While I join millions of Nigerians in commending Mr. President for setting up the committee, there is need for us to go back in history and see if some of these wise men deserve their appointments. Since their appointments were made public, not a few Nigerians have called me to express their misgivings about the inclusion of ex-internationals like our dear Chief Segun Odegbami, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, and John Fashanu. Another football crazy Nigerian demanded to know why the Task Force is not gender sensitive but I gave her a daunting task by advising that she should meet Mr. President one on one for the explanation she needed so badly.
The aforementioned three out of the twelve wise men have come under serious criticism by Nigerians. The most criticised of them all is John Fashanu who blatantly refused to play for Nigeria when the country needed his services. In all fairness it will be wrong to hold that ‘sin’ against him because he reasoned like a true professional. Then his professional career was a thing of paramount importance to him. Moreover, the prospects of Nigeria ever playing in the World Cup then were very slim. It is rather unfortunate that in the end, he could not play for his adopted country at the World Cup. Apart from his alleged refusal to play for the country, most Nigerians do not consider him to be a true Nigerian. It is said he comes to the country only when he has a personal agenda to pursue. It is said immediately after his failed bid to clinch the Chairmanship of the then NFA Board, he abandoned his membership of the board and was criticizing it from abroad. And it is argued that his most recent contribution to Nigerian football which is the Oceanic Football Talent hunt was a money making venture and he indeed smiled to the bank.
Extravagantly talented footballer and immediate past Captain of the Super Eagles, the team in need of help, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha whose contributions to Nigerian football as a player would remain indelible in the memory of Nigerian is said to be morally unqualified to be part of that Task Force. Those who hold this opinion are of the view that he contributed significantly to the failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Although he is known for his patriotism and commitment to national assignment, his failure to honour that national invitation for the qualifying match against Sudan has remained a blot on his international career. That is just the ‘sin’ but I believe that if truly his absence contributed anything to the failure, he may use what he experienced in the hands of aggrieved Nigerians after the 2005 debacle to dissuade the recalcitrant members of the present Eagles from shunning certain matches as the qualifying matches continue.
Chief Sugun Odegbami’s problem is said to be his inability to translate his ideas into results. It is said that even as he intellectually buoyant, he has not really succeeded as an administrator. His critics have continued to point at Gateway FC Abeokuta and the National Institute of Sports, Lagos where he served as General Manager and Chairman respectively as responsibilities he could not handle satisfactorily. Moreover, it is said he was at the helms of affairs when Nigeria could not secure the right to host the 2010 World Cup. There may be no iota of truth in all these as far as Odegbami is concerned but this is the feeling of most Nigerians. However, I feel his assignment this time is different and he may not fail to champion the cause for Super Eagles survival.
As individual, I believe the committee with or without the ‘three men’ would contribute meaningfully to Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup. Nigerians may have their views which may be correct to a large extent, but they should give the committee a chance to succeed. By the way, the members are gentlemen who are highly placed and would naturally have very tight schedules. So for them to have graciously accepted the presidential appointment, means they are patriots who deserve our unflinching support.