He is indeed a child of destiny. Wilfred Ndidi grew up in a military barracks in Lagos because his father was a soldier. Football was to announce him to the world because it was a game he played with so much passion from infancy. His life revolved round the beautiful game and he could play it all day within and even outside of the barracks in Maryland, Lagos, Nigeria. He was so good at it that he played with players far older than him and was a delight to watch. However, this defensive Trojan may not have been alive today to fulfill his destiny if not for divine intervention.
Precisely in 2002, the former Genk of Belgium star was one of the lucky few that survived the armory explosion said to have been caused by the accidental detonation of a large stock of military high explosives at a storage facility in the barracks located within the heart of Maryland.
The final death toll is hard to compute, although the Red Cross claimed that at least 1,000 bodies were recovered and a number of people were reported missing and never found. In addition to the dead, at least 5,000 people were injured in the disaster and over 12,000 left homeless, with the entire districts of the city gutted. About 20,000 people had fled the area on the night of the explosion.
How Ndidi Escaped
The story is better told by Victor Atuyota, the man who saw it all. He was later to start a football academy for the survivors to engage in football.
“2002 is one year that people residing in the cantonment don’t want to remember. It was terrible”, he began.
“Wilfred was just about 8 years old or so when it all happened. We just heard a loud explosion and before you could say Jack Robinson, everywhere was scattered. Everyone ran for their dear lives. Parents didn’t remember their children, everyone ran”, revealed the owner of Little Wonders Football Academy, where Wilfred cut his football teeth.
How did Wilfred get out of the cantonment and how did he survive, I asked the Delta state born football coach.
“It was by the special grace of God because their house was a little bit far from the bomb blast site, he was able to run with other children all the way from Maryland to Alagbado (about an hour distance) situated on the outskirts of Lagos”. With the situation was under control, Wilfred and a few others came back to the cantonment to the relief of their parents. This sad occurrence made me form the academy just to revive the hopes of the young boys in the barracks,” he opined.
Sadly, not everyone that ran out of the barracks to escape imminent death came back alive.
“Wilfred was just a lucky child. Do you know that many of the people he ran out with have not been found? Some parents have not seen their children since then.” Atuyota who has promised to discover more Wilfred’s for Nigeria concluded.
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