The victorious Super Eagles are expected back in the country today to the warm embrace of President Goodlcuk Jonathan who will host them to a dinner at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Dr. Jonathan, who will be joined by other top officials of government, is to announce a package for the players and the officials of the national team that ended Nigeria’s 19-year wait for Africa’s top football honour. The team defeated Burkina Faso 1-0 to win the trophy, which they last won in 1994 in Tunisia.
The squad is expected to arrive aboard a special Arik Air flight. Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister Bala Mohammed will on behalf of Jonathan receive the Eagles at 1.00pm at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.
The victorious Super Eagles will stop over at the National Stadium in the capital city for a mini reception before proceeding to the Presidential Villa. The public is expected to grace the stadium reception. President Jonathan was held back in Europe by official assignment, which prevented him from travelling to South Africa to watch the final match in South Africa. But he sent a delegation led by Senate President David Mark.
Other members of the delegation were Governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers) and Peter Obi (Anambra). Nigerians have been reacting to the victory, which they see as a sign of good omen for Nigeria. One of the harshest critics of the government, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, in a tweet after the match, described the Eagles victory as “an achievement of the Jonathan administration”.
Winger Victor Moses, who played a pivotal role in the Eagles victory described the day as one of the best in his life. Moses, on his debut in the continental showcase, scored the two late goals that saw off Ethiopia to put Nigeria into the knock-out stages. He was part of Mba’s first-half strike that proved sufficient to bring the coveted crown back home. “One of best days of my life; this is a dream come true. I’m so proud to be a Nigerian,” Moses wrote on Twitter.
The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said the victory showed what Nigeria can achieve when it allows talent, rather than mediocrity, to lead the way. In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the Eagles’ victory, coming just a little over a year after Stephen Keshi took charge of the team and started a rebuilding process, shows that transformation does not necessarily have to be an endless quest. ‘’The Super Eagles who failed to qualify for the last edition of the Nations Cup in 2012 rose to win the cup a year later.
Keshi’s transformation agenda has produced positive results, even when not everyone believes in him. This is how it should be,’’ it said. The ACN noted that while Nigerians were not too happy at the players’ performance in the group stage, they quickly supported them when they stepped up their game in the knockout stage, an indication that Nigerians do not need endless prodding to support a winning team, whether in sports or politics.
‘’The Super Eagles, who were not among the pre-tournament favourites, won because the coach assembled his team based on talent rather than any extraneous considerations, and also because the team and its technical crew believe that when there is determination and self-belief, no mountain can be high enough. "If Nigeria will always field its best eleven in all human endeavours, be it sports, economy or politics, and also allows a visionary rather than a waffling dreamer to lead the team, the country will always be a world beater. That is the lesson from the Super Eagles’ class of 2013,’’ the party said. The ACN, however, criticised President Jonathan for opting to travel to London for the launch of Obasanjo Foundation instead of travelling to South Africa to witness the final match.
‘’Again, the President missed a chance to be seen to personally inspire his compatriots when it matters most. With millions around the world watching on television, there can be no better opportunity for a leader to showcase his nation and its talents. That explains why a world leader like President Barack Obama flew to London to watch the US basketball team play against Brazil at the 2012 London Olympics.
The statement added that the victory had opened the doors for the nation to achieve other goals. “It is an indication that there is nothing impossible and that collectively we will overcome all the challenges we are facing as a nation,” Metuh said. Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) leader Gen. Muhammadu Buhari praised the Eagles for winning the cup. Gen. Buhari, who expressed joy over the victory, advised the President to apply the sincerity of the players which enabled them to win the championship, to purposeful and genuine governance.
A statement by CPC’s National Publicity Secretary Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said Gen. Buhari noted that the campaign of the Super Eagles typified the resilience and indomitable spirit embedded in the Nigerian people. “Undoubtedly, Coach Stephen Keshi must be showered with encomiums for providing the right leadership that saw the players and the rest of the crew through a successful football campaign even when hopes were waning- a feat that drew loud applause from across Africa, nay, the entire globe.
The conduct of the players on the pitch and outside equally evinced the discipline required of Champions. The players must build on this success to ensure another successful campaign at the Confederation’s Cup in Brazil in June. “It is the belief of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari that if the sincerity of purpose exhibited by the Super Eagles can be transposed into the Nation’s political governance, Nigeria should be a better place.”