Former soccer star and Nigeria's most successful coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, died on Tuesday in Benin City, the Edo State capital, at 11.45 p.m. of yet unknown case. He was 54. The late former Super Eagles chief coach’s brother in-law spoke yesterday of his last moments. Ricky Aburime told The Nation that the late Keshi complained about his leg.
He said: “You won’t believe it that Keshi passed on in just 15 minutes,” he said, adding: “I got a call saying that Keshi had complained about his leg which I think they helped to massage. Then he told those with him that he was feeling funny. He asked that he should be taken to the hospital.”
Fighting back tears as he spoke on the telephone from Benin City, Aburime, who was at the Faith Mediflex Centre, a hospital on Airport Road, where Keshi was pronounced dead, said he was woken up from his sleep and asked to rush down to Keshi’s house – a few minutes away. “When I got the distress call, I told my wife that I needed to go and find out what the problem was. He was massaged, only for him to complain again. By this time he was gasping for breath.
When the doctor arrived at the hospital, he confirmed Keshi dead like the nurse said when she checked his pulse. The nurse said he had no pulse. It was about 11. 57pm. In fact, from the way the doctors spoke, there was nothing that they could do,” Aburime, adding: “I got inside where he was being treated. I found Keshi lying down, dead. I was the one who put him in the morgue. We have informed the police to incident the matter, considering Keshi’s status.
‘I’m here with the Edo State Football Association (EDFA) Chairman, Frank Ilaboya. We are waiting for the police pathologist, Wilson Akiru, to perform the autopsy. I don’t know what is happening to my family. Only in January, we laid my sister Kate, Keshi’s wife, to rest. Now this shocking death,” Aburime said before handing over the telephone to Ilaboya.
When The Nation asked Ilaboya if he had seen Keshi’s remains, he said: “My brother, I’m standing before Keshi’s body. It is true that he is dead. In fact, I’m looking at a lifeless Keshi, lying on the tray, still looking handsome. It is as if he is sleeping. The difference is that he cannot communicate with us. Otherwise, I could have handed over the phone to him.”
“I’m still in shock. We will leave here for the stadium, where we will open two condolence registers at the boardroom and the Football office for sympathisers. We will open another register or two at Keshi’s residence,” Ilaboya said.
Keshi’s body was yesterday moved to the Stella Obasanjo Hospital morgue in Benin City. Aburime said the autopsy will not be done until the coach’s first daughter arrives from the United States. She insisted that she must be present at the autopsy. The daughter is expected in Nigeria at the weekend. “We need to respect her decision,” Aburime said.