Poser: How many Hollywood movies have been made about the lives and achievements of Nigerians who have made one impact or the other on the world stage, with big name actors like Will Smith taking the role of the Nigerian achiever, and Alec Baldwin in a supporting role?


I am still struggling to come up with one, but please, if you know of any, kindly correct me.


I did not know about this film called Concussion, until a few evenings ago, when my wife and I decided to go and watch a movie, as we usually do most Sunday evenings to vary our lifestyle. So we searched online for what movie to go and watch and as usual, browsed through the reviews. I came across a movie called Concussion, which was about a Nigerian forensic pathologist in the United States. Our curiosity was aroused and we decided to take in the movie. It was perhaps the best decision I had ever made concerning watching a movie.


Concussion is a 2015 American biographical sports medical drama film directed and written by Peter Landesman. This film is based on the 2009 GQ exposé Game Brain by Jeanne Marie Laskas starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who fought against efforts by the National Football League to suppress his research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) brain damage suffered by professional football players. The film also stars Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Albert Brooks. Columbia Pictures released the film on December 25, 2015.


I will summarise the plot of the movie, with reference to Wikipedia, (no use in re-inventing the wheel). In 2002, former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster was found dead in his pickup truck. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania coroner's office, handles Webster's autopsy, and discovers that he has severe brain damage. He ultimately determines that Webster died as a result of the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head—a disorder he calls chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). With the help of former Steelers team doctor Julian Bailes, fellow neurologist Steven T. DeKosky and county coroner Cyril Wecht, Omalu publishes a paper on his findings, which is initially dismissed by the NFL.


Over the next few years, Omalu discovers that three other deceased former NFL players, Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk and Andre Waters, had symptoms very similar to Webster's. He finally persuades newly appointed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to present his findings before a committee on player safety. However, the NFL doesn't take Omalu seriously; they don't even allow him to be in the room for the presentation, forcing Bailes to give it for him.


Omalu is subjected to considerable pressure to back down from his efforts. Wecht is subjected to a politically motivated prosecution on corruption charges. Omalu's wife, Prema, suffers a miscarriage after being stalked. The Omalus are forced to leave their dream home outside Pittsburgh. They move to Lodi, California; where Omalu takes a job with the San Joaquin County coroner's office. However, he is vindicated when former NFL Players Association executive Dave Duerson commits suicide due to growing cognitive problems; in his suicide note, Duerson admits that Omalu was right. Omalu is allowed to address an NFLPA conference on concussions and CTE. Amid growing scrutiny from the US Congress, the NFL is forced to take the concussion issue more seriously.


Omalu is offered a job as chief medical examiner for the District of Columbia, but turns it down in order to continue working hands-on with autopsies.


Dr. Omalu's efforts to study and publicize CTE in the face of NFL opposition were reported in a GQ magazine article in 2009 by Jeanne Marie Laskas. The article was later expanded by Laskas into a book, Concussion, and a film of the same name where Dr. Omalu is the central character portrayed by Will Smith. The movie's production led to the creation of a foundation named after Omalu to advance CTE and concussion research.


Dr. Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu (born September 1968) is a Nigerian American physician, forensic pathologist, and neuropathologist who was the first to publish findings of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players while working at the Allegheny County Coroner's Office in Pittsburgh. He later became chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California, and is a professor in the University of California, Davis, Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.


The family name, Omalu, is a shortened form of the surname, Onyemalukwube, which translates to “he (she) who knows, speak”.


Brief Biography:


Born    Bennet Ifeakandu Omalu, September 1968 (age 47), in Nnokwa, Idemili South, Nigeria

Residence       Lodi, California

Nationality       Nigerian and naturalized USA citizen

Alma mater     University of Nigeria, Nsukka (M.B., B.S., 1990)

Carnegie Mellon University (MBA, 2008)

University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (MPH, Epidemiology) [2]

Occupation     Medical Doctor, Forensic Pathologist, Professor, Medical Examiner

Known for       Discovering the relationship of the brain disease CTE to damage done to some American football players by concussions.

Spouse            Prema Mutiso


Now back to my writing: If I had been trained as a film critic, I probably would have been more eloquent and professional than this and able to put my critical opinions and feelings better on paper. Watching that movie brought tears into my eyes, and yet again, also a great feeling of pride in my country of origin, Nigeria. Of course, Nigerians have been doing great and greater things than this in all areas of endeavour, profession, etc. all over the world. We have a Nobel Laureate, and so many great Nigerians who have been awarded genuine, international and prestigious prizes and awards. I cannot recount them all here, in fact, I do not know them all, because some of them were and are still working quietly in the background in so many countries of the world, and even some inside Nigeria itself. Yet, it seems the mediocre and the charlatans always have the upper hand in determining the potential and greatness of this country.


Dr Omalu was threatened with deportation, had his wife stalked, nearly lost his job and was intimidated by official authorities (FBI) in the US to suppress his findings, yet he did not bend. His bosses and subordinates, who were whites, at work had the utmost faith and belief in him and his work, so much he was supported by them when undergoing this ordeal.


Another thing of note, and which should be an eye-opener or food for thought for Nigerians was that throughout, Dr Omalu, who had experienced the Biafran Civil War, never referred to himself as an Igbo man. He is a Nigerian all the time, even when he was courting his future Kenyan wife. His bosses, subordinates, allies and foes knew him as a Nigerian, not an Igbo man. He expressed, promoted and dignified Nigeria, not Igbo.


He was resilient and dignified. He showed an integrity which is now uncommon in Nigeria these days, the lack of which has made Nigerians all over the world become marked corrupt, easily bought and criminal. In the face of all that was thrown at him, he could have buckled in or collapsed under the pressure and decided not to pursue his findings (which could save thousands of lives) further and just get on with the job and intent of making his living on a pathologist’s salary, like many of us would – we don’t want to get deported back to Nigeria, or “look, dat na America’s problem, wetin concern me, if dem no wan hear d truth, na dem palaver be dat, make I earn my money jare”


Dr Omalu only became a naturalised American citizen in February 2015. As he told journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas in the biographical Concussion, he became disillusioned with Nigeria after presidential candidate Moshood Abiola failed to win the Nigerian presidency due to an inconclusive election in 1993.


Of course, Dr Bennet Omalu no longer owes any allegiance to his country of origin, like so many millions of Nigerians who have sojourned to foreign lands since time immemorial, but there is still the Nigerian-ness in him, again like many of us.


We tend to derive some personal and national pride when the children of Nigeria do well outside of the country itself. We are always proud of Nigerians, dual nationality or not, who have brought glory and recognition to us and are pained and ashamed by those of them accosted all over the world for crimes like fraud, drug smuggling, money laundering, including our leaders who have been denigrating and shaming us since Independence, and more recently with unabated and unashamed looting of the treasury and utter governmental incompetence. These are type of people who forced the type of Dr Omalu to leave his own country and people and be more beneficial to other people’s countries.


Aptly, Nigeria is concussed now, and it is the Omalu’s of this world that may be able to revive it. This is a movie many of us who are proud of our country should watch and encourage others to watch. It is inspiring, motivational, orientating, educational and positive about our much-maligned country.


I acknowledge you, Bennet Omalu, though you may never meet or know me. I have learnt something from you about humanity, resilience, devotion, hard work, personal conviction and pride and belief in one’s professionalism. 

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