Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan may have been shocked by the Super Eagles’ failure to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup and will be involved in the decisions on the team, according to sports minister Yusuf Sulaiman.
“Mr. President like every Nigerian I am sure was shocked about this (failure to qualify for Nations Cup). Whatever he decides to do, I will covey it to you. But I cannot pre-empt what he wants to do,” Suleiman told MTNFootball.com in Abuja.
The minister insisted that there was a need for wide-range consultations on the way forward for Nigerian football before decisions on the future of coach Samson Siasia and the team are taken.
“We are going to sit down and take a critical look at what really happened. We don’t want to apportion blame but we want to find out what really happened,” said the sports minister.
“I sat with my DG (Director General, Patrick Ekeji) and we agreed that we will not do any bandwagon approach and fire brigade approach on this issue.
“What we usually do in Nigeria is that when you have that kind of problem you go back and come out with very drastic measures saying sack this one, sack that one and that has not helped the matter in any way.
“There may be faults from us as officials so don’t reduce everything to the players or to the coach. There are things that even myself as minister may not know until we sit down and give everybody the opportunity to explain and find out what happened before we can take a decision.
“If the problem were specific to Nigeria, then you can take drastic measures, but the problem is not specific to Nigeria. It has turned out that Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon and Egypt, the major football power houses in Africa, have not qualified.
“So, you cannot go back and take a unilateral action (decision) because I think the problem is becoming endemic. I want to believe that young nations like our neighbours here Niger and even Guinea that we played against, their players are more hungry to succeed and participate than our players who feel they are already established.”
He added: “If you saw the game, it had to do more with hunger that is why when our two young boys were introduced, Uche and Ahmed, many people were saying can you see. It does not mean that Ahmed and Uche were better than those that they substituted, but it was because they are younger and hungry for success.
“This is the kind of thing that we want to come back and encourage and tell the Super Eagles to let them understand that when you go out to play for Nigeria, it is not just the 11 of you who are on the pitch, but it is the over 150 million Nigerians who are on the pitch.
“So, whatever you do translates to the psyche and emotions of the 150 million people and it is not good to play with the emotions of 150 million people because the consequences could be catastrophic.”
The technical committee of the Nigeria Football Federation will now meet in Abuja Thursday to make recommendations to the NFF board on the way forward for the national team.
“I don’t want to pre-empt what the NFF would do but whatever they would do I will sit down with them to see the issue of a national team and national participation in the International sporting activities like African Nations Cup is beyond the NFF,” said Sulaiman..
“It is an issue that every single Nigerian is interested in and at that level it goes beyond just that.
“When I met with the players I told them Nigerians do not see them as just a mere football team. They see them as symbol of national cohesiveness and as a symbol of national consciousness and they cannot afford to play on the emotions of Nigerians. I think we are going to look at it from that point of view.”