When the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was told by President Goodluck Jonathan to reinstate Stephen Keshi as Super Eagles Coach, little did the former Eagles captain know that events of the 2015 presidential elections were going to contrive against his ambition to boss over the senior national team.
The President was believed to have given the directive during his meeting with NFF President, Amaju Pinnick at the Aso Rock Villa on October 29.
It came after the NFF axed Keshi in the thick of the 2015 African Nations Cup qualifying campaign. But with the order from the nation’s number one citizen, it appeared that the hands of the Pinnick-led NFF body were handcuffed by circumstance.
Despite bungling Nigeria’s 2015 AFCON hopes and setting our country’s football development backwards, the NFF was unable to do away with Keshi. Tempers flared as stakeholders mounted pressure on the Pinnick to get a new manager for the team, which sadly it could not do because of the Presidential order.
The President was advised by a top security man who is a friend of Keshi to retain the former Eagles captain. Jonathan heeded the man’s advice and asked Pinnick to reconsider Keshi.
He had no choice. But Keshi grew wings, looking down on the federation and even calling Pinnick a liar in a radio programme. On the weight on Jonathan’s seeming protection Keshi felt larger than the federation and said that failure to qualify Nigeria to the last Nations Cup would not determine his job as Eagles coach. He eventually failed to qualify and lorded himself on the board members who even quiver before him.
The board offered Keshi contract more than three weeks now but Keshi was said not to be happy with the terms especially the one that compels him to report to the technical director of the federation, a position now occupied by Amodu Shaibu. He wants to report directly to the NFF President.
Upset by the offer, Keshi cried wolf, saying he was offered a slave contract, which he strongly objected to, pointing accusing fingers at the NFF for being economical with the truth. The NFF, in its response through the Chairman of the Technical Committee, Felix Anyanwi-Agwu berated Keshi for his unprofessional conduct in talking about the contract offer in public, instead of communicating his grouses directly to the NFF
All these were playing out as the presidential electioneering process entered its zero hour, with President Jonathan having little time to mind the business of the NFF and its search for a new Eagles coach. Directing a football federation on the appointment of a coach was one of the low points of President Jonathan.
But not wanting to be seen to be disobeying orders from above, Pinnick, with two days left to the presidential elections, told reporters in Abuja that the contract of Keshi was ready and all that was missing was for the former Mali and Togo coach to sign the dotted lines.
The elections finally held on Saturday, March 28, with President Jonathan losing to General Mohammadu Buhari (retd) although the NFF had told Keshi before now to apologise publicly and take the job. He had called NFF President a liar on radio and still wanted the Eagles job.
Despite Pinnick’s claims that election stopped the signing of the deal by both parties, observers believe that the football governing body was only playing for time to know where the pendulum of powers would swing before taking a decisive stand on a matter that has been on for 10 months.
Keshi was also said to have delayed signing the contract, waiting for Jonathan’s victory to boldly tell the federation to amend the supposed offending terms in the contract. Jonathan’s defeat, we gathered, has deflated his ego and he is expected to cringe before the federation now.
South Africa, Equitorial Guinea, Burkina Faso were among the countries that were said to have shown interest in Keshi. None signed him.