President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday announced a cash gift of N5m to each member of the victorious Super Eagles and the team’s three assistant coaches that clinched the gold medal in the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
While the Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, was given N10m, members of the technical crew were also given N2m each.
gifts also came with a plot of land and national honours for each member the team.
Keshi bagged the national honour of the Commander of the Order of Niger while his three assistants and the team captain, Joseph Yobo, were conferred with Officer of the Order of Niger.
The remaining players were conferred with Member of the Order of Niger.
Jonathan made the announcement amidst loud ovation from the lucky players during a state dinner he organised in their honour at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, few hours after their arrival in the country.
The President said two sets of Nigerians youths, musicians and footballers, had been placing the nation on the world map.
He said the trophy was the most precious centenary gift presented to the nation by the team.
The President recalled that there was skepticism on the part of Nigerians on the ability of the team to deliver when they left
for the tournament.
He commended them for ignoring criticisms and refusing to surrender by their superlative performance.
“The lesson in your victory for all of us is that we should never give up in the midst of criticism. Believe in yourself. With time, you will see the fruits of your labour,” he said.
He said the victory was an indication that there would be victory for his administration as he works hard to transform the country.
He said his administration would continue to give sports it’s pride of place in the country.
He assured the Chief Coach of his full support, urging him to ensure that the nation qualifies for the next World Cup.
The President urged Nigerians not to allow their differences to divide them, observing that the noise of joy during sporting victories were the same across the country.
Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, described the victory as another moment of national rebirth and fresh air.
He said as the nation savours the sweetness of the victory, sports administrators in the country were not unaware of the responsibility placed on their shoulders to sustain the victory at all levels and in all sports.
“Winning this trophy is only a milestone for us, not the destination. Until we fulfill your (the President’s) vision for us which is to be the best, we will not rest on our oars,” he said.
The minister asked stakeholders to put the years of rancour and acrimony behind them because a lot could be achieved when united.
He said the Nigerian character of resilience fetched the team, which he described as work-in-progress, the trophy.
In formally presenting the trophy to the President, the Chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, said it was a national pride for the players to win the trophy after 19 years.
Jonathan had while engaging the players and their handlers in a
teleconference ahead of the tournament’s semi final match against Mali promised to make them “very happy young men” if they could return to the country with the trophy.
The colourful event was attended by the wife of the President, Patience; Vice President Namadi Sambo; President of the Senate, David Mark; Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwwal; Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihediora, and state governors among others.