Dr. Robert SandaFriday, November 19, 2009
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Alberta, Canada



eadership has its tests and decisions taken during a crisis distinguishes leaders from reactionaries. The NFF is considering replacing Coach Amodu Shaibu after he worked so hard to earn the country a place in the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This is a time to appreciate his contribution to our greatness and to rally behind a common agenda in the best interest of the country. The NFF has the power to remove him and they may have good reasons too. This, however, is not a decision to be taken lightly or hastily.


After the teeth-gnashing game between our team and Tunisia in Abuja last September, Nigerians were understandably disappointed and not a few called for his immediate removal as head coach of the national team, the Super Eagles. Even my usual reluctance to criticise sportsmen and sportswomen for poor performance gave way to criticisms in my article http://nigeriaworld.com/feature/publication/sanda/090909.html in which I made it clear that Coach Shaibu should leave gracefully. What I didnít count on is the well-horned survival instinct of Nigerians in leadership roles. Coach Amodu (for reasons that are subject to conjecture) hanged on to his job by persuading his overseers to let him continue trusting in his ability to deliver on his promises. Against all odds Amodu Shaibu led his team to a decisive victory over the Kenyanís at home and luck smiled on him by seeing a determined Mozambique national team defeat the fabulous Tunisians.

Now the national football governing body in Nigeria, the NFF, wants to part ways with Amodu Shaibu, an action that is prompting critics to label the former with ingratitude. True, Amodu Shaibu deserves praise for the all important win in Kenya that saw us through to the World Cup finals. Whatever his errors as a coach he has proved that the end justifies the means and we can only judge him based on the final outcome Ė qualification for the finals of the competition. He may even have come a long way from his ill-advised criticisms of his players at a press conference when he should have shown his magnanimity by accepting all blame for the fiasco. My criticism of Amodu Shaibu back in September had nothing to do with his failure to win that all-important match against Tunisia on our home soil; my criticism was based on his attempts to shack responsibility for the outcome of the game by blaming his players. That, to me, is a cardinal leadership sin. All faults are the faults of the leader and Amodu Shaibu appears not to be the only coach with that self-defence tendency in the face of failure. Another coach, Samson Siasia, uttered the same sentiments in his teamís failure in another competition in Egypt. I guess passing the duck is a weakness shared by other Nigerians in leadership roles.

The dangers of removing Coach Amodu Shaibu (now, as against two months ago) is that he assumes the moral and strategic high grounds. Should our team perform well, we cannot divorce their performance from Shaibuís efforts. Conversely, if they performed like they did the last time they were in the competition in Korea/Japan 2002 when they were became the second team after Saudi Arabia to be eliminated from the competition, we cannot silence Amodu Shaibu if he blames the failure of the team on the discontinuity of coaching leadership. In this latter event, Amodu Shaibu could laugh his detractors to a state of apoplexy. Since success in our international sporting engagements depends on continual attempts to improve the team and to learn from past mistakes, it is wise to let Amodu Shaibu remain as coach. A skilled technical adviser to complement his efforts will be a wise decision. A decision to go ahead with the removal of this coach risks damaging cohesion among the players as, at least a segment of the team may be admirers of their present coach who would not take his exit lightly. Let us not lose the present momentum to gather strength and speed to move on to glory. By politicizing the team through taking unpopular decisions we risk revolt and a lack-lustre performance in South Africa. Let Amodu Shaibu have the benefit of doubts. It is time for us to forgive whatever short-comings he has as a leader and find out how we can rally behind him with all the support he needs to ensure the best performance by our national team in the World Cup yet.