Following the recent decision by President Goodluck Jonathan to redeem the pledge made by the late General Sani Abacha administration to provide build a house for each of the Super Eagles players that won the African Cup of Nations in 1994, members of the Flying Eagles that took part in the Mexico 83 U-20 FIFA World Cup finals, have called on the president to help fulfil the pledge made to them by the then federal government.
The vice captain of the team, Paul Okoku, said Monday from his base in USA that other members of the squad have given him the backing to speak on their behalf and he has made a passionate appeal to the Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, and the Director General of National Sports Commission (NSC), Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, to assist them in getting the reward of their hard labour for the nation.
“On behalf of the 1983 Flying Eagles’ players and coaches, as their vice captain, I wish to congratulate the 1994 AFCON winning Super Eagles for their unrelenting but sustained effort to ensure that the houses promised to them for winning the AFCON will be redeemed.
“The Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, should also be applauded for ensuring that the sitting president aligns the federal government’s pledge with action irrespective of whom and when it was made. Since the then captain of the team Ali Jeje is late, I was mandated by other members of the teams to speak on their behalf and all we wanted for federal government is to redeem the scholarship pledge that was made to the team after qualification to represent Africa for the first time in any FIFA tournament,” Okoku said Monday via email.
Other members of the team include: Humphrey Edobor, Yisa Shofoluwe, Dahiru Sadi, Dehinde Akinlotan, the Olukanni brothers (Segun and Femi), Wahab Adesina and Alphonsus Akhahon.
After three previous attempts under the captaincies of Silvanus (77), Franklin Howard (79) and Stephen Keshi (81), the then Flying Eagles in 1983 opened the flood gate to the country’s conquest at FIFA events and the euphoria of the feat made the then president of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, to promise all members of the team scholarships to study in any part of the world.
“Its 30 years and the pledge has not been fulfilled but thank God we have Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the president of the country who has been readdressing injustice meted to all patriots both living and dead and we want him through the NSC to come to our aid,” Okoku said.
According to him: “The pronouncement was made subsequent to qualifying to represent Nigeria in part, and Africa, largely, in the 1983 edition of the U20 World Cup, in Mexico .
“The then minister of sports, Alhaji Buba Ahmed, met with us soon after defeating Guinea in Nigeria to qualify for the tournament, and asked us what we wanted for bringing honour to Nigeria. We were proportionately divided as we discussed it intensely. Some wanted houses while others wanted scholarships since most us were students at the time. Immediately, and without hesitation, the minister made a pronouncement that scholarship offer in any part of the world to the team which the then President Shagari made a pronouncement to that effect.”
He recalled that the pronouncement was published in the media while the likes of the late Nigeria Football Association (NFA) chairman, late Commodore Edwin Kentebe, the late NFA secretary, Mr. Okeowo, the late coaches Udemezue and Yakubu and a host of other sports and government personalities were present at the official pronouncement by the sports minister.