Hakeem Olajuwon, Chris Adighije: Where are they now?

Over the years, these individuals played active roles in identifying with the Nigerian project, albeit in different capacities and times. Long after their exit, information about them is now sketchy as SUNNY IDACHABA writes.

Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon is a Nigerian-American former professional basketball player that played between 1984 and 2002 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for Houston Rockets and later for Toronto Raptors all in the USA. Due to Olajuwon’s exploits in the game, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2016. Though born in Lagos, he travelled to the US to play for the University of Houston under head coach Guy Lewis after which he was drafted by the Houston Rockets with the first overall selection of the 1984 NBA draft, well-known for its immense talents in the game.

Despite nearly being traded off during a bitter contract dispute before the 1992–93 season, he remained in Houston and became the first non-American to be an NBA All-Star Game winner, the first non-American to win the NBA MVP, the first non-American to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year and in the 1993–94 season, he became the first player in NBA history to win the NBA’s MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards in the same season. Records indicate that he was born to Salim and Abike Olajuwon, two working-class Yoruba parents who were proud owners of a cement business in Lagos.

The third of eight children, he credits his parents for instilling in him and siblings the virtues of hard work and discipline. “They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders and believe in ourselves,” he said. During his youthful age, he was initially a goalkeeper, a talent that gave him the foot-work and agility to balance his size and strength in basketball. Other records have it that Olajuwon never attempted basketball until high school at the age of 15 when he entered a local tournament while at the Muslim Teachers College in Lagos. His beginning was not rosy though but despite early struggles, he soldiered on.

He said, “Basketball is something that is so unique that immediately I picked up the game, you know, I realised that this is life for me. All the other sports just became obsolete.”

Shortly after his retirement, his No 34 jersey was retired by the Rockets. For his NBA career, Olajuwon averaged 21.8 points on 51% shooting, 11.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 3.1 blocks in 1,238 career games. In his college career and early years in NBA, reports had it that he was often undisciplined, talking back at officials, getting in minor fights with other players and amassing technical fouls. He however later took active interest in spirituality and became more devout in Islam. Therefore, on March 9, 1991, he altered his name from Akeem to the more conventional spelling of Hakeem, saying, “I’m not changing the spelling of my name; I’m only correcting it. I studied the Qur’an everyday. At home, at the mosque, I would read it in airplanes, before games and after them. I was soaking up the faith and learning new meanings each time I turned on a page. I didn’t dabble in the faith; I gave myself over to it.”

 Olajuwon, in the course of his career, was recognised as one of the league’s elite centres even while observing Ramadan (abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset during the lunar month of Ramadan on the Islamic calendar), he was playing during the playing season throughout his career. He was often noted as playing better during the month of Ramadan and in 1995, he was named NBA Player of the Month in February, even though Ramadan began on February 1 of that year. Olajuwon has since retired from basketball, but it’s not clear what he is doing presently.

Pius Ikedia

Pius Nelson Ikedia is a former international footballer. Born on July 11 1980, he was known for his dexterity on the round leather game where he played from the wings. Prior to all his international football engagements, he had made his mark on the local scene. For instance, he played for Bendel Insurance of Benin before his international engagements with clubs like Ajax, ASEC Mimosas and others. Alongside the likes of Julius Aghahowa, he was prominent with Bendel Insurance where he had earlier scored several goals.

He had also played professional football in Ivory Coast for a year before he was discovered by Dutch giant Ajax. After three seasons with Ajax, he was loaned out to various Dutch clubs before finally signing a permanent deal with AZ in 2005. In the 2006/2007 season, he was again loaned to RKC Waalwijk.

He returned to RBC Roosendaal where he was originally before he was loaned to Ajax.  Between 2008 and 2010, he once again played for RBC in the Netherlands. After spells in Azerbaijan and Cyprus with AZAL and Mağusa Türk Gücü respectively, Ikedia returned to the Netherlands to play for amateur side OFC Oostzaan.

He finally retired from active football in 2016, but just before he dropped off the round leather game, in a match in August of that year, he represented Lucky Ajax, a team of former Ajax players, against Sportclub Haarlo where he collapsed, but was resuscitated right there on the pitch Later, it was announced that he was recovering in a hospital. From available records, Ikedia played 15 international matches and scored one goal for Nigeria when he debuted in 1997. He also played at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2000 Summer Olympics. Since the news of his retirement hits football fans all over the world and Nigeria in particular, no one has heard anything about him again. 

Chris Adighije

Chris Adighije was a senator under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and represented Abia Central Senatorial Constituency in the National Assembly between 2003 and 2007. He is according to a major newspaper in the country, “Someone who is remembered by political historians as the honest man of the Senate who brought sincerity and truth to the fore in the face of the sophisticated twists and turns of many of his contemporaries at the time of one of the most salacious scandals to have swept through the National Assembly.”

It was his truthful narrative in the bribery scandal involving then Senate president, Adolphus Wabara, that eventually forced Wabara out of the Senate presidency seat. Since Sen Adighije left the upper chamber, every attempt he made to return to the red chamber had proved abortive but report indicated that he found his way into the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission where he heads a unit; that appointment, however, appears to have put a permanent lid on his political career, a position that it’s not clear if he still retains it.

While commenting on this in an interview recently, he said, “Obviously my period At RMAFC greatly reduced my political activities. The responsibilities at RMAFC demanded some degree of neutrality, since we needed to be impartial arbiters at the local, state and federal levels.  I am now in APC because the PDP especially at Abia threw democratic principles overboard. PDP became a one man show where divergent views became treasonable felony.”

He is currently a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) where he hopes to gain more political relevance in the state, but with the strength of the PDP in the state and entire region, that may have put a permanent lid to his political ambition.