Odegbami: Rashidi Yekini Speaks From Beyond

I had an unusual conversation with Rashidi Yekini
last Wednesday in my office in Yaba, Lagos. Of course,
everyone knows that the greatest goal scorer in the
history of Nigerian football rests in peace with his Creator.
So, the circumstances of our conversation were as strange
as they were fascinating.
Thinking back now, I can see very clearly the conspiracy
of the elements to make the meeting take place; that the
circumstances of the conversation were not accidental;
and that the events leading to them could only have been
a well scripted divine arrangement.
Last Wednesday I was ‘dragged’ into my dilapidated
audio/visual studios in Yaba. The place was littered with
obsolete and broken-down video machines and cassettes
in various stages of decay and in every conceivable old
format.
Kunle Oladeinde, my cameraman, partner and friend had
brought an old retired engineer he met recently but had
known from the past and had lost contact with for many
years, to the office to have a look at the ‘dead’ machines
and equipment the engineer had assured him he could
bring back to life.
Kunle and I had spent the better part of the last seven
or more years searching the world, without much success
via the internet, for spare parts, or even old machines we
could scavenge and use their working parts to fix ours
as a last ditch effort to save and digitize my mountain of
archival materials, my life’s work in pictures, that were
slowly but steadily wasting away in my library with every
passing day!
Some years ago, we found very temporary respite when
we located the only two working High-band, PAL machines
in the world in the garage of a retired engineer in Pakistan.
We bought them and brought them to our Lagos studios.
One machine never worked. The other one only worked
for a few weeks and broke down.
Since then I have lived in a limbo of helplessness, not
knowing what to do with my treasure trove of archival
materials chronicling the history of Nigeria and Nigerians
in various sectors, but mostly sports, through almost two
decades, from the mid 1970s to the mid-1990s!
I have been on a forced sabbatical for almost two decades since then, mostly out of frustration unable
to keep pace with changing technology in equipment,
facilities and personnel!
Despite not doing much since then that line of
work has remained my greatest passion!
Last week, my stay in ‘purgatory’ ended.
Let me cut a long story short.
That ‘old’ engineer that Kunle brought to my office,
who incidentally comes from my village of Wasimi
(how could this be coincidence?) has become the
‘hand of God’ in bringing back to life ‘dead and dry
bones’.
In six days the ‘magician’ has revived three of the
obsolete machines in my studio, and is in the process
of fixing all the other ‘dead’ gadgets that are needed
to do any meaningful production.
This last Wednesday, he walked into my office and
invited me to come and take a look at what he had
done so far.
That’s how I followed him into the studio littered
with the carcass of machines, nuts, bolts, cables and
wires, and encountered Rashidi Yekini.
He was right there in front of me, with a smile on his
face, looking fresh and very young, staring straight at
me and talking.
His voice was unmistakable, a rambling staccato of
very fluid but good English. It would surprise many that
even without formal education beyond elementary school,
Rashidi could still communicate flawlessly in English
disregarding his occasional mix up of tenses (who does
not have that flaw amongst us?).
I was forced to sit down as his monologue progressed.
It was like he had been waiting for me to come into the
room. For right there and then, he said, ‘…but Big Seg, you
brought me to Shooting Stars’.
It was uncanny.
I was peering at the TV screen in front of me in utter
disbelief. For the next 25 minutes or so, I sat transfixed
in front of one of the
‘dead’ monitors now showing pictures from one of the
revived aged Hi-8 machines that had not worked for over 8 years. It was now working and showing crystal clear
pictures of one of the greatest African footballers in a
direct conversation with me.
Until that day, I did not recall that those pictures existed.
Yes, I had recorded them 25 years ago, but I could not recall
ever reviewing them.
Rashidi was looking fresh, radiant, young and very
handsome. He was relaxed, calm and very contented with
life. I sat down and watched and listened to him tell his own
story. When the cassette came to an end, I sat mesmerised
by it all. I looked at the time counter on the machine. It
read 25 minutes.
Impossible. In all the years that I knew and interacted
closely with Rashidi Yekini, if you added up all the
interviews he ever granted, their total duration may not
add up to 25 minutes! The media was his worst ‘enemy’.
He ran from interviews like a plague. He simply did not
grant them easily.
So, here I was sitting down and watching 25 minutes of
the best interview Rashidi Yekini ever granted in his life.
He spoke from the heart and uninterrupted.
I knew I was a part of the conversation only because in
the course of his monologue he referred to me and looked
in my direction. But my face never appeared, not even
once. The few times I asked him a leading question, even
my voice was slightly muted.
It was a strange interview. Stranger still because I hardly
remember it and may never have used it previously on a
television program.
It was like the interview was conducted and was waiting
for the right time to be played back!
That time has come.
I arrived home that evening still in thought.
At home, as I sat and picked up my phone to browse
through as I usually do, I chose to visit my Facebook page
first to find out the latest interesting postings.
The first picture that stared straight at me was that of
Rashidi Yekini.
This was now more than a coincidence.
Someone had posted his pictures – that of his unkempt
graveside, and his most popular goal scored during the
USA ’94 World Cup! The author was lamenting the neglect
of Rashidi after his death, and that something should be
done to always remember him.
Things were falling into place in my mind. Rashidi was
communicating somehow!
The engineer working on my machines had randomly
picked the one cassette from a collection of hundreds of
unlabeled cassettes. It turned out to be Rashidi’s. Now
this.
My belief?
Rashidi was reaching out to me as the custodian of
his story. He trusted me whilst he was alive. He wants to
communicate with his fans again. He wants his place in
the history of Nigerian football not to be forgotten as has
happened with a lot of footballers and other sportsmen
and women. I immediately knew what to do.The elements
were leading me. They have provided me with the tools
and the platforms to do what Rashidi Yekini wants me to
do for him.
That’s what I will do this next week starting with The
Sports Parliament, the weekly Thursday Night (with
repeats on Friday mornings) LIVE television program on
NTA that I present.
I have secured the permission of the management of the
station as well as the consent of my fellow parliamentarians
to create the space in the program to accommodate the
entire 25 minutes’ conversation I had with Rashidi Yekini,
the King of goals, 25 years ago.
I am also going to work with young people that
understand social media to expand the showing on other
platforms to the rest of the world.