A number of footballers have now come out lay allegations of wrongdoing against the Late Great Stephen Keshi which is starting to make his immense achievements as Super Eagles coach (between 2011 to 2015) fray around the edges.
2010 Afcon winger Chinedu made it quite clear that he was asked for bribe to be included in Nigeria’s 2014 world cup squad whilst his colleague at the same tournament Taye Taiwo claimed that he did not want to have anything to do with Keshi’s “dirty” reign as Super Eagles Gaffer.
Someone close to 2016 Olympic ace Imoh Ezekiel allege that he paid some money to be included in the same world cup squad but his place was taken by underwhelming Michael Uchebo whom many fans believe had no place in this squad - it is claimed that Uchebo bribed his way into the team.
Then you have Former youth international Emmanuel Sarki who now plays for Haiti national team revealing to Liberty Radio in Kaduna that he was asked to pay £10,000 for him to be invited to the national team during Keshi’s reign. To add insult to injury, one of the late coach’s assistant Daniel Amokachi has also be quoted as questioning the inclusion of certain players in the squad at that time.
It is rather unfortunate that such a golden period in the history of Nigerian football can be badly tainted by corruption at such an industrial scale.
But this has not come as any surprise to me. After all, it is no secret that corruption is the corona virus that has decimated every aspect of public life in Nigeria since independence in 1960. In order to gain admission to universities, pass O’ level exams, be awarded contracts, manage public funds and what have you, corruption is widespread.
But corruption is in every society, however, the way we go about it in Nigeria is so blatantly in your face that it beggars belief.
I recall the Under 20 and Under 17 Nigerian squads to the respective world cup tournaments last year: the stories of broad daylight corruption that were emanating from those camps were as shameless as they were shocking. It is no surprise that each team crashed out in early thereby not fulfilling their potentials – that is if they had any.
On this same issue of corruption, 1996 Olympic gold medallist Taribo West said: ‘Of course a lot of players come into the national team through the back door rather than on their individual ability.It was there in my time but it wasn’t as high as it is today.’ End of quote.
Like I said earlier, it isn’t that corruption may have happened during Keshi’s era but it is the scale of what is being alleged that is quite gory.
Well, may his soul rest in peace. I will forever be grateful for the Afcon gold, Chan bronze and world cup second round achievements that his coaching methods, techniques and acumen brought about. As there are 2 sides to every story, unfortunately the man is no longer with us to lay his side of the story on the table.
Coming to his defence against one of the allegations – regarding Olympic ace Imoh Ezekiel’s exclusion after giving bribe – Ben Alaiya the NFF media officer at the time said: ‘He was invited to come and try his luck, and his luck failed him. And he was dropped. You can play well for your club and falter at national team level.’ End of quote.
I never knew Keshi personally but from what I read about him, the man must have been a tough character to have been nicknamed “the big boss”. If he were alive, he would surely have responded in the most robust of manners to emphatically refute these allegations, set the records straight and clear his name.
Whether he would be believed (or not) is quite another matter but my goodness Steven Keshi would have come out fighting like a wild lion!
Whatever the case may be, this should be a watershed moment in our football. The authorities should learn whatever lessons that can be learnt – not just from allegations against Keshi – but from all the ludicrous and shameful unruly practices that clearly transpire across our national teams to which the perpetrators clearly show little compunction in undertaking.