By Tunde Odesola
Even in death, the world remains indebted to eternal King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Hailing from a large family of musical greats, Michael didn’t own a patent for his Jackson surname, but with a matchless class of genius, he made his first name the most popular of all Michaels.
His initials, MJ, he distinguishingly owned in a world brimming with millions of people who share the same acronym but not his pizzazz. With 39 Guinness Book of Records milestones, MJ was the most awarded artist in the history of popular music. He was also the ‘Most Successful Entertainer of All Time’.
Call him the king of music, lord of entertainment and god of dance, you won’t be charged with blasphemy. Michael popularised the ‘Moonwalk’ dance, also known as ‘Backslide’ or ‘Glide’ in his hit song, Billie Jean, in 1982.
Moonwalk is a dance move wherein the dancer glides backwards while appearing to be walking forward. Lord, rest his soul; Michael was more melodious than music and smoother than dance. Michael understood the unspoken language that vitalises the soul and body – dance.
Since May 29, 2015 when it bumbled into power, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has been moonwalking along the path of tyranny and confusion, yet pretending to be on a roller skate to integrity and democracy made in Katsina. Painfully, there are no moments of accidental brilliance in an administration blighted by hypocrisy, impunity, insensitivity, clannishness and fruitlessness.
The number of fresh skulls at Golgotha climbed up yearly since 2015, spiralling in 2020 with unaccounted deaths from Boko Haram terrorists, kidnappers, cultists, bandits and the recent #ENDSARS protests.
Despite the promised Midas touch by President Buhari, Nigeria’s economy hasn’t turned to gold but dust has continued to swirl from the cracks and fragments of a crumbling economy. Sadly, the nosedive in all segments of the national economy appears unpreventable by the President and his uncreative team.
Virtually, no segment of Nigeria’s growth indices hasn’t witnessed decline since 2015 when Buhari took over the reins of power with Nigeria winning the global capital of poverty title under his watch in 2018.
Just as governance has been on the decline since 1999, sports have not fared any better in the last few years. Nigerian football, especially, has clattered down the peak of honour and prestige since 2013 when the departed Stephen Okechukwu Keshi shockingly guided the Super Eagles to win the African Cup of Nations in South Africa, land of the Madiba.
The competence of the current manager of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, was questioned when the team pathetically surrendered a 4-0 lead to the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone in Benin a few days ago during a Group L, African Nations Cup qualifying match, drawing 4-4.
Before the shameful show in Benin City, the senior national team, since 2014, had been a lackluster convocation of wingless, beakless and clawless Eagles, flocking on land with chickens.
In the same year that Buhari became president, the land-dwelling Eagles failed to qualify for AFCON to defend the title they won in 2013. They also failed to qualify for AFCON in 2017.
But there is a point of divergence between the Buhari-led team and the roar-less team led by Rohr.
Whereas Buhari built his federal executive cabinet team with the best brains within the All Progressives Congress, Rohr inherited a team whose best players made insignificant impacts in their respective clubs.
Disenchanted by the horrendous 4-4 draw against Sierra Leone at home and 0-0 draw away, Nigeria’s best sports minister in decades, Sunday Dare, apologised for the disaster, tweeting that Nigeria deserves a better coach.
Similarly, a member of the 1980 AFCON-winning Eagles, Segun Odegbami, and a member of the 1994 AFCON-winning team, Daniel Amokachi, expressed the frustration of Nigerians with the 4-4 draw against Leone Stars, calling for the sacking of the German, who had won 29 matches, drew 14 and lost 10.
Popularly called ‘Mathematical’ because of his pin-point touchline dribbling runs, an exasperated Odegbami lamented, “He (Rohr) may be a good coach but what are his credentials? My belief is that anyone who will coach the Eagles must make the team a world class team capable of winning the World Cup.
The trained engineer added, “Rohr cannot deliver that. He’s not the world class coach we are looking for. We’ve seen him work for four years, and what we saw in two critical moments in Russia and Egypt, he convinced me that he’s not the one to lead Nigeria tio Eldorado.”
Amokachi, who featured in two World Cups, said: “Football these days, there’s no patience. It’s the result that matters. The person (Rohr) has been in charge of the team for five years, but you cannot write anything about those years he has been in charge. Is he the right person to take Nigeria in the right direction, I don’t think so.”
But a popular football pundit and CEO, Elegbete TV/Radio, Eseoghene Edafe, backed Rohr to stay on the job, saying sacking Rohr, a former Bayern Munich player and former manager of Bordeaux FC of France, wasn’t in the interest of the country.
A mechanical engineer from the University of Port Harcourt and former Sharks FC player, Edafe said, “Nigeria runs a football system that is poorly funded. We used to have players that played regularly for Inter Milan, Ajax, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Everton, Dortmund, Monaco etc but not anymore.
“When Rohr came, we didn’t have a league, our leagues were ending abruptly. Our players have not been consistent in the last four years in Europe. You can’t put our players side-by-side with those of top African players like Mane, Salah, Aubemeyang, Mahrez, whose teams have been together in the past eight years. Osimhen is a good player but he needs to settle in, he has played for five clubs in the last three seasons.”
“We should consider the fact that three key players, Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo, have left the team. When Rohr saw the inconsistency of the team, he began to invite Nigerian players of foreign descent. Take a look at our defence, you will see that the players we have are struggling – Kenneth Omeruo is battling with injury, Leon Balogun didn’t play for an entire 10 months, and Troost Ekong is neither here nor there.
“Who among our keepers today can bench any of these our former keepers, Peter Rufai, Ike Shorunmu, Wilfred Agbonavbare, Alloy Agu and Vincent Enyeama, who all played regularly for their respective first division clubs in Europe? Nowadays, our keepers play for second, third and fourth divisions of unknown leagues.
Edafe said the Eagles midfield lacks bite because there’s no creativity, insisting that Keshi won the AFCON because he had an admixture of very good home-based players and Europe-based pros, which he said is lacking today.
He said such options were available when Clemens Westerhof had the likes of home-based players such as Chidi Nwanu, Friday Elahor, Edema Fuludu, Isaac Semitoje, Humphrey Edebor etc who could bench Europe-based players.
Now, I ask: if Nigeria sacks Rohr, can she afford to pay his $50,000 monthly salary for the remainder of his three-year contract, which is $1.8million, if we add that of his assistants to it, it will come down to roughly $3.5million?
If the country negotiates an out-of-court settlement and the money comes down to say $2.5million, Nigeria that couldn’t send her athletes to major competitions can’t pay such money and hire a new coach.
I’ll choose Rohr over Buhari. Each time Nigerians looked up to Team Buhari and chorused, “All we are saying, give us one goal,” the ever-disappointing team booted the ball out of the entire stadium. Begging scoring chances in security, economy, education, infrastructure etc sectors had been wasted by the captain and his lame team.