By Les Leba
Our governments have spent billions of naira over time to promote a positive image for Nigerians everywhere. Regrettably, the popular perception of the Nigerian character remains that of greed, self-interest and other such ingenious criminal escapades. The promoted brand of “Good People, Great Nation” never really took off, and it has become clear that neither catchy slogans nor sexy packaging can change public perception of what is intrinsically a bad product!
The question then is, how did the Super Eagles against all odds win the coveted elusive ‘Africa Nation’s Cup’, with qualities supposedly alien to the Nigerian character? With our tradition of tardy preparations, inadequate funding and poor team selection, how did the shrubs we sowed transform into sweet-smelling roses?
Undoubtedly, unity, cohesive teamwork, strong determination to succeed, utmost self-belief, and a driving hunger for personal glory and honour to the fatherland brought unexpected success!
Keshi’s leadership was certainly a major factor in the AFCON victory; his team list was based on the perceived fighting and winning mentality of each player and the readiness of his selection to play according to instructions. Indeed, Keshi, himself maintained that individual skills alone do not win such tournaments, and despite intense pressure, he remained undaunted and unapologetic for leaving out some star players; for Keshi, merit without consideration of ethnic affiliations or federal character was the benchmark for team selection!
The Coach consistently took full responsibility for his team’s shortcomings, without overtly apportioning blame to anyone! Consequently, he earned the respect of his players and their resolve to give 101% in every match. Keshi, in return, showed genuine fatherly concern and respect for his players.
Keshi ignored the deprivations and disrespect from the Football Federation, but instead encouraged Nigerians to have faith in the team’s ability to deliver; he remained upbeat about fulfilling his contract terms to take the Super Eagles to the semi-finals of AFCON 2013!
Curiously, also, the Football Federation had threatened to summarily sack Coach Keshi midway in the tournament, if he refused to accept a foreign technical adviser as his boss; Keshi in turn offered to resign his position immediately after the Eagles unexpectedly beat favourites, Ivory Coast! Interestingly, despite these distractions, the camp remained unusually convivial and harmonious! The excellent team spirit was no doubt a testimony of the matured leadership skills of Coach Keshi, an attribute that has unfortunately been absent in the affairs of our nation for a very long time!
Keshi’s effortless response to questions in both English and French must have endeared him not only to French speaking Africans, but also to those Nigerians, who cringe at the poor performance of our national leaders in front of international media.
In similar vein, Nigerians witnessed the amazing exploits of Sunday Mba, one of six domestic players in Keshi’s 23-man team. The unusually high quota of local content was justified by the excellent performances of Mba and other homegrown players. Mba certainly lifted the spirits of most Nigerians with his two mesmerizing winning goals against Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals and Burkina Faso in the finals respectively. Despite technical and capacity limitations, there are undoubtedly many more Mbas waiting to explode in the service of our country in various fields of endeavour whenever the enabling environment presents itself.
Mba’s electric performance and Keshi’s success sent out a strong message that the object of our expensive foreign travails may actually have remained idle in the pockets of our ‘shokoto’. This same syndrome of lack of belief in ourselves and the cringing adoration for everything foreign, even when the imported quality is inferior can still be observed in all facets of governance and corporate management in our country!
Finally, we cannot comment on the apparent total commitment of Victor Moses to the success of the national team without a twitch of guilt or at best some embarrassment. Despite the threatening injury he sustained in the earlier match against Mali, Moses went on to give a superlative account of himself also in the finals.
Surprisingly, Victor had a choice to play for England and ultimately enjoy the same cult status of key players in the English team, but it is to his credit and his sense of loyalty that he chose, instead, to play for his fatherland. Unknown to most Nigerians, the parents of this young man had been mindlessly murdered in the mayhem that followed the aborted Abuja Miss World Beauty Contest in 2002! Painfully, the perpetrators of that heinous act remain free; Victor may never forget the brutal separation from his parents, but for him to have given so much of himself to Nigeria in the AFCON 2013 tournament, the young man must have found it in his heart to forgive his countrymen!
SAVE THE NAIRA, SAVE NIGERIANS!!