Jonathan, Keshi & The Little Things

Stephen Keshi (pix: Punchng)

President Jonathan has meddled in Nigerian football matters before. Then, as at now, it ended in a fiasco. That first time, June 2010, after Nigeria crashed and burned at the World Cup due in large part to the incompetence of one Lars Lagerback and a small helping hand from Sani Kaita, Jonathan imposed a two-year international ban on the Super Eagles.

Stephen Keshi (pix: Punchng)
Stephen Keshi (pix: Punchng)

Thankfully, FIFA came down hard on Jonathan and threatened Nigeria with expulsion before that ridiculous ban was rescinded. If Jonathan had been allowed to have his way, Nigeria would have missed out on the qualifications for the AFCON championships which we eventually won in February 2013. We also would have missed out on the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

But, Jonathan did it again! After the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) did what was long overdue and showed brother Keshi the door, Jonathan stepped in and forced Keshi’s reinstatement. The net result? We failed to qualify for the next championship. We don’t even have the honour of defending our title.

Often, in governance, it is not the major speeches or policy initiatives. To the average citizen, it is those things that they see that are often important to them. Societies are set up by and large already, and life will continue, regardless. The mark of the astute leader is not just how you shape the general direction of your society but by the perception you create among your citizens. And you do this by the little things that you do; the things you allow to happen or not to happen over time.

A President is not meant to run the whole enterprise himself. The policy direction must be amenable to allow Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Administrators and others get on with implementation. The leader then does the little things that let his citizens know that their welfare comes first and that they are in safe hands.

Ministries such as Agriculture and Aviation excelled not because Jonathan imposed himself on them or interjected himself into their daily minutiae but because they have competent Ministers who have free hands to be creative and to do their thing.

Over-ruling the NFF was as short-sighted as it was damaging. Keshi and subsequent Managers will know that they only need drop the name of the President to have their way. Worse, NFF administrators have been castrated, their authority yanked from them in a humiliating manner. Going forward, they would triple guess themselves to ascertain that whatever decision they want to take would be palatable to an interloping President or his anointed(s). What an untenable position to find oneself.

With Keshi gone, our players would have been motivated anew for those two last games. They would have been playing to impress the new man, to keep their place in the team now and in the future. They certainly wouldn’t have played any worse than they did for Keshi. Rather, you have the same ineffectual players been played in every game whether they perform or not and the players know it!

Under Keshi, the Super Eagles played with no discernible pattern or tactics. Our team was easily and painfully outfoxed tactically by opposing managers. No new players were groomed or given a look-in. Established players that were doing relatively well around the globe were menacingly ignored. Instead, apart from possibly Vincent Enyema and Mikel Obi, we had a national team comprising of middle of the road journey men from obscure teams and unheralded leagues.

When you start losing to teams like Iran and Sudan, you ought to know that you’re not just having bad days; something is fundamentally wrong.

I have always felt that Keshi is a decent enough football coach but that is as far as it goes. I think that he is good for a Mali or a Togo; teams that are looking to come to the level where Nigeria currently is. However, I don’t think Keshi can take a Nigeria or a South Africa to the level where Argentina or France is.

In 2006, Nigeria was ranked by FIFA as the 9th best team in the world. In 2008, we were 19th. Under Keshi, we have plummeted to number 42. In Africa we are currently number 9 – two places below one country called Cape Verde! This is the manager for whom Jonathan went to bat and forced on the NFF and on Nigeria for more agony. Well, we are all beneficiaries of that splendid intervention today.

A leader’s involvement must be dynamic, and it must be for the greater good. It is not acceptable to cut a forlorn figure afterwards as all manner of malfeasance happens around one the way Keshi cuts a pitiful figure on the touchline as Amenike runs aimlessly, his head downwards, hacking down defenders.

It is the little things.   Jonathan, our Commander-in-Chief has not visited Chibok or the Northeast to reassure the folks up there. Lagos State, First Consultant Hospital and Dr Adadevoh helped us immensely in curtailing the dreadful Ebola disease, I don’t know if Jonathan has paid specific visits to these places or written to relevant families to show appreciation and solidarity.

Citizens don’t tend to remember big policy statements, but they will remember an Alamieyeseigha being given Presidential pardon. They will remember Mrs Jonathan as a paid Perm Sec in Bayelsa.

People remember double standards, impunity. People will remember the assault on treacherous Tambuwal and the National Assembly. People will remember the circus, the wastefulness, the tastelessness and the Abacharism of an incumbent democratic President being ‘begged’ all across the nation to seek re-election.

Now Jonathan has gone and dropped another clanger. He only went and added the Super Eagles’ debacle to his list of accomplishments. How about that for a campaign run.

Written by
Michael Egbejumi-David
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