by Ayo Sanni
Our success at AFCON 2013 got me thinking. Most Nigerians, myself included, did not feel comfortable with a team that did not include at least Okocha, Kanu, Oliseh, or any one of the major players from the golden Westerhof era. I mean, we have retrogressed exponentially since 1994. The proof of that being that we have won absolutely nothing since those giddy years.
Yet we still see our stars of yesteryears (2 decades ago) looking fit on TV and at the clubs. Ok, maybe not Kanu; to the first time observer, he seemingly had no business on the pitch. But in his defense, Kanu has always looked frail and played more with his head and eyes than his legs. Legend has it that many times at Portsmouth FC, he carried his team to victory and literally could not walk after the game. He would have to be wheeled into the bus using a wheel-chair.
Heck, I was even on the plane with Segun Odegbami a few months ago and was surprised at how young h looked. Surely he will have been better than this ‘Sunday Mba’ that plays for Warri Wanderers; sorry I am told it is Warri Wolves. (Disclosure, I have been so disillusioned with Nigerian Football that I completely stopped following around 2005. So some of my thoughts may sound almost irrational to those who still follow)
Given a choice, many of us will have rejoiced if either Kanu or Okocha had come out of retirement under the guise of lending their invaluable experience and never say die attitude to our AFCON campaign.
But If Keshi didn’t have the guts or common sense (or both) to call on their experience and winning attitudes, if he couldn’t order Amokachi, the bull to don his playing gear and lead the charge to the finals for us, the least he could have done was call up their less successful replacements – Obafemi Martins, Odemwingwe, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, etc. They may not have won us anything, they may be egotistical, overweight, maybe even have all sorts of attitudinal problems but they were at least banging in goals as first team players in foreign lands and they were under 40.
I am especially guilty because even in the giddy days of USA 94, I always maintained and I still do that if a coach really tours Nigeria, there are better players in Nigeria than Okocha, Oliseh, Babayaro, etc. Visit the streets of Lagos Island, Onikan stadium, the streets of Mushin and you will be shocked at the talent that we all connive to waste as if it was oil or better still natural gas (our politicians still benefit from the oil). And this is just Lagos State. Despite my knowing this, I was still upset that the older guys didn’t hang around past their sell by dates and deprive the younger generations. I was upset even more that Keshi didn’t see it fit to keep faith with their unsuccessful successors.
But lo and behold, we have won using young players mainly without pedigree. Yes, Victor Moses plays for Chelsea, but how many of us really knew him. How many of us cared when he started playing for England?
Who is Sunday Mba? All I know even after his rise to prominence is that he has immense skill, presence of mind and is home based. So I wonder, like many of you why he is still here. His AFCON winning goal reminds me of King Kanu’s Atlanta 96 Olympic winning goal against Brazil. I still think that it should have won the goal of the tournament. It was a better goal and the stakes were higher and he had less time to see, think it through and execute it.
Emmanuel Emenike? Yes NOW, I know he plays for Spartak Moscow, NOW, I know he used to walk one and half hours to and fro training when he started out playing free for Delta Force in Delta State. Who is this Echiejile that feels he can play for us because he is Larry Echiejile (now Izamuje)’s relative? NOW I know he plays for Sporting de Braga and also represented us at the 2007 U-20 World cup. I have also not found any connections between him and the Brilla FM founder.
The point is that if we don’t phase out the old especially when they are not working, the new will never have a chance to perform. We are indirectly robbing ourselves of a better tomorrow.
I will like to end this here as the discerning amongst us will see the parallels with the situation we find ourselves in Nigeria. However for the benefit of the die-hard Jonathan fans, Tinubu sycophants, and most especially the Buhari enthusiasts I will continue.
Heaven forbid Buhari dies before 2015, we may as well split Nigeria up and apportion different parts to our neighboring countries as no one else can possibly be fit to rule Nigeria.
In wishing for Okocha or Kanu to lend us their experience and give us a fighting chance, I was invariably doing the equivalent of wishing Buhari, Obasanjo, Bode George, Anthony Anenih, El-Rufai come back to continue to rule us. Even if they have done brilliantly, we should effect change for the sake of change. Change they say is the only constant thing in life. Resisting change is futile. Despite our best efforts, things will always change – for better or for worse. If we don’t actively pursue change for the better, things will take a change for the worse.
For those of us that were seething angry that Keshi didn’t at least call up Osaze, or Martins, which we continued to say till the quarterfinals, that is the equivalent of saying if we can’t have Buhari, let us manage Dimeji Bankole, Femi Fani Kayode, Saraki, etc, who have no notable achievement between them, never mind the ‘unproven’ allegations.
The usual excuse for most of us Nigerians becoming recycling experts is that who will lead us if not for those who have been tainted or blemished by one scandal or the other. If Keshi had thought like us, Sunday Mba will have no place in our history or indeed Afrian history. Had Keshi not followed the path less travelled, Kanu will have been on the reserve bench with the captain’s band – just like PDP has a 70 year old ‘youth’ leader. We will have Doyin Okupe doing what he does best under the guise of being a presidential senior special assistant for public affairs instead of you, me, your friends, my friends (Temisan, Agboola, Oyindamola, Nnamdi, Sandra, etc) occupying that position and getting groomed for greater things. We are the generation that never was. What is worse is that some of my friends whom I mentioned above are busy calling for Buhari to be the next leader.
It is bad enough that we don’t fight for our dues, leaving it to God, the omnipotent. It is an abomination when we beg the generations past that have failed us to please take the reins but please do better this time.Buhari may or may not have had good intentions but he was overthrown by a coup he was warned about. Lack of decisiveness, the same trait he displayed when he failed to come out and condemn the killings being carried out in his defense after the last presidential elections. We need a good all round leader surrounded by people who are ready to die for the good of the nation, not for their own kids or someone’s fourth term.
Imagine what your life will be like if every Sunday Mba in Nigeria was given a chance to contribute. We will truly be the Giant of Africa with stable power supply, good roads, low unemployment; we will not be risking the wrath of our children for kneeling down while our parents squandered their futures.
Go out and get your forms for 2015. If you do not wish to contest, give it to your friend who you see as possessing leadership qualities. She is better than any of the current crop simply because where they have failed, she MIGHT succeed. If she doesn’t, then we move on to the next person who may succeed. It is statistically impossible that we are a nation of 158.4 million corrupt, incompetent, power hungry, self-centered individuals. Forward Always; Backwards never.