Sunday Oliseh outburst has put him in a tough spot as Nigeria manager
When Sunday Oliseh began his tenure as Nigeria coach, one of the things that the local media celebrated was his social media savvy. Oliseh is the only one of his contemporaries who is actively present on at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
One of the reasons his use of social media offered cause for celebration was the way it would put the national coach front and centre for a younger, tech savvy demographic. However, the big elephant in the room was the lingering danger of potential disaster -- it didn't take long to emerge. Faced with some criticism after his team failed to make it past the first round of the African Nations Championship despite their favourites tag, Oliseh took to social media to hit back. He pulled no punches.
Nobody was spared, not even his former teammates, some of whom he put down with brutal efficiency. As for his critics, "insane" was the standout word he used to describe them. The videos came barely a week after he took his employers to task by declaring that his players were ill-motivated because of owed allowances, all of which had forced him to spend $4,000 of his own money on meals for his squad during the tournament.
Naturally, the YouTube outburst caused more than a little stir back home. Oliseh trended for a full day and half on social media, while radio and television discussions centered on both the wisdom and the folly of such a full frontal evisceration of critics and employers.
There was undisguised anger within the NFF and a few fiery phone calls later, Oliseh was forced into a climb down with an apology to the NFF and Nigerians.
While Oliseh's apology may have been accepted, there is still some way to go before he has mended all his broken bridges. According to sources at the NFF, Nigeria's Sports Minister Solomon Dalung flew to Rwanda specifically to brief the coach about the austere conditions.
Overall, there has been much to frustrate the former Super Eagles captain. He was none too pleased about the choice of the northern city of Kaduna to play the March Nations Cup qualifier against Egypt, but the NFF have stood their ground. Oliseh also claimed that certain sections of the media wanted him to pay in exchange for positive reporting. That claim that has now landed him in hot water with the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), which issued him a seven-day ultimatum to name the reporters involved.
One of Oliseh's well-known traits has always been his ability to speak candidly and openly. The question, however, is obvious: how openly can a national coach speak?
There is little doubt about the troubles that simmer below the surface of Nigerian football but resolving them requires some measure of diplomacy. It is a strange word to associate with Oliseh, who is used to saying things the way they are. With social media at his fingertips, it requires barely any effort to disseminate his ideas. It is one thing to be social media savvy. It is quite another entirely to be PR savvy. And therein lies the danger.
Oliseh knows how to use social media platforms. What he does not quite grasp -- at least not yet -- is how to negotiate the PR minefield that comes with being the coach of a national team. There is no doubt that there are certain things that need to be said at certain times, but there is a right way and wrong way to say them.
What Sunday Oliseh the pundit would have said with little or no consequences is instead a big controversy for Sunday Oliseh the Super Eagles coach. It's imperative that Oliseh seriously considers engaging the services of a PR professional and not only discuss but strategise all future public statements through them. There is a reason why presidents, politicians, corporate leaders and even athletes and fellow coaches have PR machines behind them: to avoid the pitfalls that come with doing what Oliseh has just done.
As much as he may have been in the right with his remarks, the PR damage he has taken from this is not worth whatever benefits may have accrued, with former internationals and coaches making his comments fair game. Being forced to apologize proves that he at least admits he made an error but there will be little room for further maneuvering.
As he said himself in the video, Oliseh has not done that badly as a coach. Losing just one competitive game in 14 is not a record to sniff at. What he now needs to do is learn the art of telling people to go away but with enough style to make them enjoy the trip.
Colin Udoh is the editor of KickOffNigeria.com and African football correspondent for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.