Coach Toblow sacrificed so much for Nigerian athletics, says U.S.-based Okorie
– Urges Buhari, South East governors to immortalise him
United States-based Nigerian former athlete, Victor Okorie, is sad over the death of his former coach, Tobias Igwe also known as Toblow.
Okorie was one of the most gifted hurdlers that rose from the school sports system to rule the National Sports Festival winning back to back in the 400m hurdles at Imo ‘98 and Bauchi ‘2000. He was one of the athletes produced by Toblow during the golden era of Nigerian athletics. The coach died last month.
Speaking with The Guardian from his United States base, Victor Okorie, who won a silver medal for Team Nigeria at COJA 2003 All Africa Games in Abuja said: “I was shocked when I got the news that my beloved Coach Tobias Igwe passed away. I spoke to his son, Daniel Igwe and his widow and they are in great pain. I still can’t believe it because I saw him (Toblow) six months ago when I was in Nigeria for my mother’s funeral.
“Prior to the funeral, I was in Umuahia to visit Mr. Ejike Ikwunze (Mr. Football). We spoke about how coach Igwe could get a job back. Mr. Igwe was disengaged as a non-indigene in Abia state. Toblow also faced the same problem in Enugu as a non-indigene because he is from Imo State. I could not understand why such a thing would happen to him twice because he was a talented coach who produced champions for Nigeria, from the African Games, World championships, Commonwealth Games and Olympics Games.
“Coach Igwe was a legend, a hero and a great Nigerian. He produced athletes like Mary Onyali, the Ezinwa brothers (Davidson and Osmond), Uchenna Emedolu, and many others including myself,” he stated.
Okorie recalled how the late Toblow took him from the street of Enugu 21years ago. “Coach Igwe was the one who took me from Enugu state, where I was residing at that time to represent Abia (my state) at Imo ‘98 National Sports Festival. I won gold medal for Abia state. Under Coach Igwe, I was able to defend my sports festival title at Bauchi 2000 before leaving Nigeria for a scholarship in the U.S.
“Coach Igwe was like a father to me and to many other Nigerian athletes. He was a man of peace and he does not hold grudges towards others. Coach Igwe would use his last kobo to make sure that his athletes were fed. He sacrificed so much for those around him to make their lives better.
“While I was in Nigeria during the last summer, Mr. Football and I were making efforts to involve coach Igwe in the upcoming sports festival scheduled to hold in Edo State. Mr. Football and I visited the government house in Umuahia, but due to Democracy Day activities, and swearing-in of the newly elected government officials, we couldn’t complete the different task we had for the day. Also, I had to leave back to U.S. sooner than I expected due to a family emergency. Coach Igwe was a good man and he deserves a befitting burial.”
Okorie called on South East governors, especially Abia state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to contribute to Toblow’s burial plans. “Let this great legend of our country gets a well-deserved funeral. I am also requesting that President Muhammadu Buhari should announce a national title to honor coach Igwe.”
Meanwhile, another Nigeria athlete who rose through the late Toblow, Raphael Ihunaegbo, spoke from his base in Canada yesterday saying: “Without coach Toblow, I won’t be the man that I am today. Toblow gave me accommodation when I came to Umuahia, fed me, and gave me a good training.”
He added: “Coach Toblow, your legacy will live on. I believe my coach, Tobias Igwe, is resting in the hands of God. He is a man who loved people, a man of peace, and a man of integrity who always stood for what was right.”