The Super Eagles won their second African title in 1994, but they could not defend their title in South Africa two years later.
Former Super Eagles star, Tijani Babangida has revealed the Super Eagles missed the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa because the Late General Sani Abacha could not guarantee the team’s safety.
Many felt the Super Eagles missed a big opportunity by boycotting AFCON 96 as they could have dominated African football in the 90s given the world-class stars they had in the squad.
Nigeria were the defending champions having won their second title at Tunisia 94. But after much deliberations, they decided not to travel to South Africa who were the host in 1996.
There were tensions between Nigeria and South Africa after the Sani Abacha led government was criticised for the killing of nine minority rights activists.
Babangida revealed the team had a meeting with the Late General Sani Abacha who was the head of state then. At the meeting, Abacha told the squad the federal government could not guarantee the team’s safety, but they could still travel at their own risk.
“He (Abacha) summoned us to Aso Rock and explained to us his problem with the rest of the world and also with South Africa,” Babangida told AOIFootball.
“He said he could not guarantee our safety and believed they could reach us just to get to him.
“He, however, told us that we could go at our own risk but we decided to honour the father of the nation,” the former Ajax star added.
The Super Eagles were subsequently banned from 1998 edition in Morocco but made a return at the 2000 edition which they co-hosted with Ghana.