Thursday, 14 February 2013 21:32

Super Eagle: The Real Fresh Breath

Written by Kunle Somorin
President Jonathan with Super Eagles President Jonathan with Super Eagles


Temporary relief came the way of Nigerians at the beginning of the week. It was the first time that Nigerians are in unison celebrating. From relative obscurity and with low ratings by the championship organisers, the home fans and perhaps some of the players themselves, the god of soccer smiled on the nation as we lifted the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).


It was Nigeria’s first major sports glory since Atlanta ’96 Olympics and her first continental soccer victory in 19 years. Because the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) administrators were cocksure that the team would lose to Cote d’Ivoire at the quarter final stage, return tickets was what they were preparing for penultimate Sunday, rather than preparing match bonuses. It is the limit of despondence and discouragement to the Team Nigeria spirit.


Even the team coach, Stephen Keshi, who 19 years earlier captained the Super Eagles to victory in Tunisia, was not spared the insolence of poor motivation. News spread quickly that he would be replaced by a foreign coach. At home, the Eagles were derogatorily called the Super chickens. But the valour and chivalry of the Super Eagles turned the ashes in our mouths to honey less than a week later.


Gloom replaced doom for all the contending forces. Like the undying phoenix, the soccer team trounced the highly favoured Ivorians, zoomed past the Malians who conceded that they played ‘Brazil’ not an African country and fileted the cup away against a determined side like Burkina Faso. It was a moment of fresh breath that the nation needs to assuage the putrid air blown into the political space by all manner of negativities.


Suddenly, nobody spoke about an Igbo-dominated national soccer squad. The Boko Haram sheathed their bombs. The road blocks of corruption ceased, even if temporarily. No one wanted to discuss political party merger or whether Goodluck Jonathan must be checkmated in 2015. The economy too mattered little. Pervading the air waves was the luxuriant fresh lungful of exhilaration, a feeling of dejavu that something good could come out of Nigeria.


Ethnic, religious and other primordial sentiments gave way for national interest and unity. Success, they say has many fathers, it is only a failure that is an unwanted wretched orphan. All the rich Nigerians wanted to identify with the Eagles. And the poor trooped to the airport in solidarity, just as many forgot their dinner on Sunday to cheer the Eagles to victory at their different viewing centres, pubs and open bars.


Jonathan could not afford a mere presidential handshake or be miserly in appreciating like one of his predecessors. He was generous with cash, land allocation and national honours. Not even the harshest critics of the administration could deny that it is a sign of good omen for the country.


Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, for instance, in a tweet after the final match, described the Eagles victory as “an achievement of the Jonathan administration”. The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said the victory showed what Nigeria can achieve when it allows talent, rather than mediocrity to lead the way.


“The Super Eagles who failed to qualify for the last edition of the Nations Cup in 2012 rose to win the cup a year later. Keshi’s transformation agenda has produced positive results, even when not everyone believes in him. This is how it should be” chief publicist, Lai Mohammed said.


The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) capitalized on the victory to rekindle hope saying Nigeria has entered a new era of possibilities, an indication that the nation would surmount its challenges under the current dispensation.


“Undoubtedly, Coach Stephen Keshi must be showered with encomiums for providing the right leadership that saw the players and the rest of the crew through a successful football campaign even when hopes were waning — a feat that drew loud applause from across Africa, nay, the entire globe.


The conduct of the players on the pitch and outside equally evinced the discipline required of champions. The players must build on this success to ensure another successful campaign at the Confederation’s Cup in Brazil in June,” he was quoted as submitting.


“It is the belief of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari that if the sincerity of purpose exhibited by the Super Eagles can be transposed into the nation’s political governance, Nigeria should be a better place.”


Jonathan should know that Nigerians are no longer interested in where you choose your winning team from. They bicker only when it is apparent that nepotism replaces excellence. Provided the roads are fixed, the taps run effectively, electricity is uninterrupted, schools work without intrusions and strikes actions, security of lives and property ensured, places and circumstances of the team does not matter. No one quarrels with a winning team.


Mr. Kunle Somorin is a multi-disciplinary development journalist. Holder of a Masters degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy, he is member of our board of Directors  and over sees all our research and communications.He also doubles as Director General Research and Public Communications at the Governor’s Office in Minna, Niger State.  He writes an incisive weekly column, INSIDE every Thursday in LEADERSHIP newspaper. kunle