AGONY OF A MOTHER: RASHIDI YEKINI‘S AGED MOTHER REVEALS HIS UNTOLD STORIES...
Posted: May 19, 2012
Mrs. Shakirat Yekini Speaks Exclusively To Complete Sports In Ira, Kwara State
The eight day (Fidau) prayer for the legendary Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini was held last Saturday in Ira, Kwara State as the football fraternity gathered in the fallen soccer star’s hometown to pay their last respect for the legend.
Complete Sports Saturday’s ADEBOYE AMOSU was their LIVE and spoke exclusively with the bereaved mother, Mrs. Shakirat Yekini as well as capture all the details during the ceremony for your delight in this concluding part of our tribute to the 1993 African Footballer Of The Year. Excerpts...
YOUR SON RASHIDI YEKINI IS NOW LATE.CAN YOU TELL US THE STORY OF HIS BIRTH?
My son, Rashidi Adisa Olateju was born in Kaduna State,in the Northern part of Nigeria. His father,Yusuf Atanda Olabioye was a glassblower [someone who works with glass].Rashidi was my second child. His elder brother, Kamor Yekini is late. After Rashidi, I had four other children, two males and two females.
Initially I was staying in the Southern part of the country but when I got married to his father, I had to move to Kaduna. His father travelled a lot because of the nature of his job. Life was good for us back then. Financially my husband was buoyant and we lived a happy life. I was also making good money from my petty trading.
Rashidi later left for Irra to stay with his uncle, Kasali Yekini. While in Irra, he attended the Muslim Community Primary School for three years before returning to Kaduna to link up with the rest of the family. I remember his father always complaining about his interest in football. Then,every parent wanted his child to be educated and my husband was not an exception.
He started showing keen interest in football right from a very tender age. He was rebuked so many times by his father who always wanted him to help out at his shop after returning from school.But instead, he preferred to play football rather than working with his father.
HOW DID YOUR HUSBAND DIE? WERE YOU ABLE TO COPE WITH HIS DEMISE?
I can’t remember the year death took my Atanda [Yekini’s dad] from me. Due to the nature of his job, he always travelled from one part of the country to another. It was during one of such trips that he lost his life along Funtua road. It was a difficult experience for me but my children provided succour for me then.He had a dream of completing his house which he has already started in Irra but death didn’t allow him complete it. It was Rashidi that finally completed the building few years later and then built another one.
You know at times when God takes away something precious from you, he has a means of compensating you back if you are the type that is religious,I mean very close to him. That is what he did with Rashidi. He was the shinning light in our family.
WHAT WAS RASHIDI’S BEST FOOD
Rashidi had undying love for boli and epa [ roasted plantain and groundnut]If you ask his younger siblings, they will tell you more about it. They used to tell me how their brother used to stop by the roadside whenever they are travelling, to buy roasted plantain.
Growing up, he did not joke with beans and bread,that was also his favourite.So,if people say that he used to go around to buy roasted plantain or corn, that was always part of him,not that he was mentally derailed.
A LOT OF PEOPLE REGARD YOUR SON AS BEING GENTLE AND NICE,HOW CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR HIM?
People talk about my son being too reserved and gentle, but he was like that right from his childhood days.He was a very religious and obedient child,calm and easy going.If you are very close to my family, you will understand what I mean. All my children are just like that.
Losing their father was a difficult experience for all of us and I will say the difficulties they all faced really also have to do with the way they see life.I mean my son who was nobody in the past,rose to become a worldwide football star.He believed that no matter what you become in life, it is by the grace of God and not by your own making.He was not one of the most educated people in Nigeria, infact he never went beyond primary school, but he rose to fame through football. That humble background further played a part in how he lived his life.
Maybe that is the reason why people who didn’t know him from his childhood days or who were not close to him,didn’t understand his character. Even twins who are born on the same day, don’t have the same character.I’m his mother and I know my son very well. Even when his father was alive, the only thing that used to cause quarrel between them was football,that was the most important thing for him and nothing more.
WHEN DID HE START SHOWING INTEREST IN BECOMING A FOOTBALLER?
Football was his number one love right from his childhood days. He was so popular back then, even in the village and in Kaduna.His father was an ardent football fan too, but his grouse back then was that Rashidi should get an education first before venturing into the game.
I remember those days when youths in our vicinity used to follow him around because of his footballing prowess.They always wanted to be around him and he loved the attention too.
Football also ensured he lived freely with the Northerners. Although he could speak the language fluently,but I believe they also liked him more because of his footballing prowess,humility and open mindedness.All I had to do then was to encourage him, even though his father and I wanted him to really focus on his education at that time.
I remember there was a time we didn’t see for months because of his involvement in the game. Then he was staying with his hausa friends, and I was in Niger State.I would come down from there with my sisters, who always did the job of calling him out because we didn’t really have access to the house.
Gradually, we started hearing about his exploits on the football field in Kaduna, Ibadan and other parts of the country.
HE WAS DESCRIBED AS A LADIES’ MAN.DID YOU TRY TO KEEP HIM IN CHECK AND ENCOURAGE HIM TO SETTLE DOWN WITH ONE WOMAN?
My son was a polygamist during his life time.Even his father was a polygamist too.Rashidi married two wives and I never had problems with that. I think that is in their blood. He was a muslim and Islam permits that. I know about those traits, not only in him but in his other brothers too.
As a mother, the only thing you can do is to keep advising them because they are adults and you can’t discipline them like when they are still adolescents. Rashidi and his other siblings took after their father and you can see that from his wives. Aren’t they pretty?
WERE YOU IN ANY WAY SURPRISED BY HIS RISE TO FAME AND DID IT AFFECT YOU PERSONALLY?
Rashidi’s rise to fame was not really surprising,I knew my son was destined for greatness. He was very religious and would never use anything fetish. Although I never had the opportunity to see him in action but I regularly got all the good news about his exploits. As a mother,I was happy for my son and his success also rubbed off positively on me.I observed that everywhere I go,people used to point fingers at me saying,Iya Rashidi niyen [ That’s Rashidi’s mother]. It was a wonderful experience for me,when you have a son who is doing well, you have to be proud of him.
Nobody knew the Yekini family before in Nigeria,but our name eventually became popular,even beyond the shores of Nigeria because of him.At that time,I knew I had to be very prayerful to help him in his career. We didn’t really see often because they always travelled from one part of the country to another,that was when he was in the country.
At a time,he travelled out of the country to Abidjan and news also got to me about his performances there.People kept talking about him and I became very well known everywhere I went.
YOU TALK ABOUT HIM BEING NICE AND GENEROUS. WHAT ARE THE THINGS RASHIDI DID FOR YOU IN HIS LIFETIME?
My son was nice to everyone around him, even strangers.The two family houses in this village [Irra] were built by him.The houses have been there right from when we lost his father in the seventies without anybody to complete them but he did so. I remember his father was always travelling to Ira from Kaduna to work on the building before he met his untimely death.God raised him up to help his family members and the community and he did his best before his demise. He not only did that,he also bought a massive house for me in Jagbo, Offa. Ha! omo ni Rashidi.[Rashidi was a great son] He took adequate care of me and my own mother [ his grandmother] who is still alive,we never lacked anything.
We have not disclosed the news of his death to her [ Rashidi’s grandmother] because I don’t think she will be able to cope with it.Everybody loved him so much because of his kindness and gentle nature. Ask people around the village, they will tell you what he used to for them during muslim festivals. He used to buy food, rams, clothes and so many other things.At times he would come around to celebrate with them.
It’s just difficult to believe that Rashidi is gone,I have not been able to sleep well since his demise.Each time I close my eyes,I see him in my dreams.It’s just difficult to think my son is no more, it’s so painful .... .....
HE MUST HAVE MADE SOME PROMISES TO YOU THAT DEATH DID NOT ALLOW HIM FULFIL.CAN YOU LET US KNOW SOME OF THEM?
Death is inevitable for every human being. In my own life time, I have witnessed the death of my husband and my first two sons ,but none compares to the demise of Rashidi.He promised to take good care of me and his grandmother till the end. Even his younger siblings are yet to recover from his shocking death, he was just so nice to all of them.
It would have been better if this death had come to my own mother and myself before him,so that he and his siblings can give us both befitting burials, just as they have promised. Each passing day,I keep remembering some of his words to me, “mama, don’t worry, as far as I am alive,I will make sure you enjoy the beautiful things of life and not suffer again.”
YOU REVEALED THAT YOU USUALLY WATCH HIM ON TELEVISION WHENEVER HE PLAYED FOR NIGERIA.CAN YOU SHARE YOUR CHERISHED MOMENTS WITH NIGERIANS?
I was always happy each time he scored a goal for Nigeria.Anytime my son was in action for the country,I would be on my knees praying to Almighty Allah and seeking his mercies.Often,I will be on my praying mat till the end of the game.It’s always good to see him score important goals and hear positive things about him.
One thing I notice is that football unifies this country.Everybody comes together,whether they are Hausa, Ibo or Yoruba to celebrate the victory. I remember when they won a Cup some years back, we watched the matches on TV, everybody in the country was happy.Then, people came to celebrate with us shouting my son’s name. I was so proud of him, you know, that he had brought joy to the whole country and the family.
Some families are known for evil things but we are so proud that ours was made popular by Rashidi in a positive way.I remember him coming home to visit the family and a large number of people coming around to catch a glimpse of him, that day was truly memorable.
THE STORY OF HIS ILLNESS HAS GENERATED A LOT OF CONTROVERSY.WHAT WAS THE SITUATION OF THINGS BEFORE HIS DEATH?IS IT TRUE THAT HE WAS ABDUCTED FROM HIS HOUSE IN IBADAN?
I was quoted to have said that we -his relatives-have been on his illness for over two years,I never said that.You know news was everywhere that he was not mentally okay, which was not true. His younger siblings paid a visit to him and they discovered that there was nothing wrong with him.
It happened that one of them visited him few weeks back and he complained of having body pains.Later we summoned a family meeting and decided that we should take him to the hospital since he was staying alone.I went to his house with his sister [Rofiat] and he was happy to see us. He entered the car without anybody forcing him.
He was at the hospital for close to two weeks and was already responding to treatment.It’s sad that some people are saying he was forcefully taken away by his family members.I just can’t imagine myself stand there and watch people tie my son’s hands with blood all over him. It’s just unthinkable.
People took his gentle disposition for another thing. He was not mad like they think and we could never wish him evil.If not for his death, those people spreading rumours about his death would not have had the opportunity to do so.
DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS CONCERNING HIS DEATH?
I have so many regrets.All parents pray that their children outlive them but it is sad that Rashidi had to die before me. It’s just difficult to comprehend that I will not be able to see my son again, It’s unbelievable.
I think about all those things he was doing for me when he was alive and I ask myself who is going to be doing them now that he is gone? Rashidi was the joy of the Yekini family, he was our shinning light.It’s just difficult to absorb when you lose a son like that, it’s like losing one’s better half.
Like I said earlier,I still don’t believe he is dead. Since his death,I have been seeing him each time I close my eyes. It’s been very tough for all of us in the family.
FINALLY,HOW BEST DO YOU THINK HE CAN BE IMMORTALIZED?
Rashidi did his best during his time as a footballer to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians and I‘m begging Nigerians not to forget us, his family members. You can see that I am an old woman and my own mother is still alive.I also want to use this opportunity to thank those who have supported us for some days now with money and material things,I pray that Almighty allah will continue to bless them.
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