touching him, she found her husband still and cold.
Her scream for help alerted people who rushed to the scene but Nick was far gone. It was too late for any help that could make a change.
Born Nickolas Uzochukwu Igbokwe on September 10,1957 in Onitsha to Sir Bertrand and Lady Rose Igbokwe of Otolo, Nnewi. He started his early education St. Mary’s Primary School, Onitsha before proceeding to Government College, Afikpo for his secondary education. It was there hr showcased his both academic and sports prowess that earned him scholarship from the then easter region government.
At the completion of secondary education, due to his academic distinction, he was offered an admission, first to study medicine at the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka and secondly Physical and Health Education at University of Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) but out of passion, he chose sports and went to Ife.
He graduated with a first class degree from OAU and pitched a career in teaching and practicing sports after a job offer from the school. No wonder he excelled in every aspect of sports: first as a practitioner, secondly as a teacher and finally as an administrator.
His life epitomised great sportsmanship in every ramification: vigour and uncommon dedication. Both to God, service to man kind, nation and the school community. Sports was his compelling art and the world was his stage.
Till his death, he was the coach, OAU Hockey team. Hockey a sport he loving settled to play, and nurture after knee injury laid him off football.
He was also the technical coordinator, Nigerian Universities Games Association (NUGA), technical coordinator, West African Games Association, co-founder and technical director, Higher Institutions Football League.

Nick also played key role in the development of several sports especially Hockey, which he brought to heights within the school community and beyond.
He also served in different capacities with Nigeria Olympics Committee, Nigerian Hockey Federation, West African University Games and World Universities Games.
Words cannot adequately capture his piety, nobility, philanthropy and modesty. In a heart broken tribute his father, Sir Igbokwe asked rhetorically, ” how would I feel that instead of you arranging and planning my glorious exit, the river would flow uphill?”
Still heart broken and with the shock of being the one to discover her husband’s lifeless body is too much for her to bear as she could be seen shedding tears all through the burial ceremony.
Every attempt to console her by close family and friends, even her three sons who were seen making frantic efforts in spite of their youth was unsuccessful.
Finally, in an emotion laden farewell message, his son, Nick Junior eulogies the virtues of a man whom he had know to be his father, the man he had groomed them to be, his love for their mother and his unflinching service to humanity.
In all, it was hard to bid Nickoto a deserved farewell but Reverend Father Martin Obiyemi of Catholic Diocese of Oshogbo succinctly captured his life and times in these few lines, Dr Nickolas Igbokwe, a lecturer in the prestigious OAU. A deep rooted catholic, family man to the core and a friend in need and indeed…a businessman who can make a legitimate business from any available resources. A man of many parts who knew the mighty and the lowly and related with them without any discrimination.

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