The Golden Eaglets seem to be marching to win the 2015 African U-17 title, why have we not translated our success at the cadet level to the senior national team having ruled the world on four occasions?
Football is not mathematics and it is not what people think. Football is all about continuity. Sometimes the players need to help themselves because their attitude is very important though they cannot win everything. The bulk of the job lies in the hands of the players and not the coaches. If they believe in themselves, they will surely succeed. Today, I have not seen that [winning] attitude in our players. Aside from this, only few of our players in Europe get regular playing time, and without that you cannot perform any magic. Take a look at the Ghanaians, Ivorians and Algerians for instance, you can see their players getting regular playing time and this is telling on their performance for their countries. If we really want to get things right for the senior national team, our players need to step up.
A school of thought believes the key reason for this is that our age grade coaches parade over aged players. What is your take on this?
Well, as a coach if I ask you about your age and you tell me 15, should I say you are 22? There is nothing you can do about it. Even if you call his parents and they tell you 15, I bet you cannot do anything. If you have two age cheat instances in your team, it may not be a problem but if you take ten, or twelve, that will be disastrous.  Sincerely speaking, there is nothing the coaches can do in detecting age cheats. If it is showing in his face, that is good but if it is not, what can you do? Even the Nigeria Football Federation cannot do anything about it. You can never claim to know players’ real ages because you are not their parents. The mistake our footballers make is that they want to play underage tournaments but they are definitely wrong. The most important thing is to do well in your career both home and abroad. By doing this, you are definitely going to be given a national team call up. Parents are to be honest here because it is only them that can tell the real age of their wards.
Have you thought of why our indigenous coaches have not been able to replicate successes achieved with age grade teams when they are given the opportunity to handle the senior national team?
Whether you like it or not there are several challenges in the Super Eagles. It is not a question of the coach here, everything boils down to the players because it is the players who can decide to raise the profile of the coach or let him down. If I am the national team coach and I pick you to play for me and you put up a great showing and yet we lost, I will say that is football for you and give you a pat on the back. But if you put up a dismal outing, it shows you have let me down. In my days as a footballer, we always tried to sell ourselves whenever we were called upon to represent the country. Today, the reverse is the case as most of our so called regular national team players are benchwarmers for their respective clubs.
So tell me, what magic do you want a bench warmer to perform while playing for Nigeria?
I only fault coaches for sticking to players who don’t give them results because there are thousands of alternatives. I remember in the final of the Atlanta ‘96 Olympics against Argentina, we were losing and Bonfere Jo brought out Mobi Oparaku for Wilson Oruma and it worked. You can imagine a coach in a crucial game bringing out a defender for a midfielder and in the process almost leaving the defense area in danger yet we won. Bonfrere would make a change sometimes and you ask yourself is this coach serious? But the fact was that it was working for us and whenever it backfired, he adopted another strategy. Besides, we were not dependent on a particular player. It was all collective efforts and it really helped us.
As someone who has seen it all in the game of football, who is best for the Super Eagles, an indigenous coach or foreign gaffer?
We have to first know what is on ground. We are all Nigerians and when you employ a white man, we scream that the money is too much and when you bring in an indigenous coach, it is another tale. All depends on the NFF. If they think the indigenous coach is good, fine, let them give [a chance]. After all, the likes of Adegboye Onigbinde, Christian Chukwu, Austine Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Amodu Shaibu handled the Super Eagles in the past and now Stephen Keshi. So the football house decides on the choice of manager because they are the ones who will employ and not individuals. If Keshi is certified good enough to continue as Nigeria coach, who are we to complain?
What kind of opposition should we expect from Bolivia who we will be playing in an international friendly in March?
It will definitely be a very tough game. But the issue is that we don’t even know who our head coach is and that will make it very difficult for us. Nobody knows who is going to handle that team against the South Americans. By now, we should have a substantive coach who should have reeled out the list of players for that encounter and start monitoring them on whether they are fit or not, playing regularly or warming the bench etc. Nigerians are waiting to see the game against Bolivia and my question is, who is the coach? Let’s hope before that game kicks off, the NFF would have appointed a coach, but what is making things difficult is that our football administrators are not talking.
The likes of Emenike and Ideye are grabbing the headlines based on their goal scoring exploits. How do you think they can sustain this tempo as well as repeat such feat for the country?
First, they have to be injury-free and that is very important because [injury] sets in, that would make it pretty difficult for them. Also, they have to remain focused and fight hard. Apart from these, they should be ready to help themselves when they come to the national team. When it comes to playing for the country, they should forget which club is bigger than the other. If players cannot do this, then there is a big problem. Players must be ready to stoop low and be accessible to other colleagues. Whether you are playing for a division one club doesn’t matter here, all that matters is achieving a common goal. Football is all about team work and not individual play like tennis. That is what we did in our own time and it worked for us.
What should our ex internationals do to remain relevant in the politics of football in Nigeria and beyond?
One day, one of us will be there at NFF. It is just a matter of time. To be a part of the NFF for instance, you have to come closer to know how the whole thing is going. If you stay afar, you won’t learn anything.
Do you have ambition to handle any of the national teams in future?
Every ex-international wants to work with the national team like it is done in other countries. I believe in time because I never believed I would play for the country. I started from the U20 team, then the Olympic team before joining the Super Eagles. I’m one of the luckiest players to have played for the country and I thank God for that. I believe one day, I might just be lucky again to handle any of our national sides.
What does year 2015 hold for Nigeria football?
All we need is to get our various male and female national teams to be firing on all cylinders. The more games they win will determine our level of success in 2015. I believe with the arrays of players we have everywhere, I believe this year will be a fruitful one for the country. We must play as a team.
In your playing days you were popularly referred to as ‘Chindo’. How did you come about this nickname?
‘Chindo’ in Hausa means someone born with six fingers. As a baby, I had six fingers but one was cut. If you take a closer look at my fingers, you will see a tiny one after the last finger. That is the secret behind the nickname.