OBITUARY: Deji Tinubu grabbed his chest, screamed and slumped — the sad final whistle
by Remi Sulola
Sudden death, in football terms, is not the end of life. It is the end of a stubborn match settled by penalty shoot-out. One team suddenly has the upper hand and the game is over. Winners jump for joy; losers collapse in tears. But it has nothing to do with death.
The Nigerian sporting community would forever wish the sudden death of 52-year-old Deji Tinubu during a match on Thursday night was in the strict football sense.
Since the news broke, tributes have been pouring in for the astute sports administrator, delightful sportscaster, engineer, and Nottingham Forest fan who went down doing what he loved the most – playing the beautiful game.
The tragedy took place at the ongoing retreat of members of the Lagos state executive council and permanent secretaries at the Jubilee Chalets, Epe.
A commissioner told TheCable: “He was arguably the fittest in the cabinet. He always played the central role in sports activities organised for the exco — he would get us boots, jerseys and such stuff.
“When he grabbed his chest during the five-a-side game at the retreat and screamed ‘yeh’ and went down, I knew something terrible had happened. If he had simply slumped, that would be a different feeling.”
Ironically, because it was an exco activity, all medical help was in place — doctors, nurses, and ambulances.
Doctors and nurses rushed to give him first aid. In fact, his uncle, Jide Idris — the state commissioner for health — was in the stands, and was one of the people who applied first aid. Tinubu could not be revived.
He was taken to the General Hospital, Epe where he was confirmed dead.
Seyi Akinwunmi, chairman, Lagos FA and first vice-president of Nigeria Football Federation, said “the NFF and the Nigerian football family have lost a great member, friend and supporter.”
Amaju Pinnick, NFF president, said “this is heart-rending… However, we find solace in the fact that Ayodeji Tinubu has gone to rest, and that he left giant footprints in the sands of time”.
Kehinde Bamigbetan, Lagos state commissioner for information and strategy, described him as a good and committed patriot “who brought his passion to his job. He was a gentleman who maintained excellent team spirit. We shall miss him”.
Tinubu gained recognition as a radio and television sports analyst as one of the founders of sports broadcast organisation, SportsVision, with his business partners Deji Omotoyinbo and Bode Oguntuyi. His smooth and flawless analysis on sports matters, especially football, endeared him to viewers for decades.
The cast then excelled and thrilled with their late night exemplary and well-packaged show of 90 minutes on Africa Independent Television (AIT).
DT, as he was popularly called, was very instrumental to the development of Lagos state sports from the grassroots. He eventually became a board member of the NFF. He was part of the think-thank that shocked Africa as Nigeria against all odds won the African Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013.
He served as chairman of the Lagos State Sports Commission before he was elected as a member of the NFF executive committee in 2010. He served as chairman of the marketing and sponsorship committee under the Aminu Maigari administration from 2010-2014.
As special adviser on sports to Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos state governor, he helped actualise the hosting of the 2nd CAF Beach Soccer Cup of Nations in the state in December 2016. He had also been in the forefront of other projects in which Lagos state was partnering the NFF before he was posted from sports to commerce, industry and cooperatives on January 19, 2018.
FAN OF NOTTINGHAM FOREST
The engineer turned sports journalist cum administrator was a die hard fan of Nottingham Forest FC of England.
Deji Tinubu was the owner of Lagos Athletico football club.
SON OF A POLICE OFFICER
He was the son of late Kafaru Tinubu, a police officer, who disapproved of Deji professional football. He played from the midfield.
He is survived by an aged mother, Bintu Tinubu, wife, Yemisi and two children – a boy and a girl. His younger brother, Wale, is the CEO of Oando Plc.
“If not for birds and booze I would’ve played for England”