Like a recurring nightmare, Yakubu Aiyegbeni is back in our consciousness. How can we possibly ignore the powerful frontman, when our number one football addiction is the English Premiership? In the now famous game against Swansea City, Aiyegbeni put up a sensational one-man show, banging in all four goals to earn Blackburn Rovers a 4-2 home victory over Swansea. I watched with interest as people reacted to his exploits on social media and on the streets, hailing his exploits.
Our grievances with the Yak evaporated in an instant. It had taken a horrendous miss from three yards for us to send him into exile. A four goal show had suddenly bought redemption.
It is perhaps instructive we note that scoring goals has never been a problem for the Yak. It was the second time Yakubu has struck four goals in a League game. Seven years ago, he achieved the feat for Portsmouth against Middlesbrough at Fratton Park. From his time in the Nigerian League to Israel, to the highly competitive EPL, he has always scored. Aiyegbeni is regarded as one of the best African forwards to have graced the Premiership, second to the legendary Thierry Henry in the goal to game stats.
I could picture Stephen Keshi watching on, as the Yak covered himself in glory. When asked if he considered recalling the striker, he said: "Only the best players will make my team, no matter what anyone thinks. I will pick Yak on form to play for Nigeria if he keeps scoring in the English League. I want to win matches and only the fittest in Europe and Nigeria can deliver results for me."
Irrespective of his scoring spree, opinion remains divided among fans. On one side is an army of supporters for the Yak. Their argument is simple: Yakubu’s experience and goal scoring prowess is needed in the Super Eagles.
"Keshi is the coach of the team. If he wants to call up Yakubu I don't think that should generate any kind of debate because he feels Yakubu deserves to be part of the team to beef up his attack," Christian Chukwu said.
"Apart from that, when you look at our players abroad Yakubu has done well this season and without sentiment any coach will give him the chance to play for the national team based on his current form. Right now he's one of our best performing players."
On the other side are those who feel the freshness and hunger of the likes of Ikechukwu Uche, Emmanuel Emenike, etc. is what we need. One of the prominent voices in this camp is that of Austin Okocha. Okocha insists Yakubu is past his sell-by date as a Super Eagles striker and should not return for the team he last played for at the 2010 World Cup.
"It is sad that at this time of our football, we are talking about bringing back Yakubu to the Super Eagles when we should be looking for fresh blood to take our game to the next level.
"I don't know if it is a risk but the final decision rests with the coach of the team. No doubt, Yakubu is having a good time in the EPL now, scoring regularly for Blackburn. But if you ask my opinion on the matter, I will say that it is better for a coach to fail with fresh players that will 'old' ones. With new ones, everyone will know that the coach is rebuilding a new team and the blame will not be much even if such an experiment does not work out."
Keshi has opened a training camp for his Team B, comprising of players from the local League. He confirmed in an interview that he was looking at picking at least ten players from the camp. The imminent recall of Aiyegbeni begs question of Keshi’s plan for Nigerian football – rebuilding or cycling? Is he seeking to build a new team that will play with passion and desire anytime they pull on the green jersey? Or are we still interested in rushing back to the same old players, whether in or out of form?
Right before Stephen Keshi is the choice of experience, form and hunger. And the jury is patiently waiting for him to pick his mix.
Hopefully, the results will be kind to him. And us.