It was no surprise to followers of Nigerian football, and the cutthroat politics underlining it, when Coach Steven Keshi announced his resignation, after becoming the second African to win the Nations Cup as player and coach.
It was a poignant way to express a feeling of disgust with those who run our football, indeed our sports, especially since Amos Adamu first appeared as Sole Administrator, in the buildup to our qualification for the 1994 World Cup.
I found it instructive that Keshi dedicated the Super Eagles’ victory to Nigerian and African coaches who never seem to get the respect, time and support of African football administrators.
He had made the point a few months back, when he spoke out against foreign coaches employed by African federations, who were often not really better than their African counterparts; but as a result of underhand deals, and corrupt exchange of money, are often allowed excesses not be tolerated with the African coaches.Dead rats to the broth
It is also part of the hypocrisy which accompanies success, that everybody is now bringing out dead rats as their contributions to a broth ready to serve, as Iranians say!
With Keshi’s and the Super Eagles’ success, everybody wants a share of the acclaim. Yet, it was already in the works to sack the coaching crew, as the BBC authoritatively reported, with a foreign manager being lined up to pick the job.
No one has convincingly denied that tickets were purchased for the team to depart, after the 1/4final game with the Ivory Coast. The players and their coaches went through with those games, knowing that humiliation was likely to be visited upon them, if they had failed.
They defied the odds and shamed those who always make a lot of money, whichever way things went, as the mandarins of our sports. It is a system long perfected by the disgraced Amos Adamu: no matter what happens to Nigeria in the field of play; no matter how unhappy Nigerians feel about the steady slide of our sports, they smiled to the banks!
If there was outcry by Nigerians, players and coaches can easily be sacrificed, but the template of greed and easy money for the mandarins remain unaffected. Sports are a “Milch Cow”, for long owned by Adamu and his cronies!
Humiliation of coaches
The humiliation of coaches and outspoken players is also central to the politics of Nigerian sports, but especially of our football. Keshi was the assistant to Shuaibu Ahmadu when he qualified Nigeria for the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, after Bonfree Jo had messed things up.
The team went through difficulties, but still managed to win a bronze medal in Mali. For that feat, a spurious reason was found to sack the coaches and disband the team, thus ending abruptly the international careers of a whole generation of players who gave their all to Nigeria, and who could have used all the experiences gathered between the 1994 Cup of Nations victory; the World Cup of the same year; the 1996 Olympics and the 1998 World Cup, to write glorious chapters of Nigerian footballing success.
The same Ahmadu qualified us for the 2010 World Cup but again, he was humiliated after taking Nigeria to third place at the Nations’ Cup in Angola.
Keshi was to suffer the same humiliation in Togo, after he qualified the tiny country for the World Cup; he was sacked and a German Coach, Otto Pfister, was brought to reap from where he never sowed!
Keshi speaks for Shuaibu Ahmadu
So when Steven Keshi spoke of a lack of respect at the post-match press conference, it was clear to me that the pain was very real! He was speaking for other Nigerian coaches, and in my view, he was expressing the mind of Shuaibu Ahmadu, who was particularly offended by the sinister characters who ran our football only to enrich themselves; and the bubble burst, when the godfather of sports corruption, Amos Adamu was caught in a sting operation and knocked off his perch; his carefully laid out plan to takeover CAF from the Cameroonian Dinosaur, Issa Hayatou, exploded in his face like soap bubble. Unfortunately, the corrupt Nigerian system did not provide a basis for us to seize all that he wrongfully took from our nation.
It is this deep-seated rot that we must interrogate and expunge, if the victory of the national team in South Africa will not become a meaningless feat.
The fear I have is that, such success as we recorded in South Africa, is often exploited by the cabal running our sports to squeeze more money into their pockets and not to expand the opportunities for the flowering of sporting talent.
So we must stay on our toes against the criminal syndicate implanted inside the sporting system by Amos Adamu over the past two decades or so; it is like the story of Ali Baba and the forty thieves. Ali Baba is out of circulation. Right. But the forty thieves are still in place. So long live the empire of sporting theft!
On a more optimistic note, we must salute the audacity of the coaches led by Keshi, for making their choice of players; sticking with their plan and achieving success, when most Nigerians did not give them a chance. In that team, we saw the resurgence of a Nigerian spirit that all of us could identify with and support.
The national team has taught a lesson about the possibilities for change and development of our country.
Those who profit from exploiting the fault lines of Nigeria can be sent on compulsory retirement when we set out to build a nation on a patriotic platform that valorises the highest common denominator of merit and commitment.
It was Africa’s greatest writer, Chinua Achebe, who once said that we cannot play our league matches with the fourth eleven and expect to win.
The Super Eagles vindicate that perspective and I hope that those who are genuine patriots will find the métier to achieve remarkable feats in all areas of human endeavours as the Super Eagles did in football! That is the categorical imperative of the moment in Nigeria.