Irigha Eferebo (1947-2020)

Irigha Eferebo was indeed a wrestling and judo enigma who with his innate and uncommon skills, dominated his generation in the tricks of the trade,

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Sportsman

Irigha Eferebo was an Ogbia (Bayelsa State) born professional Wrestler and Judoka that won numerous Gold medals in the Men’s freestyle wrestling championships of the early 70s and 90s.

Synopsis

Mr. Irigha Eferebo as fondly called, was a famous and successful Athlete from the Niger delta that won 19 Gold medals and other laurels for himself and Old Rivers state government from the late 70s and 90s in both national and international championships. He was a prolific Wrestler and Judoka for Men’s freestyle wrestling 125 kg (276 lbs). However, he was best known for his brilliant performances at the old Rivers state traditional wrestling championships of the 80s. Subsequently, he worked in the Civil service of old Rivers state and later transferred his service to Bayelsa state in 1996 and retired as a substantive Director (on grade Level 17). Mr. Irigha Eferebo was a polygamist and good family architect. It was reported, he died on May 2, 2020 at the age 73.

Birth/Parents

Late Mr Irigha Eferebo crept out of the passage between the unborn and the living on the 9th day of September, 1947 to Late Elder Eferebo Obo of Emein family and Late Mrs Okeyeri Lucy Eferebo of Osumeinya family, both in Oruma in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

He was the third among the five (5) children from his parents’ loins.

Educational Odyssey

Late Mr Irigha Eferebo went to Community Primary School, Oruma, where he obtained his elementary School Certificate in 1969. Thereafter, he attended Government Trade Centre (GTC), Ahoada, where he bagged a Trade Test Certificate (TTC) in Motor and Automobile. Again, Mr Irigha Eferebo, spurred by his zeal in education, proceeded to Community Secondary School, Okodi, where he obtained his West African School Certificate. Still unable to quench his educational appetite, in 2010, Late Irigha Eferebo took another bold step to acquire a Diploma in Public Administration.

Wrestling /Judo Career

Late Irigha Eferebo was indeed born into a family that is genetically in love with sports generally, and wrestling in particular. His elder brothers, Asa Eferebo, popularly known as Olotu, and Christopher Eferebo, were both wrestling juggernauts in their rights, in the then Rivers State. Both, alongside Blacky, another wrestling giant from the Ogbia stock, were a dominant force in the wrestling scene during their era. Asa Eferebo, the eldest brother, rose to stardom only in the wrestling domain; whereas Christopher Eferebo became an ‘olotu’ both in wrestling and weight lifting.

The young Irigha Eferebo, before stepping into the shoes of his elder siblings, was a great footballer. He played a defensive role in his elementary school team. However, in keeping with the family tradition, he started his wrestling career in 1974 during the Chief Medford Okilo’s Wrestling Cup Competition, which was contested among wrestlers from the then (10) divisions in the old Rivers State. While his elder brothers participated in the top category, the young Irigha Eferebo made his marks in the lower category and caught the interest of Mr Jonathan Peter Mazi, the then secretary of Sports Council, River State.

Having taken a keen interest in the young Eferebo’s mercilessness and volatility in the ring, Mr Jonathan Peter Mazi sent him for further training in Lagos in 1975. There, he was made to major in judo as there was no freestyle wrestling then at the national level. Late Eferebo Irigha won his first Gold medal in the 1976 National Wrestling Championship in Kano. This became the curtain-raiser to Late Irigha Eferebo’s illustrious life full of laurels in wrestling and Judo. With much determination, resilience and hard work, he was elevated to the position of National Captain of the Nigerian Judo Team.

He held this position for eight (8) years. As captain, he led the Nigerian Judo team to Algiers in Algeria for the 8th All African Games in 1978 where he won a bronze medal. This paved the way for his African conquest in Judo in subsequent years, which included a silver medal in African Judo Championship in Cairo, Egypt, in 1979. He also took part in the World Junior Judo Championship in 1979.

Late Irigha Eferebo was loved by his peers and became a role model to his protégée. In 1983, Late Irigha Eferebo together with his friend and colleague, Chief champion Emmanuel Ekpokoba-Ode, participated in the British Master’s Intervention World championship where he fought in the light-heavyweight category.

DateName of CompetitionMedal Won
1976NATIONAL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP (KANO)1 GOLD
19788th ALL AFRICAN GAMES (ALGIERS)1 BRONZE
1979NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL1 GOLD, 1 SILVER
1979INTER-STATE ZONAL COMPETITION1 GOLD
1979ECOWAS COMPETITION1 SILVER
1979OLUYOLE COMPETITION1 GOLD, 1 SILVER
1979WORLD JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP (PARIS)PARTICIPANT
1981NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL, BENDEL 811 GOLD
1981ALL NIGERIAN OPEN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 GOLD
1981ALL AFRICAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 SILVER
1982ZONAL NATIONAL JUDO COMPETITION1 GOLD
1982ZONAL NATIONAL COMPETITION (LAGOS)1 GOLD
1983ALL NIGERIAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 GOLD
1983ALL AFRICAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 BRONZE
1983TRADITIONAL WRESTLING RIVERS STATE
WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP
UNDEFEATED
1984ALL AFRICAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP, TUNISIA1 GOLD
1984OPEN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP, AKURE1 GOLD
1985ALL NIGERIAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 GOLD
1986ALL AFRICAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 GOLD
1986ALL AFRICAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP, CASABLANCA1 SILVER
1987ZONAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, LAGOS1 GOLD
1987ALL AFRICAN JUDO CHAMPIONSHIP1 BRONZE
1988SEVENTH NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL1 GOLD
1990NATIONAL SPORTS FESTIVAL 1ST INTER ZONAL CHAMPION1 GOLD
OKILO UNITY CHAMPIONSHIP1 GOLD
1ST OPIGO NATIONAL CUP FOR THE IJAWS IN NIGERIA(GOLD) HEAVYWEIGHT CATEGORY
Champion Irigha Eferebo: Chronology Of Wrestling/Judo Laurels

Civil Service Career

Late Irigha Eferebo’s mercilessness and mercuriality in the ring did not only earn him accolades and laurels, but also a pensionable appointment with the Civil Service of old Rivers State. Through Mr Jonathan Peter Mazi, the then Secretary of Sports Council, Late Mr Irigha Eferebo was employed as a Stadium Assistant in 1977. He rose to the position of a Director (coaching) on grade level 17 in the present Bayelsa State Sports Council and retired meritoriously in 2014.

We all die.
The goal is not to live forever,
The goal is to create something that will

Chucks Palahniuk

In the course of his career progression in the civil service, many a time he was appointed coach and an instructor to both wrestling and Judo contingents, both in old Rivers and present Bayelsa State.

A Loving, Caring Husband/Father

Late Irigha Eferabo was a loving, caring and God-fearing husband, father, uncle and in-law. Until his death, he was married to four (4) wives and had a total of seventeen (17) children. His loving and caring attitude towards his kith and kin was unparalleled and unflinching. More so, his love for humanity was not limited only to his immediate family but to whoever crosses his path. He never discriminated. He treated everyone equally regardless of consanguinity or affinity. Late Irigha Eferebo was not just a father figure to his children and in-laws; he was a friend, mentor and confidant.

Christian Life

Late Irigha Eferebo was born into a Christian family. His parents, late Mr and Mrs Eferebo Obo were devout Christians of the Anglican Communion.

As his name “Ayebairigha”, meaning “God is always Right or God does No Wrong” implies, the late wrestling/judo champion believed in the infallibility and perfectness of God and followed the footsteps of his parents and was accordingly baptized and became a member of the Anglican Communion in his early years of life. However, in his later years until his death, he and his family were committed and dedicated to the service of God Almighty under the Pentecostal platform of the City of Zuph Ministries, Yenagoa.

His Demise

Irigha Eferebo died May 2, 2020 at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa, Bayelsa state after a brief illness.

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