Just a few minutes after Nigeria’s painful loss to Tunisia by a goal in the second round of the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, President Muhammadu Buhari began to trend on all social media. Thousands of tweet referencing the Nigerian president flooded Twitter, a social media just back from a seven-month ban by the Nigerian President.
Nigeria, the favourite to win the AFCON lost in a match it was expected to win easily. Having topped the Group D in the earlier stages of the tournament, dumping Egypt and humiliating Sudan, the Eagles, packed with fresh and ambitious young people fancy they could go all the way to the finals.
Meanwhile Tunisia won only one of their three matches in the group stages and qualified only as best third. To compound their problems, 20 members of the team caught COVID-19 and were absent in the game.
“It should be a walk-over,” Nigerians all over the world believed.
Then Buhari happened.
According to Nigerians on social media, President Buhari’s call to the Eagles in the morning before the match portend nothing but badluck to the team. And these conspiracy theorists have antecedents to back their rather strange claims.
Buhari had taken pictures with Anthony Joshua, he lost the bout.
Buhari had called the women team, Falcons, they lost scandalously.
Now, Buhari again called the Super Eagles, who were doing well until the call, they lost.
A string of bad luck followed the Eagles to the game today. Aside the bicycle kick from Wilfred Ndidi in the early minutes of the game, nothing seemed to have worked for the players. A 69th minute kick that rolled over Maduka Okoye’s hand saw the Eagles come under pressure to equalise.
Then Kelechi ‘Senior Man’ Iheanacho got a yellow card and was replaced by Alex Iwobi. Then what happened two minutes after, Iwobi made a tackle, got a yellow card, badluck calls for a VAR review and he got a red card.
“This has never happened,” says social critic and “Buhari Tormentor” Reno Omokri. “Iwobi red card, Iheanacho yellow card. All the time they have been playing, this never happened. Why is it that it is the day they spoke to Buhari that these series of unwelcome events rained on us! Energies are very contagious. Avoid negative people,” he said.
Reno like a prophet had spoken out immediately after the call that it should never have happened. “Oh oh! Why did NFF callow Buhari speak with the Super Eagles players now! What is wrong with the NFF? Have the (sic) forgotten what happened after he spoke to Anthony Joshua?”
Indeed, Buhari’s call to the players was nothing but to wish them Goodluck. He even mentioned two key players, Iheanacho and Moses Simon by name and asked them to go all the way to win the AFCON.
“You’ve been doing Nigeria proud. You’ve been winning. Please keep on winning. The Federal Government is supporting you, and I say thank you to all the technical crew and the players. Please keep doing the country proud,” Buhari told them.
The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo had also found inspiration from the performance of the Eagles waxing poetic about the “awe inspiring dribble from an Igbo man and a through pass from an Hausa man.”
But it has ended in tears now. For Simon, Iheanacho, Okoye, Musa, Ndidi, interim coach Austin Eguavoen, who had read all previous games perfectly, made the necessary adjustments and whom Nigerians are already campaigning for to have a permanent shirt, and for over 200 million Nigerians who in two weeks have found something to unite a terribly fragile and divided nation.