Oliseh, I’m a critic but I’m NOT insane!

By Richard Johnson




“I’m addressing this insanity that has befallen some of our critics and I call it insanity because you must actually be insane to be seeking plebiscite on the future of the national team coach because we lost CHAN…What then should be done to the coaches of Ghana, South Africa, and Egypt who didn’t qualify for the tournament?”Super Eagles coach Sunday Oliseh

Swim or sink, the above words will go down in the history of Nigeria football as one of the most quoted mis-yarns by a football personality and will probably rank alongside former NFA chairman Ibrahim Galadima’s “qualifying for the World Cup is not Nigeria’s birthright” in 2005 in the immediate aftermath of the Super Eagles failure to make it to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Galadima ultimately lost his bid to return to office as his traducers pounced on that moment of indiscretion to push him out.
After his own Youtube meltdown last Sunday, Oliseh is also literarily fighting to save not only his job but also his public perception amongst football-loving Nigerians who feel justifiably insulted by Oliseh’s outburst.
Incidentally, last July, immediately after his appointment as Super Eagles manager, I wrote the somewhat inappropriately titled article: “WHY THE NFF MUST SACK SUNDAY OLISEH NOW!” in which I hailed the move and warned the Nigerian Football Federation about putting obstacles in the way of the new coach.
As a measure of my wish that Oliseh should make a success of his assignment, I wrote a follow up article the following week in which I tried to help him set the agenda for his mission to take the country to the Promised Land.
Yet, I recalled, someone asked me why I was willing to give Oliseh the benefit of a doubt that he could make a success of a job in which relatively more experienced candidates have failed.
My tongue-in-cheek response then, and I still hold it as valid even now, was that if we had employed supposedly more intelligent and better qualified coaches and they failed, why not try someone else who may be less-experienced but who has nonetheless demonstrated a clear analytical understanding of how we should be playing?
That was the premise on which I based my support for the appointment of Sunday Ogochukwu Oliseh and, eight months later, I still remain convinced that it was the right thing to do at the time.
Sadly, Oliseh also took a swipe at my constituency by accusing some journalists of seeking gratification from him in order to get positive press reports. This accusation is not new as several persons have parroted the same allegations in the past and, except names of specific individuals are mentioned, I won’t be taking Oliseh seriously on that score.
At any rate, Oliseh has more serious issues to deal with and those are what I would like to look at.
To be candid, if we look beyond Oliseh’s rant, you’ll agree with me that even though his results have neither been perfect nor performances sterling but they haven’t been totally poor. I daresay we have seen worse.
One competitive loss in 14 games under his watch is not particularly disastrous yet Oliseh may be out of a job by the time you read this piece and, curiously, the blame will be dumped entirely at his doorpost.

An ill-advised trip to the African Nations Championship (CHAN) when he wasn’t fully healthy (which obviously meant he had little or no contribution to the picking of the team); an easy-to-predict elimination from the competition; expected backlash from fans and Federation officials (who conveniently buried their own lapses in the ensuing melee); and then a hard-to-explain rant on Youtube has put Oliseh in the precarious situation of having to recant all he said in anger and consigned him to eating the humble pie to, at the least, allow all hands be on deck to prosecute the upcoming AFCON qualifiers with a measure of peace, even if it would be the graveyard variant.
To understand Oliseh’s rant, one must do a proper deconstruct of his personae. Only then, I guess, can one begin to appreciate the demons which pushes the man and which he must slay in the interest of Nigerian football and, ultimately, in his own interest.
One, Oliseh comes across as a gentle dove but beyond those feathers is a volcanic temperament which can boil to the surface at the slightest provocation. Unfortunately, while that feisty character served him well as a player (his records as a player are there for all to judge), it has no place in his present station as a manager of other people who must interact and relate with people who oftentimes will drive him up a wall.
By committing to the Nigerian job, Oliseh had unwittingly agreed to subsume his ego, pride and achievements under the umbrella of his employers, the Nigerian Football Federation. So, even if he thinks those Federation officials are not half as wise as he is, he’s contractually obliged to accept whatever they ask him to do as long as it is captured in the legal contract which he signed with the Amaju Pinnick-led body.
On that point I disagreed with Oliseh when he claimed he was not legally-bound to submit a report of his stewardship to the NFF Technical Committee as directed by that body. That committee, need I remind him, is a creation of the Federation and you’ll accord it the respect due its creators who happened to be your employers.
Whoever gave Oliseh the advice that he could ignore the Technical Committee did him a huge disfavour because that decision not to interface with the committee was at the root of his rant on Youtube as he lashed out in frustration when he felt his authority was being undermined.
That singular action, no matter the justification has now pitted Oliseh against a substantial number of Nigerians, not necessarily the committee members alone and those ones can afford to sit back, relax and watch him being roasted by righteously indignant football fans.
Secondly, it is obvious that Oliseh is averse to criticism, whether constructive or otherwise, yet he’s on record to have criticized his own predecessor when he never knew he was going to sit on the same hot seat.
As a matter of fact, he was quoted by the Vanguard of Saturday November 29, 2014 to have written on his personal blog a scathing criticism of Stephen Keshi’s poor handling of his critics.

He was reported to have said thusly: “It is a crime to air your opinion, give advice or suggestions on how to better the Super Eagles without the handlers throwing insults at you or crying out that you seek their job. They probably do this because they got the job by back stabbing; hence they fail to understand that not everyone needs or wants to coach the Super Eagles.”

The same Oliseh had these words of advice for Keshi: “If he can accept our support and praise, he should accept our constructive critics in the interest of the country and making enemies left and right is not the way to go, obviously some of us do not learn from the past! The interest of Nigeria comes first than that of Sunday Oliseh or Stephen Keshi !”

So, at what point did Oliseh veer off these timely pieces of advice that he was quick to dish out to some other people? Or is it a case of being unwilling to take the medicine you so readily prescribe for others?

Asking Nigerians not to criticize your performance in a competition they expected at least a third place finish but were eliminated in the first round is like beating a child and asking him not to cry. No sir, that is not possible.
Thirdly, Oliseh seems not to be aware of the peculiarities of his job environment. I’ve said, times without number, that Oliseh became a marked man the day he got the Super Eagles job as there are vested interests who would not want him to succeed in order to prove a point.
The only way to keep them at bay was to keep winning. Even that will not suffice sooner or later because his traducers will also claim he’s not playing ‘beautiful’ football and would not rest until he’s kicked out.
Luckily for them, Oliseh has made the job very easy for his traducers by playing into their hands with the ill-advised Youtube video.
Fortunately, even though belated, Oliseh has apologized for his rant but trying to qualify those he described as ‘critics’ is like speaking from both sides of his mouth and that swipe at his ex-colleagues is, to me, unnecessary and uncalled for.
However, Jonathan Akpoborie tweeted thusly: “I think we should all respect the fact that Oliseh has apologised to the NFF. The goal now is to qualify for AFCON with everybody’s support,” and I want us to agree and move on to direct all our energies at how to overcome Egypt next month.

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