Abracadabra! The more you look, the less you see – a magicians’ most potent tool is illusion.
Since June 2014 when the contract of former Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi ended at the World Cup in Brazil, he and his employers the Nigeria Football Federation have not settled their differences and agreed on a contract extension.
While this writer has since been following the big politics surrounding the re-appointment of the former Super Eagles captain, the riddle has still not been solved.
Many say that Keshi’s problem with the NFF began in 2013 when he announced on a Johannesburg radio station that he was quitting his job with the Super Eagles after leading the team to win the Africa Cup of Nations just a day before.
The former NFF board, led by Aminu Maigari, felt slighted and very disappointed that Keshi could do something that could cost them their jobs.
They begged him and with the intervention of former minister of sports Bolaji Abdullahi, he rescinded the decision. Since then all has not been well between the coach and his employers.
With the election of Amaju Pinnick as new NFF boss through the goodwill of Maigari, the battle was set to continue.
Pinnick had never hidden his dislike for Keshi’s tactics and stated as much in an interview just before the World Cup.
So it was expected that their relationship would be frosty when Pinnick eventually took over the mantle of leadership at the Glass House after months of animosity between him and Chris Giwa’s faction.
Even then, Keshi’s job had come into the fray as Giwa’s faction insisted that he be left in the role while Pinnick’s board said it was looking for a new coach.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the poor run of the Super Eagles in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Working on a per-game bsis, the team lost two of its three opening matches with only a point to show for all the effort. It was unbefitting of a team that had recently played in the second round of the World Cup.
While the decision to sack Keshi after the Super Eagles had defeated Sudan 3-1 in Abuja came rather late, it was still a popular decision among many Nigerians.
However, Keshi was later restored under the instructions of President Goodluck Jonathan and sports minister Tamuno Danagogo.
Since then it has been ‘abracadabra”, the more you look, the less you see, a situation where the NFF keeps saying that the 53-year-old would be given a new contract for months on end.
It is obvious that Keshi wants the job badly and is even ready to accept all conditions given in the contract with the exception of two that are bordering on his leave and selection of players.
Only last week he mellowed down and bowed to the clauses because his backers from high quarters have told him to just play along and get the job first then all other issues would be taken care of afterwards.
While it may seem that Pinnick, who has said his hands are tied, is agreeable to handing him the job as he is under pressure from Aso Rock, there are differing opinions in the NFF Board as there are vociferous voices against his being rehired.
Paul Bassey, a member of the Technical Committee has even threatened to resign if Keshi is rehired.
New challenges also emerged for Keshi after the 27-man Super Eagles team list released on Tuesday for the March 25 and 29 international friendly matches against Uganda in Uyo and South Africa in Nelspruit.
Instead of being re-called to handle the two friendly games, it was his assistant Daniel Amokachi that’s been tasked to do it. This does not bode well for the coach and his confidence.
It is no news that some former coaches have also spoken against his being rehired. Shaibu Amodu, Technical Adviser to the federation has asked him to move on while former players including Jonathan Akpoborie and Emmanuel Babayaro have also kicked against his reappointment.
A host of top sports journalists are also against having him come back to lead the Super Eagles.
An adage says: “You are not welcome in a city, but you are singing, if you start the song who will sing along with you?”