CAN ANYANSI TURN NIGERIAN FOOTBALL AROUND?
Senator Frank Carlson from Kansas, USA, described the quality of visionary leaders Nigeria needs in all facets when he wrote, 'God and the world need men who will stand in the gap… men who are not for sale; men who are honest, sound from centre to circumference, true to the heart's core, men with conscience as steady as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for their right if the heavens totter and the earth reels; men who can tell the truth and look the world right in the eye; men who neither brag nor run; men who neither flag nor flinch; men in whom the courage (to bring home trophies for Nigeria) runs deep, and strong, men who know their business and attend to it; men who will not lie, shirk, or dodge; men who are not too lazy to work, nor too proud” (to bend low and work with up coming talents). Today, our nation needs men like Felix Anyansi-Agwu.
If you frown your face at the mention of Mr Felix Anyansi-Agwu then there is only one reason for this. You are not familiar with 21st century Nigerian history. As a result, you need a little bit of lesson on history. In the first decade of the 21st century, to talk about some of the amazing people who have one way or the other contributed their quota in the social uplift and re-engineering of a new Nigeria, will be a discussion on personalities on different field of endeavour.
In repositioning the confidence in the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry we will talk about Prof. Dora Akunyili, in administrative competence we talk about Oby Ezekwesili, in Robotic Engineering we talk about Prof. Barth Nnaji, in fighting corruption we talk about Nuhu Ribadu, in effective administration and running of an efficient system, we talk about EI-Rufai, in fininance we talk about Okonjo Iweala, in telecommunication we talk about Mike Adenuga, in banking we talk about Jim Ovia and Tony Elumelu. In sports, wisdom demands that we zero it down to the most popular sports in our land, 'Football' and who do we zero it down to, the man who possesses the turn around magic of Donald Trump and Jimoh Ibrahim combined. The man with the effective administrative qualities of El-Rufai and Ezekwesili combined and the winning qualities of Jose Mourinho.
These are verifiable raw truth which true followers of football in Nigeria need no historian to tell them. As the elections into the board of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) approaches. We must all insist on competent hands with proven records of accomplishment, not political tale bearers with fairly tale promises who will in the long run end up lining their pockets. We need good leaders who John C. Maxwell described as, 'Good leaders rarely think in terms of boundaries; instead, they think in terms of opportunities. They are initiators. After all, the number one characteristic of leaders is the ability to make things happen'.
If Nigerians expect to achieve good results in international outing, we must go for men with competent records of achievements. We should not recycle the same old woods that have not achieved anything for us over the years and expect a good result. That is insanity of the highest order. The best way to define insanity is to do the same thing all over again, and again and expect a different result.
We are in dare need of mavericks to run our football for us. Lee Lacooca was talking about the likes of Anyansi-Agwu when he wrote; 'the kind of people I look for to fill top management sports are the sager beavers, the maverick. These are the guys who try to do more than they are expected to do, they always win.' People like Anyansi will always achieve because he always treats his players with dignity and respect. He places a lot of value on his entire administrative team first of all as human begins.
He cares about people, not just those of immediate benefit to him, but including Enyimba opponents and because of these qualities, every footballer in Nigeria today wants to play for Enyimba and virtually all the match officials who visit Nigeria for Enyimba matches go home with a deep conviction that they have a friend in Nigeria called 'Anyansi'. As a result, Anyansi has become an asset, a great resource which Nigerian football must tap into if it really desires to accomplish greatness in Africa first and the globe at large.
We need dreamers, we need visionaries and like Adebayo William's School of Thought goes, ' No nation survives without dreamers and visionaries, with out its incurable romantics and hopeless idealists” like Anyansi-Agwu. This was exactly the quality Anyansi exhibited at the turn of the millennium and century when he was beaconed upon to act as the chairman of Enyimba. Anyansi who never had any previous football administrative experience had one thing going for him. He was like Prof. Adeboyo Williams, wrote a dreamer, a visionary, an incurable romantic and a hopeless idealist. These were the motivating factors that made him take the bull by the horn.
When he took over Enyimba, the team was just four more league matches to the end of the 2000/01 season with two home and two away matches. Enyimba was struggling among the last four teams to be regulated to the 2nd division. Since the Aba-based team popularly called 'The People's Elephant needed a seemingly impossible away victory to remain afloat in the upper class division. The then chairman threw in the towel so that it would not be on record that Enyimba went down under his watch.
The negative circumstance that seemed to surround Enyimba was a mere opportunity to reveal the leadership qualities of Anyansi. It was like Donald J. Trump the man, who entered Guinness Book of world record for the greatest turn around in human history of corporate management had Anyansi at mind in his book: 'Never give up' when he wrote, 'every challenge or obstacle you come up against is simply an opportunity in disguise.
Think big, think creatively, and you'll see it.' People who lack the ability to pave paths where there is none will not be able to manage such situation that the young dynamic Anyansi found himself in, when he, against all odds, paved a new path for the team. And paving a new path for Nigerian football is what we urgently need, like a story in ”The 360 degree leader” by John C Maxwell goes: 'An aid group in South Africa once wrote to missionary and explorer, David Living Stone, asking: 'Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you.'
Livingstone replied, 'If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all.' That's exactly what Nigerians need from their leaders right now. Leaders who will pave a way where there is no road at all.
To cut a long story short, away win, Enyimba did get, as Anyansi proved that whenever we look at our mountains through the eyes of faith, we would develop the ability to stop seeing them as hindrances but rather, as opportunities to launch all out in our God-given creative potential no matter the level of negative circumstance facing us.
The next football season, Anyansi was for the first time in history led Enyimba to win the Nigerian Premier League title, and at first, critics dismissed his accomplishment as just a fluke. Truly in life, there may be fluke that will occur to catapult individuals to glory. But flukes are not consistent. When such a victory becomes consistent occurrence, then there is a great thinker, a great determined and a strong willed person, who understands the realities of the game and knows how it works, its tricks, politics and required ingredient for such wide-ranging success.
Just take a look at the records that followed after reviving the Ppeople's Elephant from relegation to championship victory. Again, in 2002, Anyansi led Enyimba to win the 2002 Professional League. The same year, he led Enyimba to win the Nigerian Super Cup. In 2003, Enyimba under him, won the Professional League the third time in a stretch. And that same year, after 39 years of trail and error, he led Enyimba to become the first Nigerian club side to win the CAF Championship League and also the CAF Super Cup in 2004.
Anyansi was to prove himself once more to his ardent critics when in 2004, he led Enyimba to another first; this time, not just in Nigeria, but in Africa as the People's Elephant became the first club side in Africa to win the rechristened CAF Champions League back-to-back (2003 and 2004). The next year, 2005, the club retained the CAF Super Cup.