It was a tragic moment when the news broke out that one of Nigeria’s most promising sprinter Nkem Martha Ezealah passed on to glory on the 15th of March, 2016 after a ghastly accident on Benin-Ore road while on her way to the village in the South Eastern part of the country with her mum who gave up the ghost after the doctors tried to revive her back to life.
It was a rude shock to many athletes as there was much wailing at the High Performance Center in Port Harcourt where the national athletes were camped. Commonwealth Champion Ese Brume who spoke to New Telegraph after she heard the news said,
“This was someone I stayed with anytime I travelled to Lagos, I am yet to believe she is gone.” She said. “We were very close as athletes and I don’t know how it will be when next I am in Lagos. It will be so odd not to see her again. Rest in Peace my sister”.
Nkem’s last athletic meet was the AFN Over Distance in Port Harcourt, Rivers state where she competed in the 300m and 150m events running a time of 40.79s and 18.68s respectively.
According to her coach, Uruemu Adu of Esteem Athletics Club concerning the plans he had with Nkem ahead of the 2016 season. He said the main goal was the Olympics.
“Our key issue was the Olympics. I wanted her to be there because I am not an Olympian though I have trained Olympians and I also wanted to be part of her history too. We were hoping on her to run a 11.03s and also hold her own in the IAAF Diamond Leagues and she was working very hard towards it but unfortunately what happened had to happen for a reason best known to God.”
Answering the question of “What vaccum she created” he paused and said with an emotional voice,
“Lots of vaccum have been created by her. She was a great athlete in a unique way and apart from being a sprinter, she was a captain and a motivator. The vaccum is still there. No one can be like her. Nkem is Nkem!”
Even with all the pain filled in his heart, Coach Adu said “Somewhere along the line one has to move on in whatever way he or she can. She’s somebody one cannot forget in a hurry. It’s very painful though but one has to move on.”
The ever smiling Nkem with Coach Adu.
For her teammate at Esteem Athletics Club, Kingsley Okelu he feels sad and empty.
“I feel sad and empty. There is this vaccum that has been empty since she passed away. She was a motivator, a sister, friend, training partner, a mentor to different individuals and collectively as a team. She’s a very unique person and also irreplaceable as far as I’m concerned. I miss her and I pray her gentle soul rests in perfect peace.” He said.
Nkem Ezealah and members of Esteem Athletics Club.
Another teammate, Eferobor Oghenetejiri poured out her heart when asked how the last one year has been without late Nkem.
“Ever since she passed on, things has not really taken shape with me because she was now becoming a bestie, we talk sometime till midnight, we advice each other. I remember her telling me,”Aunty Oghene don’t worry we will be in the same room at Abuja Golden League so that we can encourage ourselves to run well.”
She continued, “We train together all the while, she really wanted to see me run well again but the cold hands of death snatched her away but I thank God”.
The 100m hurdles specialist ended by saying “I really do miss her very much but what can I say. I love her. RIP Nkem Martha”.
Tejiri (lane 3) and Nkem (lane 2) during a training session
Even before delving into athletics in 2012, she was a star footballer who represented Nigeria at the 2010 Football for Hope Festival an official programme of the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa where she displayed many amazing skills.
Her journey into athletics began in 2012 when the Tertiary Games trails was held at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos where she studied. Nkem decided to tryout in the 100m and suprisingly she won the 100m without any experience on the track and that caught the attention of Coach Adu.
Ever since then, Nkem never looked back as she became a force to reckon with in the Women’s 100m. Just one year of professional training with her new coach, Uruemu Adu she represented Nigeria at the 2013 African Junior Championships in Mauritus where she finished 5th in the 100m and she was a member of Nigeria’s 4x100m team that won the Gold at the competition.
During the 2015 season she was one of the best female sprinter on the home front finishing Top 3 in the 100m at every AFN Golden League she attended including winning the Abuja leg of the competition with a Personal Best of 11.61s. Her fine form gave her the opportunity of competing with some of the best athletes in the world as she made her International debut at senior level at the IAAF Challenge Meeting in Dakar, Senegal where she placed 3rd in the 100m with (11.54/+2.1). She narrowly missed out of the All-African Games after she got injured in the 100m semifinal at the All Nigeria Championships in Warri, Delta state.
Nkem Ezealah (far right) at 2015 All Nigeria Championships Warri
One month after her demise, the Track and Field Coaches Association of Nigeria (TAFCAN) held an athletic meet in memory of the late sprinter at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos.
That has led to the annual memorial competition in honour of Nkem which takes place in July after the All Nigeria Championships.
Final words from Coach Adu “I miss her but I know her presence is still with us. The athletes are more motivated to do more and we’re also working towards her annual memorial meet which will be announced when all things are put in place. We all love her and we pray her gentle soul rest in peace.”
Coach Deji Aliu and Mr Fred Agbaje at Nkem memorial meet
We at Athletic Heat miss her so much because we’ll trained with her before her demise and our most sincere prayer is that God will continue to comfort all those who are grieved by the loss.
Adieu Nkem kem kem kem kem!!!