By Fidel Ozugha
Nwabueze Peter Nwankwo better known as Bulldzer is dead. He was a foundation member and utility former player of the famous Rangers Football Club of Enugu (Flying Antelope) of the 70s. Announcing his death through a burial invitation, the son, Nwabueze Nwankwo Jnr, said that Bulldozer died at the age of 76 after a protracted illness. Reacting to his death, Kenneth Abanah who was a contemporary of Nwankwo in the then newly formed Rangers International in 1970, said he was devastated by the news of his death
Abanah popularly called ‘Magician’ said he had maintained close contact with Nwankwo as a colleague and brother from a neighbouring community. He described the late Bulldozer as a strong player who had strong passion for Rangers and gave the Enugu based team and national team all he had during his active days. He pointed out that he had similar hip and leg ailment which Nwankwo suffered from until his death, and then called on government to come to the aid of surviving former players.
“I spoke with his son and daughter on Thursday and after 10 minutes they called to tell me that their father was no more, I have been disorganized and just managing to get myself together.
“It is painful that those who are with me on this journey are leaving one after the other. Bulldozer was a great and strong player. As I am talking to you now, I am staring at a picture I took with him long time ago. The hip challenges that led his death is the type that has almost paralyzed my two legs now. We live through hell to stay alive. I thank the Government of Anambra for the assistance they gave me two years ago, that really helped a great deal but then I am still down,” he lamented.
Another teammate of Nwankwo, Harrison Okagbue said the Nigerian football community has lost a great man and that he was personally pained by the development. Okagbue who was former coach of Cranes of Uganda said Nwankwo was famous for his dreaded ‘long throw,’ which usually gave his team advantage over their opponents.
According to him, both of them started playing in Rangers in 1970, but he left for B-Lions of Calabar and Sharks of Port Harcourt before joining him in Rangers again in 1976.
“His death hit me hard for he was a great colleague. He started his football in Abakaliki and later became a foundation member of Rangers where he played almost all the games. Bulldozer was a strong man. If your leg came in contact with his leg, you would know that you hit your fellow man. His strength was what gave him that name Bulldozer.
“It was Nwankwo who introduced long throw in Nigerian football. He was able to throw ball from centre field into the six-yard box after retirement. He suffered eye problem and that weakened him. Bulldozer had great passion for the Rangers Brand and football generally. We will miss him,” he said.
Describing late Bulldozer as a strong defender whom players of his generation looked up to as a model, Arthur Ebunam, Chairman of Ex Rangers International Footballers Association, Anambra Chapter, said the death of Nwankwo was a great shock to them. He said the Rangers family identified with Nwankwo family at this time of grief and prayed for the repose of his soul. He added that only six players are still alive today from the pioneer crop of players that plied their trade with Rangers International FC of Enugu.
The President-General (PG) of Enugu-Ukwu, Chief Bonny Nkwuaku said the community had lost a pillar and was in deep shock following the news of his death. The PG said Nwabueze, popularly known as ‘Bulldozer’ in his hey days died on Thursday after a protracted ailment. He described the fallen player as an illustrious son of Enugu-Ukwu and community builder who had interest in youth development.
“His death came to us as a big blow. We are still in shock because Nwabueze Nwankwo was one of our ambassadors. Just two years ago, Enugu-Ukwu honoured ‘Bulldozer’ and few others for their contributions to community development, and two weeks ago, he was in church for a thanksgiving. We did not know that would the last, “he said.
The PG used the opportunity to call on the Federal and State governments to pay attention to the health needs of surviving veteran players, adding that they did not play for money in their active days, but for passion and to make people happy. Enugu-Ukwu community would be involved in the burial programme as Nwabueze did not belong to his family alone but the entire state and nation in general.
His burial service will take place on Friday, February 5, 2021 by 10:00am in his compound, Orofia Village, Enugwu-Ukwu after which, interment follows immediately at the same place. Thanksgiving Mass will be held on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at Emmanuel Anglican Church, Enugwu-Ukwu in Njikoka Local Govt. Area of Anambra State. Additional reports from NAN