For the third straight time Mikel Obi has been left out of the Super Eagles squad causing one to wonder whether the former Chelsea star has quit international football but officials are not in a hurry to make this big announcement.
When the Eagles captain was left out of the AFCON double-header against Libya, officials said the team wanted to allow him time to recover from some niggling injuries.
Eagles spokesman Toyin Ibitoye will go as far as assuring that Mikel will be back for the qualifier in South Africa.
On Sunday, he captained his Chinese Super League club Tianjin Teda and even scored his second goal of the season.
But he is again missing from the Eagles latest selection to provoke more questions like whether he has finally taken his bow from international football, like Victor Moses did soon after the World Cup in Russia.
Or will he now be only available for selection at the AFCON proper next year?
Or is it that he no longer fits into Gernot Rohr’s plans?
Or that he has insisted on playing a free role in midfield than grafting in defensive midfield for the national team?
In his absence, Alex Iwobi has fitted in nicely in Mikel’s preferred Eagles role playing behind the top striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
That was in itself something of a controversy at the World Cup in Russia after the legendary Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha went public to say Mikel is not a No 10 and rather his nephew was better suited for such a role.
Jose Mourinho, who converted Mikel to defensive midfield in his time at Chelsea, also shared that position.
And Rohr surrendered to the pressure by playing his captain as the screen of his four-man defence in the crunch group game against Argentina which Nigeria needed a result to go through to the knockout stage.
The leader of the Super Eagles will now miss six of his team’s games since after Russia 2018 – this will include four AFCON qualifiers.
At 31 and a full international since 2005, Mikel is no spring chicken and it will not come as a surprise should he decide call time on his international career.
The player ought to now come out and explain the true situation or if he does not wish to do so, the coach or the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should douse the growing speculations surrounding the status of the Eagles captain.