It all started immediately after the Super Eagles won the Africa Nations Cup in South Africa in 2013, 19 years after the last one in Tunisia in 1994. Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi fell out with the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.
The NFF leadership, speaking through one of the Executive Committee members, Felix Anyansi-Agwu told the world that Keshi was carrying on as if the Cup was won by his efforts alone, stressing that without the support of the Board, the success may not have come. The hatred worsened when gifts started pouring Keshi’s way.
The one that troubled the NFF Board led then by Alhaji Aminu Maigari most was when Globacom boss, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr handed Keshi mouth-watering sums in addition to two posh cars for his feat of winning the Nations Cup, one that made him the first Nigerian Coach to do so. From then on Keshi was marked for the guillotine but he was spared the axe because of the crisis of succession which engulfed the NFF over the election into its Board. After the election which brought Amaju Pinnick as Maigari’s successor, Keshi’s contract which expired after the 2014 World Cup would not be renewed, allegedly on the instruction of the former henchmen who still called the shots from a distance.
Because Nigeria had qualifying matches to play and not wanting the vacuum created by the failure of the NFF to either renew Keshi’s contract or reject him, then sports minister, Dr. Tammy Danagogo recalled Keshi to handle the qualifying matches with a promise to pay him from the coffers of the National Sports Commission. But this decision did not go down well with some members of the NFF.
And Keshi himself knew this and alleged that some of them were praying for him to fail. He alleged that they were not happy that the Super Eagles pulled an away win against Congo and celebrated when the Eagles drew 2-2 with South Africa in Uyo, a result that ensured that Eagles crashed out of the 2015 Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea.
The NFF needed no further proof to stop Keshi from continuing as the Eagles handler because football fans drew a line between them and the Illah-born gaffer who was not only booed but had hate words posted on the social media against him. When words got to Dr. Danagogo that the NFF had made up their mind to do away with Keshi, he warned that even though they had the right to hire and fire, they should make sure they get someone who was better than Keshi. The NFF top shots definitely were in a quagmire as they were handicapped and in a hurry to fill in the vacuum created by the exit of Keshi, hurriedly drafted Sunday Oliseh as the new coach.
Because some Nigerians kicked against his choice, Oliseh was dressed in borrowed robes and described as the ‘’Guardiola of Africa”, and someone that has the magic wand to turn around the fortunes of the Eagles. The leopard, they say, does not change its skin and it didn’t take too long for Oliseh to show his true colours. Despite being pampered by the NFF among all the coaches of the national teams, Oliseh turned around to accuse the federation of hindering him from doing his job well. He also vowed not to work with or report to the Technical Committee. He took to the social media to attack his ex team-mates, the media and all those who dared to criticise him for failing at the African Nations Championship in Rwanda, calling them insane.
At this stage, the NFF made up their mind to dispense with his services but the Youth and Sports Minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung, waded in and prevailed upon the NFF to stay action on his sack. Days later, Dalung was to say that the NFF were wrong to want to sack Oliseh based on a Youtube message which he said may have been doctored.
A message posted by the coach himself on his website was doctored? That Oliseh didn’t come out to deny the message was enough proof for Dalung to know it couldn’t have been doctored. A few days after Dalung tried to back Oliseh against the NFF leadership who found it reasonable to discountenance the decision of its technical committee and sought the advise of the minister on Oliseh’s fate instead, Oliseh dealt the NFF, Dalung and the entire country, a blow bellow the belt, dumping the country at the centre of nowhere. Leaving the Eagles without a coach, few days to the crucial double header between them and the Pharoahs of Egypt.
No coach of the Eagles, not even Brazilian Carlos Alberto Torres, who came but didn’t even line out once with the players at training session before throwing in the towel, has treated the national team nay the country with such levity Oliseh has just done. Those who saw Keshi as the problem of Nigeria’s football would be having a different thought now. And those who blamed Vincent Enyeama for insisting on being given a chance by Oliseh to express himself, and Emmanuel Emenike’s premature retirement from the national team, now know where the fault lied.
All this however boils down to an NFF who in an attempt to do away with their perceived enemy in Keshi, took a hasty decision in hiring an inexperienced and temperamental coach who has no managerial skills. This also teaches them not to judge a coach by one failure as they did to Samson Siasia. May be if Siasia had been allowed to continue despite not being able to qualify the Eagles for the 2012 Nations Cup, he would have been able to groom a better team that Nigerians would have been proud of by now.