By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni
The caption for this piece was borrowed from a Facebook friend, Joshua Oluwakayode Oyero’s status. Am sure that was the easiest way he could capture the anxiety that followed the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s “poaching” of the Ivorian’s Elephants. It was a supposedly impossibility made possible and Nigerians showed that against the incessant attacks on the team for its drawling movement, they could sing songs of praise if expectations were surpassed. It was a Sunday night made easy. From the respective viewing centres, Nigerians showed an uncompromising spirit of nationhood, support, belief, patriotism and dedication. We were able to subdue the hatred, anguish, suffering, and even governmental ineptitude to support the Super Eagles.
The patriotic zeal for victory, and the need to re-establish Nigeria’s name in the annals of the round leather game spurred the team to the end in their match against Ivory Coast, after not participating in the last Nations cup and world cup finals respectively. The Super Eagles played, fought and won like a team. There was no ambitious self glory seeking, no quest to win man of the match or score highest number of goals but a collective one goal – win at all costs. Against the baggage of criticisms that would have distracted feeble minds with low conviction like the hundreds we have at the helms of our governmental affairs today, the Eagles against all odds, landed safely in the semi-finals of AFCON 2013.
Like most average Nigerians, we gave the Super Eagles little or no chance of getting to where they are today. George Aluo of Sun Newspaper sees in the Super Eagles, the prevailing attitude Nigerians exhibit. It is only when we are challenged that we go the extra mile to get things done. To me and many others, that quarter final display was a Superb 94 mins. It is the greatest impression in the last decade by a team that has been written off after its sluggish start at the tournament.
Before proceeding, I would like to do a brief animalistic impression of the slogan the two countries bear in respect of the title of this piece; Super Eagles of Nigeria and Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire – the two dominant word being Eagle and Elephant. Nobody would have given a hovering small eagle, which does not care when its offsprings devour themselves for survival at birth, a chance over an elephant, a large and extremely intelligent animal with good sensitive memory. But what major commentators forget(including myself) is that, an eagle is a powerfully built bird of prey family, with a heavy head and large hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong muscular legs, powerful talons and an extremely sharp eyes 3.6 times the human acuity. Thus, the Ivorian defeat is more of the focus of swift eagles whose eyes are set on gold after close to two decades they last lifted the trophy in 1994.
The post match interviews by Coach Steven Keshi, did have a lot to say about his team, leadership skill, being in charge, taking responsibility and never losing hope. I would like to make some comparison between Coach Stephen Keshi and President Goodluck Jonathan’s demeanour in front of the camera and international media. At every interview, Coach Keshi faces the media with the true state of situation, acceptance of his team’s under performance and a convincing determination to get appreciable result from the next match. Unlike what Mr. President portrays each time he faces same audience; the recent CNN interview is a clear case in point.
Coach Keshi doesn’t drawl but speaks with conviction and sounds motivational enough to be believed to be in charge. On the winning of the match against Ivory Coast, he says, “I know the mentality of my players, their level of concentration, and I knew they could do it. My players were disciplined. Nobody gave us a chance, but we showed character. When I made the team, I knew we would have to fight. We started the game well and were tactically disciplined. It came with determination and mental toughness.”
Former Coach of Kano Pillars, Ladan Bosso said, “The Eagles showed tremendous improvement and against the Ivorians did everything perfect, so if they maintain same character and up it a bit I see them making it to the final as well as clinching the third title.” Let President Jonathan too motivate Nigerian citizen through people oriented action, not brick throwing by his co-travellers in government. Ineffectiveness on the part of government can’t make us patriotic.
Former Nigeria captain, Sunday Oliseh, on SuperSport, opined that the Nigerian team have the critics to thank for their victory. The critics kept the players and Coach Keshi on their toes. This I see as a lesson to President Goodluck Jonathan and his supposed “today’s men of power”, who find it really hard to subdue their arrogance and see beyond their nose. The critics are patriotic citizens who don’t want us to end in the ditch of maladministration. The bags of criticisms the present administration receives derive from dwindling hopes, unfulfilled expectations and fast rising frustration amongst Nigerians. We are only transforming from disorder to ineptitude with putrid smell fouling the air everywhere.
Needless to say that the reconciling of feuding Ijaw ex-militants who until recently have been enjoying juicy appointments and contract from their brother in government, Dr. GEJ by Elder Statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, would not guarantee a return to power for their beloved son except President Jonathan puts critics to shame by ventilating the odorous political atmosphere and governance with the fresh air he promised us! To Pa Edwin Clark, I have this to say,” an elder statesman is actuated by the love of his country, not by the love of power, tribalism or primordial sentiments.
I believe when a child’s behaviour puts him at loggerheads with people of the community, the elder ought to tell him rather than be an accomplice in his waywardness. There is an urgent need to put aside this crass opportunism, corruption and self glorifying posture and face the job at hand. If the government does what it ought to do, we would turn our pages of criticism to demi-god worship. Pardon me, Nigerians can show such hypocrisy when government truly transforms their lives.
Ujam Basil, the Third place winner of First Bank Plc, Undergraduate Essay Competition (2008) posted the question and answer below on his Facebook wall, and I would like to submit by reproducing it here. Question: DOES FOOTBALL ACTUALLY UNITE NIGERIANS OR SIMPLY GIVE US TEMPORARY Illusion OF UNITY? Answer: “Yes football actually unites us while it lasts and makes us feel proud of our country Nigeria but because it’s spontaneous and does not last, the unity it inspires does not last too. There are many things that concern us all as a nation and if the other sectors are falling apart, then the centri-petal sentiments of football success cannot stand alone against the centrifugal sentiments of the other sectors”. This can’t be farther from the truth, but the government can capitalise on those few days or hours of unity to bring about policies without bias. No federal character, no ethnicity, no tribalism, just people orientated policies. The kind, Governor(Ogbeni) Aregbesola of the State of Osun likes to call Marshal Plan for Action.
To the Super Eagles, we need to keep our heads cool and not over celebrate our victory. Even though I’m not much of a football lover, I believe in Keshi’s boys to bring home the gold and President Jonathan to do the right things before it is too late.
•Mojeed-Sanni wrote from Lagos.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet Handle: @sanity0407 Mobile: 08029713490