Congratulations are in order for national football Coach Stephen Keshi and his team who won the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
While rejoicing we should not get carried away with the victory because winning football tournaments requires a bit of luck and certainly good fortune smiled upon us on several occasions. Developing a consistently successful team requires more than luck. It requires a good administrative structure, a steady supply of quality young players, good pitches and a competitive league none of which we currently have. I prefer to listen to Coach Keshi who cautions that the team is a work in progress and we should expect some disappointments along the way before they can blend into a truly world class outfit. However all said and done it's so far so good.
Far more significant than the victory on the field was the success of a Nigerian coach. It's a complete and total vindication of our local technical expertise. Pathetically in almost every sphere of life our Government prefers foreign "technical experts" to Nigerians. As regards football I readily admit that Clemens Westerhoff remains our most successful coach, but this wasn't simply because he was an expatriate, it was because he was a good coach with a crop of good players. Keshi is also a good coach with good players so hence more success. It's a marvel that we continue to think expatriates can do better than Nigerians in all things technical. This has always been a sore point for many Nigerians who qualified overseas towards the top of their class. How come it's not evident to our leaders that whatever their own personal limitations many Nigerians are more intelligent and competent than the majority of second rate foreign experts who flood the country? Foreign "experts" are allowed to do anything in Nigeria so much so that even the world famous Italian dish pizza is prepared by Lebanese! The way things are going Nigerians will doubtless soon be eating Chinese pizza! Looking round the team benches during AFCON one could see so many undistinguished second-rate expatriate national team coaches who cannot manage a minor league side in their country. Evidently the love for "foreign technical advisers" is an African problem not unique to Nigeria.
At the end of the day how useful has all this "foreign technical" advice really been? In retrospect how much of the crisis in our financial services industry was caused by CEOs of banks' and stock-broking firms listening to foreign technical advice? What was the nature of the advice given by the legion of foreign consultants who trooped into Nigeria in the industry's glory days? Bearing in mind that none of these "technical consultants" turned their back on Nigerian because their advice was ignored or wrongly implemented we must assume that the narrowly averted virtual collapse of the stock market and Banking industry was because these "foreign technical consultants" really didn't have a clue what they were talking about!"
Alarm bells should ring when foreign consultants and technical advisers proliferate in a country as it plainly indicates a lack of faith in locally developed intellect. Most foreigners sincerely believe the problem with Nigeria is that those in charge don't know better. They mistakenly think all we need is for them to help bring us up to scratch with the best global practices, and presto, all our problems will be solved! Nowhere in their templates is mention made of overcoming endemic corruption which derails our best laid plans. The simple fact is that no one can successfully address the problems bedevilling management of our affairs without coming to terms with certain key dimensions of our way of life which are unknown to and unappreciated by foreigners. In this time of massive unemployment we must rid ourselves of parasitic foreign technical experts who have led us nowhere and occupy spaces meant for Nigerians.
Regrettably our Governors are so intimidated by expatriates that even in things as mundane as constructing roads, erecting street lights, or building government office complexes they are always happy to be seen with an expatriate consultant or contractor. The question they consistently fail to answer is how come Nigerians like themselves who apparently can't do something as simple as building durable roads can be entrusted to manage the far more complex issue of good governance? Why don't we just have expatriate governors and an expatriate president so that things can be done according to best global practices?
The AFCON victory also provided valuable lessons in successful team management for President Jonathan. He should learn a thing or two from Keshi. First is the use of home-grown talent. Government these days increasingly appoints "Diaspora" Nigerians (overseas players) into key positions rather than home grown talent. In this manner certain ministers and DG's can be likened to been over-indulged "foreign players" none of whom has managed to help the team to success, and who prove to be very disruptive, yet who continue to be fielded. Just as Keshi based his success on giving opportunity to unknown players President Jonathan must stop using jaded blue chip "foreign players" in key ministerial and administrative positions.
Our President should also take note of the way Keshi had to sweep out the old breed ageing players who had been on the scene for so long so he could develop a successful system with new blood. The same must apply to his current ministerial team of has-beens. Reshuffling is not enough; he must retire these people so as to bring dynamism to his teams play.
Lastly AFCON revealed the shallowness of thought of our politicians. The team's initial poor performance brought immediate condemnation and calls for the return of "foreign technical advisers" by some politicians. They could not think of calling for an investigation into why we don't seem able to produce world class coaches, and they could not think of instituting a program to ensure development of local talent. They simply wanted to employ the same quick fix solution that led them to condone okada or achaba riders who have now become an intractable problem. They have a lot to learn about nation building by developing national potential.