ORDINARILY, most Nigerian soccer followers would love to watch big football matches live. But in the event of inevitable handicaps like distance and transportation means preventing them from witnessing such spectacles, television sets have always been their resort, at least, when the matches are televised live.
However, it is not strange to find such viewers turning down the volume of their TV sets in order to listen to radio commentary while watching the match.
The general belief was that what the TV cameras missed, the radio commentary never misses and the man who won this credit for radio commentators in Nigeria was the velvety-voiced Ernest Okonkwo.
Listen to Ernest’s radio commentary, and you’re as good as watching a football match live!
However, Ernest did not achieve this enviable record overnight. After all, he was initially submerged in the pack of other equally good commentators like Ishola Folorunsho, Sebastian Ofurum and Bisi Lawrence. But he did emerge deservedly from the pack to become one of Africa’s best sports commentators.
Ernest was uniquely outstanding in many dimensions: sense of humour, history, and of storage of sports facts and figures; he was simply a sports encyclopedia. His sense for crafting soubriquets for deserving players was equally famous. Sample: “Mathematical Segun Odegbami.” And so was his sense of description and command of adjectives. Sample: “That banana shot was delivered like an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
From the dimension of emotional but patriotic attachment to national goals and aspirations, Ernest was also a shining example. Sample: “God of soccer, please give Nigeria this day.”
One could go on and on recalling Ernest’s samples, but to sum them all: Ernest Okonkwo was arguably the best sports commentator Nigeria ever had. And, although he once modestly declared that “listeners won’t miss anything when I finally take my bow,” radio sports commentary in Nigeria may never be same again without him.
His voice will certainly keep reverberating in the minds of his listeners for some time to come.
Complete football prays that MAY HIS SOUL rest in perfect peace.
54 YEARS OF SERVICE…
ERNEST’s little well over half a century years lifespan was a chequered history of a grass to grace personality.
Born in 1936 at Nando, Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, the amiable sports commentator attended the local primary school, before proceeding to the then famous Government College, Umuahia in Imo State for his secondary education.
He enlisted into the services of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) on the 8th of March, 1957 as a programme assistant. With sheer dint of hard work, he rose o become the first manager of sports and outside broadcast.
Married to Mrs. Joy Okonkwo, he had five children, two boys and three girls.
*This tribute was published in Complete Football magazine, August/September 1990, page 35.