IKENWA NNABUOGOR tells a story of once-upon-a-time natural successor to former Super Eagles’ skipper and playmaker Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, but who sadly lost his mind as well as his way…
Franklin Lokam’s name may not have rung a serious bell for lovers of Nigeria football, but few who knew this special talent turn out for Gabros International FC those days would always tell a story of this Cross River State-born playmaker whose radar was lost in psychological space.
Sadly, Lokam didn’t last, causing Nigeria to lose another player that would certainly have ruled the football world.
Just a few journalists that covered the league in the early and mid-2000s when Lokam conducted the orchestra in the middle of the park for Gabros, could testify to his special gift.
Lokam needed just a little chance as a “mercenary” at a local tournament in Nnewi to convince Gabros owner Gabriel Chukwuma he was worth his chance.
Lokam, alongside his childhood friend Obinna Ajoku were the latest acquisition that added to a retinue of youngsters who shot Gabros to limelight in the local league in the early 2000s.
Possessing special talents combined with special intelligence and quick feet, Lokam’s rise to prominence at the star-studded Nnewi-based side needed a presidential approval from the owner who demanded to know the reasons for his side’s initial poor run in an emergency meeting called by Chukwuma himself.
Bold Lokam stood up to the surprise of his older team mates to single out his coach David Adiele as the reason for the poor run. Adiele had not been playing the little known ace despite proving his class at training.
Lokam automatically became Gabros’ main stay with his superlative performance in their famous 2-1 win over high flying Iwuanyanwu Nationale (now Heartland) in Enugu ultimately cementing his place in the team.
There was no doubt who would be the best legs from the local league that would form the squad of the national U20 team and naturally, Lokam’s nose was in the front for the selected bunch.
Late coach Musa Abdullahi had been appointed the Olympic team coach ahead of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and wasted no time in drafting Lokam to the team.
The friendly game against Brazil in Lagos was the game that announced Lokam as the new “Jay Jay” as Lagos fans unofficially proclaiming him the team’s star player, but the wish sadly would go with the winds leaving Lokam psychologically devastated.
Now his invitation to the Flying Eagles’ side, which should have presented him to the world to behold this superbly gifted player turned out to horrendously herald the “death” of then the new kid on the block.
It was widely reported that Lokam never was the same when he was dropped for no good reasons, but unconfirmed reports suggested he was dropped by some corrupt officials who were bigger than Abdullahi.
His mental and psychological frame broke down as a result of this and Lokam went berserk, causing him to quit Gabros unannounced and return to Calabar to end his promising career.
Abdullahi could do little to save his new-found playmaker but sadly the team was stopped by Tunisia to berthing in Athens amid suggesting that Lokam’s ghosts may have haunted the team.
It was reported that Lokam had just his struggling mum to run to as the demands of the junior team handlers threatened his future.
His teacher-mum couldn’t raise the cash and her son just had to leave the camp. He didn’t only leave the camp, he also left behind his career and his future as he never really recovered.
His Gabros mates told yours truly that Lokam had skills, had everything that would have shot him to the pinnacle of his career.
He was indeed the playmaker in the Gabros’ pack, dictated everything in the team that kept the Nnewi side moving despite a shoe-string budget.
Gabros did not abandon their most prized jewel just like that; his salaries were paid for some time and his mum was always around to receive her son’s earnings.
Nothing has been heard about him since he left the scene unceremoniously, neither his mental health.
In truth, Lokam would have emerged from his humble beginnings to launch himself big time to the world had he not been denied this chance.