Africa: Once a Chris Aligbe, always a Chris Aligbe! Tribute to a loving father and aviation expert @ 70
A visit to his office in Ikeja saw me flying to London. How?
After their fairly good outing in their first World Cup finals appearance in USA in 1994, Super Eagles players turned the bride of many. But for the crisis in their camp they probably would have reached the quarter or semi-final stage. Nigeria’s Fifa ranking was 5th, the best any African country had attained.
They garnered points in Tunisia ’94 and landed in USA as Africa’s champions. They were rated the best entertaining team with Brazil, the eventual winners of the Cup. Brazil beat Italy in a penalty shootout in the final. Same Italy struggled to eliminate Nigeria 2-1 in the second round. Eagles were running away with victory until three minutes to the end when everything changed. “We were three minutes away from victory, yet victory was too far away,” Clemens Westerhof, Nigeria’s manager lamented.
It became one of the popular quotes of the World Cup. But his Eagles dazzled the world and top countries wanted to play them in friendlies. Poor management of the team denied the FA huge money they would have made from friendlies. But they played one in the magnificent Wembley against England. I had toured with the Eagles before the World Cup and kept a diary that I served our esteemed readers.
Amiable Yomi Jones was at Lufthansa then and his interest in sports swayed him into issuing Business Class tickets to me. I toured everywhere with the Eagles to sustain Vanguard’s tradition in sports coverage, a tradition established by our publisher and well anchored by my predecessors in Chris Okojie and Ikeddy Isiguzo. Yomi Jones identified with our professionalism and coverage of sports and supported us tremendously.
Lufthansa also leveraged from the exposure and visibility as we credited them as our sponsors. Our vintage coverage earned us more recognition and sponsorship. And when in November 1994 the Eagles were billed to play England at the greatest football shrine called Wembley, when the Twin Towers had not been pulled down, my trip for the match was sealed the moment I walked into Chris Aligbe’s office.
Aligbe was the Corporate Affairs Manager of Nigeria Airways and instantly he approved a complimentary flight ticket to London. Just like Yomi Jones, we spent more time discussing the Eagles and Nigeria and not even my mission – a complimentary or barter ticket to London. On three other occasions Mr Aligbe assisted us with tickets for sports coverage. To him, covering Nigerian teams in international championships was somewhat a national assignment. It was to serve Nigerians what they should know about their sports ambassadors. On Tuesday, New Year day, this special Nigerian will turn 70.
While I may celebrate him for the little I know of him those in the aviation sector will celebrate him the more. He is very knowledgeable in aviation matters. He runs his consultancy outfit, Belujane Konzult. Chris Aligbe was born January 1, 70 years ago to Julius and Janet Aligbe in Udumuje – Ugboko in Aniocha North in Delta State. He was Information Officer and later Head, Nigeria Information Service Centre in Tanzania when he was with External Affairs.
After serving as Press Secretary to Minister of Information, Tony Momoh from 1987 to 1988 he joined the Democrat Newspaper and was assistant editor and head of Lagos operations. He joined Nigeria Airways in 1989 and rose to office of General Manager, Public Affairs. He retired voluntarily in 2002. Chris Aligbe has written more than 80 articles on aviation and other matters. He is a guru in the sector and has been a regular contributor on aviation issues to Saturday Vanguard. He has remained a friend and brother. I’ll never forget the way he received me and the interest he showed in our sports.
So, as Sports Editor he aided my coverage of events. And as Saturday Editor he is still helping by contributing articles to enrich my paper. ONCE A CHRIS ALIGBE, ALWAYS A CHRIS ALIGBE. Yomi Jones and Lufthansa have a place in my heart as a reporter. Chris Aligbe too “He is a loving husband and father,” was the simple way his wife, Stella described him as she knelt in prayers, adoring and thanking God for the life of her loving husband. This is wishing this special friend and brother a happy birthday at 70 (he doesn’t look it). May God continue to bless you and your family. And may our Blessed Mother ever Virgin Mary continue to intercede for you and your family. Happy birthday, sir.
By Onochie Anibeze