June 15, 2024

Tinubu’s Super Eagles, by Emeka Obasi

Tinubu’s Super Eagles, by Emeka Obasi

Qualification for the 2006 World is beyond those presently saddled with that responsibility. President Bola Tinubu should as a matter of national emergency, take the Super Eagles to the Presidency as a full fledged Department.

Bringing the senior national soccer team so close to Tinubu is the only way the wrongs of the last four qualifying games can be corrected. Failure to act now means that, for the first time since their debut in 1994, the Eagles will miss the Mundial for the second time in a row.

The presidenct and his handlers should be concerned, for this record will be bad for Tinubu’s image. Should it happen, he will be the first in the Fourth Republic to be denied Eagles’ World Cup presence during a first tenure.

Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo saw the team qualify for the Korea Japan 2002 edition. Alhaji Umaru Yar’adua was in office when ticket for South Africa 2010 came. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was president at the time Stephen Keshi led Nigeria to Brazil 2014. In Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s first tenure, there was Russia 2018.

Tinubu should be worried stiff. These boys will be unfair to him if after rewarding them bountifully for winning silver at the Cote d’Ivoire 2024 African Nations Cup, their thank you is to break the hearts of over 200 million fans.

There must be total surgical operation. A Presidential Task Force headed by possibly, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu with the Sports minister as Vice Chairman, should be set up immediately to work with the Nigeria Football Federation.

There are six matches to go and the task of winning all these games must be accomplished. We are in this mess now because all those involved, failed to do the right thing, at the right time. From the NFF to Finidi George, down to the players.

While group opponents, South Africa, Benin Republic, Rwanda, Lesotho and Zimbabwe were busy preparing for the third matches, the NFF failed to appoint a coach for the Eagles. Finidi was late in coming amidst undue controversy.

As teams went to camp, there were no plans to set up one for the Eagles until the very last minute. Many of the players were in the country for long, idling away, from choice locations to the inner city. Coordination was non existent.

Finidi did not quite settle down. Choosing people to work with him was not only politicised, the decision was poor. This is one area that must be looked into. I think, a man like Sylvanus Okpala, has to be drafted to the team.

Okpala won the African Nations Cup with the Eagles in 1980, played in Europe, captained the Eagles to the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games and was assistant coach when a third Nations Cup gold was achieved in 2013. He may not be in the good books of the NFF but the man will be useful at this time.

Finidi cannot be crucified for being on the quiet side. I will blame him for not relating well with some of his players. Captain William Troost – Ekong is not 100 percent fit quite alright, but a listening manager would have kept him in camp in the last two disastrous matches against Bafana Bafana and Cheetahs.

Ekong is a true leader, a Field Marshal who knows how to galvanise his troops. His presence would have lifted the spirit of his team mates. It is remarkable that this strong man who was not born in Nigeria, is more committed than some of those born into eba and Agege bread.

The Eagles need a Camp Commandant. This idea of strolling into camp must stop. There are many Lieutenant Colonels, Commanders, Wing Commanders and Chief Superintendents of Police who can do this job effectively. We are in a crisis situation, some martial tactics will help.

The players failed even themselves in the last two games. They have also apologised. This is time to show what Nigeria can do. If the Eagles could qualify for Russia 2018 in a group that included Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia, they can soar above the present opposition.

May I remind President Tinubu that Clemens Westerhof succeeded because the Presidency backed him. Vice President Augustus Aikhomu and President Ibrahim Babangida knew everything that transpired between the team and NFF.

Many of us may not know that until Aikhomu died, he carried the Eagles on his head. On the way to Korea/ Japan, Nigeria was on the way out, in a group that had weaklings like Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and a poor Ghanaian squad.

Obasanjo fished out Aikhomu who put things right, schooling players and officials on why Nigeria must not stay home while others were in the Far East for the global show. Football is politics and helps make bold statements in the field of diplomacy.

Tinubu must not fail Nigerians. He must perform a miracle. Flying Eagles did it in Dammam. Patriotism can never offer a better opportunity. Without this country in the Americas in 2026,

I am certain that Mr. President will not sleep. Wahala go dey.

Let Tinubu invite the boys to October 1 celebrations at Eagle Square. By the time they watch the Armed Forces parade, they will understand the power of the Eagles jersey. I hope that female naval officer, Lt. Okeke, will do some ceremonials with Flt. Lt. Sambo, Supol Shuaibu Suleman and Squadron Leader Uchenna Asogwa.