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COMMENTARY: Blame Foes, Not Keshi For Super Eagles’ Tragedy

By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau, Lagos

It is over week today the senior National team – Super Eagles painfully crashed out of the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) competition, having ended up in draw in their last qualifying match in Akwa Ibom, with the underdog (at least to Nigeria may be?), the Bafana Bafana of South Africa. On this issue, especially, its bearing on the recent ruffling of the feathers in the country’s glass house; I will not let go due lashes and advances at those who are really deserving them.

Eagles-in-campThis topic could have been featured last week, but for others, either that started the week or thrown up later, it was delayed for more attention and treatment. And I am so glad to bring it up as the stress was initially hazard that the issue would have been belated by today (Friday). But not at all; my assessment clearly confirms that. The ‘streets’ and media debates over what actually went wrong and who is, or are to blame as you read, still continues.

Dear ones, I must tell you that I will honestly feel uncomfortable if failed to share my thought with you, please recall chain of my previous commentaries and analyses on the just concluded NFF brouhaha, which I make bold to say is the focal point and reason for the disgraceful disqualication of the current African Champion. Now you would agree with me, I must be ready to take blames if today’s commentary is not brought up – accused of incomplete task, I reason.

Let me start by saying I have been taken by surprise and found very unpleasant the reactions and blames by so many, being directed somehow at one direction – the Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Okechukwu keshi, for not doing well – lacking the skills and the technical know how to make the team excel; that he is arrogant; he is a politician; stubborn and so many other attacks of such. May I say to this man here, none of these is due, as far as the team’s tragedy was concerned?

Hear this; do you all remember about five months now (between June and November) the power tussle and wrangling in the NFF? Please recall the intimidation and victimization (arrests, sacks, reinstatements) by the glass house resenting ‘power blocs’ of its immediate past President, Aminu Maigari at a time when many countries were preparing for the qualifying matches.

Have you forgotten that when the qualifiers matches (have started or about to fully take off) the NFF was still embroiled in power tussle – over who controls the house between Maigari and his estranged Vice, Mike Umeh? It was at that time the election was supposed to hold, but later changed to congress meeting – to fix a new date for election proper. Of course, you should remember that Tuesday, August 26, 2014 supposedly NFF Congress was manipulated by some ‘powers’ collaborating with some foes within and changed it to real election, which produced the controversial sacked factional Football house President, Chris Giwa. Please, also remember that the Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo led the list of dignitaries that witnessed the infamous fraudulent exercise.

Nigerians, refresh your memory that the Giwa’s emergence ‘secured’ the second ban by the world Football governing body – FIFA, which declared it would not recognize Giwa – led NFF and banned Nigeria from participating in the FIFA organized football tournaments. The same body had earlier sanctioned Nigeria for sacking Maigari on ‘spurious’ financial impropriety allegations.

Even after the generally applauded Tuesday, September 30, 2014 NFF election in Warri, Delta State, in which the former State (Delta) Sports Commission Chairman, Amaju Pinnick, emerged as the new glass house helmsman, the dark horses within and their ‘masters’ would still not allow peace and reason to prevail, but rather kept to their egoistic fight and attacks.

Some of these disturbing developments were going on while the qualifying matches were on and Super Eagles were showing below average performances. The ‘power drunks’ were care less about this! And please don’t forget when Stephen Keshi was pushed to the wall, he opened up and challenged NFF as not being serious – having failed to renew his appointment. The stalemate at the NFF and power crisis, rocking it, before the Pinnick’s election accounted for this. It took the Sports Minister to invite him personally and reached a temporary agreement with him (Keshi) – just to take the Super Eagles through their qualfying matches.

And amidst court’s suit by Giwa and his clique, challenging Pinnick victory, the Super Eagles’ poor performance persisted, as they again failed in their matches with the Congolese national team. By this time, the NFF President, (Pinnick) and his EXCO decided and ‘relieved’ Keshi of his appointment. That itself threw up confusion in the football house as argument ensued that Keshi could never has been sacked as his appointment was yet to be renewed. In Keshi’s place was then engaged in mid-October, 2014, by the new NFF board, the regular hand and returnee, Shaibu Amodu as the handler of Super Eagles.

However, the debate about Keshi’s ‘sack’ and replacement with Amodu still raged when the dramatic judgment by Justice Ambrose Alagoa of a Jos Federal High Court came, ordering the sack of Pinnick’s EXCO and reinstatement of Giwa – led faction. The court’s ruling was so infruating, as many football followers viewed it as a confusion and serious distraction to the NFF and Super Eagles who were facing relegation (FIFA rating) challenge.

Expectedly, the FIFA’s ban threat followed with the warning to the country of risking a long but ‘unwanted vacation’ from the world football scenes, should it fail to put its house (NFF) in order.

After the controversial verdict, came again a new twist into the tussle as the Giwa’s faction sacked Amodu and recalled Keshi. Let me establish here that, it was at this point that the embattled keshi got involved in the recent treacherous politics of the glass house.

What followed after the predicted upturn of Justice Alargoa ruling by the same court and jurist (on Thursday October 30, 2014) explained clearly the above position. After the intervention of Mr. President, Keshi was again recalled and Amodu was asked to go! This suggested that Keshi is Giwa and his masters’ (known and otherwise) candidate and Amodu was the Pinnick’s choice. It was very very painful that those who claimed to be mediating the tussle were overwhelmed with the personal interest, instead of national.

If not, how does one explain the Keshi’s reinstatement against the wish of NFF EXCO? With the present composition, who do you think or where do you expect Keshi’s loyalty will tilt and what kind of working relationship do you expect to exist between the NFF leadership and Coach Keshi? Believe or take it, Keshi can never be faithful and committed to Pinnick and his cabinet, rather will pitch his tent with those who smuggled him in to serve and achieve their sinister and inordinate interest.

Nigerians, all of these scenario were unfolding while the Super Eagles 2015 AFCON qualifying matches were either approaching; other countries strategizing and preparing diligently for the qualifiers! Yet, we expect miracles – Nigeria to qualify.

When it comes to football, I can confirm that Nigerians are ‘unrepentant optimists’. Ordinarilly, nothing is harmful in this manner of approach to life, yet, sincerity of purpose really matters. The fact here is that no matter the degree of love, patriotism, affection or what have you for the Super Eagles, in these circumstances, sorry those eagles will fail to be their natural self – will and cannot not fly.

What worsened the matter is the history of Nigeria round leather game, which is reputed with the wobble, horrible start but with a victorious end. You remember Under 12 Golden Eaglets (Unduka Ugbade – led) Saudi Arabia Daman miracles junior world cup team; the 1996 US Olympic Kanu Nwakwo – led Under 20 Flying Eagles (team) match against Brazil and whole of other surprised outings by the Nigerian sides?

Despite these, the variables in the present circumstance are different and that was why the miracles did not happen and why hope dashed and finally lost! The major factor that lacked in the recent handling of the senior Football squad is management. This aspect of every organization fundamentally touches on proper directing, controlling and coordinating of the available resources to achieve set goals. Where was the management when the NFF was overtaken by power debacle; players and coaches left at parallel levels and where there is total communication breakdown between the players/Coach and NFF Board? No matter the expectation, in such troubled settings, things will not just go the way the optimistists focus and think. This is common sensical.

Now that hope of the current African Champion to feature in the Equitorial Guinea hosted continental Football fiesta is dashed, who actually is to be blamed; who carries the damaging cross; who is or are the foes of Nigerian sport lovers, especially who look forward to another fantastic outing and performance by this them – the Super Eagles?

The answers. The NFF Borad member began the hostility and controversy by sacking Maigari for alleged reasons yet to be proved till now. The ripples degenerated to rivalry and contest for supremacy between Maigari and his Vice, Umeh, then followed the Chris Giwa dimension. The Sports Minister’s angle who attended the illegal election of Giwa faction of NFF cannot be overlooked here. All the mentioned are the enemies and significant factors that resulted to Super Eagles downfall, just as in their scheming, only buried personal interest and ambition.

Stephen keshi. Yes he is the Chief Coach, we all know. No one should blame this ‘gentleman’ (if that description is allowed). My opinion until the last round of the glass house crisis, is that the man’s hands were clean. The poor outings of his team were connected to the war in the glass house, period! The fate that eventually befell his team would be replicated if it were to be handled by another person under similar circumstances.

Still, one salient point on the streets is the wanting quality of Super Eagles players. This is a well said one, but again, I held if the team had paraded good crops of players, it might still be difficult for it to break even in the end. Remember, management; its link to planning and outcome. So dear Comrades, you would do better by sparing Coach Keshi and facing the enemies squarely who parade themselves as seasoned sports administrators, but by their undoings fail the Super Eagles, the the country’s Football lovers and Nigeria as a whole.

A word of advice for Keshi here. Except if he had decided to be involved in the rancorous polititics of the NFF, Please take a bow now. After a humble coaching career abroad and has been so blessed to have earned the country the 2013 AFCO prestigious honour, Keshi, leave and look elsewhere for now, to pursue your career. Note that the resenting interests promoting you do not have your interest at heart, only theirs. Already, you know that the battle line has been drawn and in the process, someone will be like a chess board and become victim at the end of the self-seeking and obnoxious game. So, leave now; Keshi leave them alone, leave now!

What about the Presidency and its role? Mr. President Sir, the take of many Nigerians is that the pace and manner at which you eventually intervened in the NFF tussle was slow and pose many questions. Nigerians observed that the doggedness, promptness, foresight and fairness you and your administration deployed recently, in working with other stakeholders, to the conquered war against the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) were totally lacking.

Similarly, many viewed that the return of Keshi as one of the fall out of your mediation was only to appease a clique of the glass house, not necessarily in the interest of the constituted authority of the NFF and the public in general. I hold that this point is not disputable most especially if one studies the body language of NFF leadership. Keshi can never be loyal to Pinnnick, as he has been fired by his EXCO. And for now, it appears the NFF in place now is a mere caricature – a structure without authority. For now, the perception is that virtually, key decisions bothering on NFF affairs come from the presidency. Then, I feel strongly we are going nowhere if actually this is true.

Mr. President, you were very delighted, just as many other Nigerians did when the war against Ebola was fought and won. Equally, you were very glad like millions of Nigerians did in 2013 when the same Super Eagles did Nigerian proud in their 1 – 0 victory against the Burkina Faso in the last AFCON final hosted by South Africa; very sure you were pained also, as our senior team had failed to defend the trophy won through a dint of hard work and commitment in the last continental tournament.

Finally, If am right sir; the task for you from Nigerians is that you should effect a genuine sanity in this house – NFF. Let Amaju Pinnick and his team be given a free hand to operate with no interference from any quarter. And let the working synergy between the Presidency and the current NFF leadership be that of the look, ‘professionals have been given the job, so they must be allowed to perform’ and not ‘wait for the Presidency’ directives – obvious manner of administration as presently being witnessed. Let the NFF be free, warn and instruct the shameless and mischievous dark horses – enemies to go and take a queue for their turn to come and let the Country’s football catch up with the global standard!

LASSAA, LASG, Watch Out And Act Now

The Lagos State Signage and Advertising Agency (LASSAA) is a Lagos State government parastatal with responsibility of managing the outdoor advertising and the related in the metropolis. One of its obligations is to ensure a clean looking State. The agency for instance, is backed by an Edict which bans pasting of posters and handbills in the open spaces across the State. Since the law has been put in place, LASSAA officials have been proactive in its enforcement – by moving around to remove pastings in the Lagos city.

However, what is baffling now is that the posters of some of the aspirants of the State ruling party – the APC have littered most part of the State. I have seen so far the posters of the incumbent Deputy Governor, Mrs Adejoke Orelope – Adefulire; Senator Ganiyu Solomon; Akin Ambode; Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat, Hon. Solomon Olamilekan (Yayi); Hon. Abayomi Ogunnusi and so many others ‘greenhorns’ in the party and one of the oppositions – the AD. Good to mention here that the outdoor campaign of the Speaker of the State House Of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji is being promoted only through flex banner display, which I believe is allowed by with permission from LASSAA. I am only relating what I see for now in the urban areas. (Have no knowledge of what happens in the rural local councils of the State).

Now, if the APC government makes a law in the State and the high ranking political officers holders display brazen breach of the same law, what message is such party is sending and passing to others? This is a question for LASSAA and the Lagos State government. Please the State authorities should act now, before the situation gets out of hand. However, if nothing is done to correct the illegality, no one should raise voice against anybody, when the flagrant abuse of the law assumes in full scale.

E-mail: tjaysuccess10@gmail.com; Twitter: @tajudeen balogun




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