y his singular achievement as the only surviving person today to have won the African Cup of Nations as both player (captain) and coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi has entered his name as an authentic Nigerian hero. The first person to attain this feat, the Egypt's Mohammed El Gohary, (February 20, 1938 - September 3, 2012), the only other African to have won the cup as a player and a coach, unfortunately passed on in 2012.
Stephen Keshi celebrates after winning the African Nations Cup final.
But this moment belongs to one man - Stephen Okechukwu Keshi : at a time when the fashion was to consider Black African coaches unfashionable, the man stood all by himself in belief but also in determination to show by deeds what he conceived in his mind and considered he could do. It was Churchill who said ' we are fighting by ourselves alone but we are not fighting for ourselves alone'. So did Keshi and his band of indomitables (with apologies to the Cameroonian National Football Team). At a time when the toga of faked patriotism in our country is donned by thieves, knaves, recidivists, nincompoops, half-wits and idiots, Keshi showed how to serve Nigeria and revive the Nigerian project without stealing money. In his own way Keshi has inspired a new rebirth by his solid example. I am reminded of Douglas Malloch:
If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley - but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
It isn't by size that you win or you fail -
Be the best of whatever you are!
And so in his own way Keshi has shown how even the ramshackle administration of Nigerian football, the gross mismanagement etc has not stopped him from achieving this glittering prize.
This achievement has implications beyond football. This could be the galvanising point for those who were wearied from expressing their patriotism by the level of brazen corruption that they see daily across all tiers of government in Nigeria. This could be a way of saying to them that no matter how challenging your circumstances you could also leave your own mark on the sands of time.
Maybe the Association of Nigerian Patriots could be formed on the back of this victory? That would be sweet for more than one reason - in addition to the revival of true patriotism, it will wrest those initials from the Association of Nigerian Prostitutes who have been receiving a lot of attention on the back of the Super Eagles progress in the current AFCON. I am no prude but I think Nigeria can be proud of other things rather than those who wish to associate a disreputable trade with Nigeria's finest moment!
Someone pointed out that a similar offer of free sex from prostitutes in Zambia followed the victory of Chipolopolo at the last AFCON; and at the time there was acquiescence if not active encouragement. In this AFCON, Chipolopolo did not even get out of their group into the knock out phase! Call me superstitious if you choose but someone ought to dissociate our finest moment from this filth and if not anyone else then let it be me!
Why did Keshi resign?
Keshi has shown that he is a man of honour. His post victory resignation was the high mark of his patriotism. Although he has subsequent ly withdrawn his resignation letter he has drawn attention to how the reactionaries have wrecked and frustrated much of the genuine endeavour and effort of the Nigerian masses. Our country has never responded well to revolution but his resignation ought to trigger searching scrutiny about the administration of Nigerian sport especially football.
Obviously, the Confederations Cup in Brazil is the next stop for the Super Eagles; but let us not forget that President Goodluck Jonathan has been the unofficial mascot of the Super Eagles; he has encouraged them all the way! Even if his government has been lacklustre so far he too could seize the moment and begin to revive both his and the nation's fortunes. I daresay that the new opposition APC notwithstanding, Jonathan and his PDP if they are skilful enough could ride piggy-back on this moment and begin to build the foundations of an unlikely electoral success in 2015.