Super Eagles climbdown undermines Goodluck Jonathan

By Leonard Lawal

Posted on Tuesday, 6 July 2010 17:21

Nigeria’s poor performance at the World Cup has turned into a leadership crisis. After a poor performance, President Goodluck Jonathan moved to ban the national squad from competing but has yet to tackle the sport’s rife corruption.

Jonathan Goodluck, the Nigerian president opened a Facebook page last week. It already has thousands of followers. If only he had opened it before Nigeria went on that disastrous journey for the World Cup in South Africa. Not even the savviest Nigerian watcher will opine that Jonathan Goodluck’s debut, major league test as the nation’s president will be in the football arena.

If he had opened his Facebook account earlier, he would have known that Nigerians were not expecting the Super Eagles to perform very well. This is relevant because Goodluck Jonathan’s actions after Nigeria’s disgraceful exit from the World Cup in South Africa smack of bewilderment and disappointment. It shows that Goodluck Jonathan was expecting a great outing from the squad. He must have been the only person in Nigeria with such positive expectations.

That in itself may be really worrisome, meaning that he is already in a gilded cage at Aso Rock, the seat of the Nigerian government in Abuja, where there is a continual power supply (unlike practically any other place in the country). Jonathan has dissolved the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) board, sacking a generation of football administrators like NFF president Sani Lulu, vice-president Amanze Uchegbulam and technical committee president Taiwo Ogunjobi. President Goodluck had earlier threatened to disband the Super Eagles for two years, a decision met with mixed reactions.

The reaction of FIFA, world football’s governing body, was unequivocal. FIFA president Sepp Blatter offered an ultimatum: Jonathan had to rescind that decision within a week or face the consequences. Jonathan followed suit and said that he would allow the team to play. Nigerian analysts were crying for the long-lost days when that irrepressible farmer and general from Otta, Olusegun Obasanjo, was president.

“He would have invited the NFF board members, the 22 Super Eagles and their wives to his farm and personally flogged them with strokes of a cane, each amounting to the numbers of goals they conceded,” says Oluwole, a Lagos-based cynic. “For Sepp Blatter, Obasanjo would have personally challenged him to choose any boxing ring of his choice, from Madison Square Garden to Wembley Stadium, for a showdown.”

Football is so political in Nigeria. Since President Jonathan backed down and rescinded his decision on 6 July, “he has given his critics enough ammunition to move against him. Already, a generation of his enemies are saying he is never his own man,” adds Oluwole.

Backing down often seems to have worked for him. The real issue, however, is corruption. The NFF is corrupt like any other Nigerian institution. $200,000 disappeared from the NFF secretariat about a year ago, but has still not been recovered. In the Halliburton and Siemens bribery scandals, the names of the bribe receivers are known, but in this case investigations have not been forthcoming. Let President Jonathan constitute 50 new boards, but Nigeria will not do well in the next World Cup if the issues of corruption are not fought with honesty and purpose.

Search the internet for the terms “Nigeria” and “corruption”, you will get 17,100,000 results in 0.35 seconds. Search for “Ghana” and “corruption”, you will get 2,180,000 results in 0.26 seconds. “The US” and “corruption” will give you 7,820,000 results in 0.24 seconds. Any wonder why these nations performed better than Nigeria? Or better still, is there a correlation between rigged democracy and proper democracy in the determination of football tournament results?

By Leonard Lawal in Lagos.

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