Forget about service chiefs or government posts, the most brazen acts of discrimination which violate the federal character principle and offend our sense of equity, justice and fair play have been taking place unnoticed in the Super Eagles and in Nigerian football in general. From Shuaibu Amodu, Augustine Eguavoen and Christian Chukwu to Samson Siasia, Stephen Keshi and now Sunday Oliseh, recent managers of the Eagles have come from the South-South zone except for Chukwu who is from the southeast). Not even the team captaincy is spared this affront to justice. Vincent Enyeama succeeded a fellow native of the south-south, Joseph Yobo, as captain. Their captaincies have coincided with the managerial tenures of kinsmen from the south-south (and very conveniently with the presidency of a son of the Niger Delta at least until May this year).
This pattern of discrimination, nepotism, and tribalism (and any other nasty-sounding “ism” you care to name) didn’t start today. Chukwu, Keshi, Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu, Oliseh are all past Eagles captains and all from the south-south and southeast. For that matter, Nduka Ugbade, Wilson Oruma (south-south) and Nwankwo Kanu (southeast) all captained age-grade teams. Benedict Iroha and Emmanuel Amuneke (southeast) are in the coaching set-up of age grade teams. It is worth noting that the prestigious No.10 jersey has been monopolized by the south-south and the southeast through players like Friday Ekpo, Etim Esin, Jay-jay Okocha and John Obi Mikel. Considering the lucrative financial rewards and allied socio-economic opportunities that footballers enjoy, it is clear that the south-south and the southeast have found a unique channel of access to the national cake.
What is even more alarming is how this clear case of favouritism and bias has been internationalized. When CAF decided that it was finally time for a Nigerian side to win the elusive African Champions League trophy, it zoned it to Enyimba of Aba. And when UEFA decided that Nigerians were worthy of winning the Champions League trophy, it awarded it to Messrs. Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu, (south-south and southeast respectively) then of Ajax Amsterdam in 1993.
This raises important questions crucial to the survival of Nigeria. Why have other geopolitical zones been so callously marginalized in the captaincy and management of our national football teams? Is the southeast being denied the presidency on account of its domination of football (and Nollywood)? Was Biafra (if it had survived) actually Africa’s best hope of winning the World Cup? Why despite the contributions of Garba Lawal, Sani Kaita and Tijanni Babangida has the captaincy of the Eagles never been zoned to the north? Will the south-south and the southeast get more command positions in the armed forces, if they relinquish their grip on the super Eagles? Are the south-south and the southeast implementing a “born to rule” (in football) agenda? Why do only Christians captain the Eagles? What incriminating pictures of Keshi did midfielder Fegor Ogude have in his possession that guaranteed his place in the Eagles?
What in the name of Moses Kpakor does a Middle Belter have to do to captain the Eagles? (Kpakor, the patron saint of unfortunate footballers was on the verge of a lucrative move abroad from BCC Lions when he sustained a career-ending injury in 1990. Informed sources have linked that mishap to Friday Ekpo’s nocturnal visits to witchdoctors in Calabar). Ogienyi Onazi almost lost a leg in our World Cup exit to France last year and still he continues to be ignored. And, no, John Obi Mikel, though born and bred in Jos, doesn’t count. We want a real indigene and a proper son of the soil, preferably one that has played for JIB Rocks or Plateau United or the great BCC Lions of Gboko.
Who truncated the
totally baseless rumour much anticipated transfer of local
goal-scoring phenomenon, Emmanuel Makadas to Barcelona? Why did sons of the
Middle Belt like Patrick Mancha and John Zaki not go further than they did?
Could they have been victims of the same southern conspiracy that sabotaged the
Super Eagles career of the first Ahmed Musa a.k.a. Yaro-Yaro, a magician who by
all accounts was destined to become Nigeria’s answer to Lionel Messi in the
late 1990s? These are all national questions that need answering.
There are those who argue that Oliseh was employed on merit and is the best man for the job. This is preposterous nonsense. The need to give every zone, ethnicity, religion, state, local government area, clan, hamlet and household a sense of belonging must override sentimental considerations like merit and competence. These are Western ideals that have no place in our culture. Besides, everyone knows that football is a game of luck that has nothing to do with skill, preparation and planning, and that it is the almighty God who zones victory to whomever he wills. (Tournaments are won through prayer and fasting and by retaining the services of witchdoctors, pastors and marabouts)
That these issues of marginalization were not discussed at the National Conference last year must go down as a grievous oversight. After three or four successive managers from the southeast and south-south, the position of Eagles manager should obviously have been zoned to the north central (with the great Daniel Amokachi available) or to the northeast (what about the legendary Patrick Pascal?). This makes so much sense since the northeast is supposed to be getting everything these days.
The blatant marginalization of other zones by the southeast and the south-south in the management and captaincy of the Super Eagles is a national crisis. This is the kind of problem that should keep President Muhammadu Buhari up at night.
(Images sourced from www.naijaloaded.com and www.dailypost.ng)