THE pursuit of silverware – and the pressures and demands that come with such an endeavour – has become a way of life for Joe Aribo at Rangers.

He is a champion with his club, a hero to an adoring fanbase. Now he is aiming to conquer a continent with his country and become a legend across the Nigerian nation.

That ambition is off to a positive start, courtesy of the victory over Egypt on Tuesday evening. A Kelechi Iheanacho strike, after an Aribo assist, would secure the three points that should see Nigeria top their section.

The Super Eagles are three-time winners of this competition. A proud record over the last two decades was blotched by a hat-trick of non-appearances, but a team that represents a country of more than 200 million people is always going to carry a weighty burden of expectation.

Aribo is one of the stars of the future but this could well be his time to shine and his game has scaled new heights in recent months as he attempts to inspire Rangers and ensure that title 56 quickly follows the historic 55 from last term.

There will be a pride amongst Rangers supporters and staff at seeing Aribo take to this stage as impressively, yet it only further emphasises the feeling that they should enjoy him while they still can.

Whatever misplaced misgivings outside observers have over the standard of the Premiership, Aribo has proven himself at European level. Doing so once again at the African Cup of Nations will only heighten interest in him come the summer transfer window.

The absence of the 25-year-old will be keenly felt by Rangers in the coming weeks. Whilst Giovanni van Bronckhorst will wish his star man well, he will be more concerned with his healthy return, and one as soon as possible, than Nigeria’s aspirations.

Aribo arrived in Cameroon in the finest form of his career yet preparations for the opening fixture, and the tournament as a whole, have been far from straightforward for the Super Eagles.

The sacking of long-standing manager Gernot Rohr during the final countdown to the competition was a sign of things to come. From those dark clouds, troubles have poured.

They have not been reserved solely for the dugout, either. Augustine Eguavoen was placed in charge of the side for the AFCON campaign but Rohr’s permanent replacement - José Peseiro, the one-time Sporting Lisbon and Venezuela manager, has already been appointed.

On the park, Nigeria have been beset by selection issues. Aribo’s Ibrox team-mate Leon Balogun had to withdraw from the squad through injury, while Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis and Odion Ighalo, the top scorer at the AFCON three years ago, are absent due to respective club versus country wrangles.

Such headaches have become almost par for the course for the Super Eagles in recent times. Dysfunction does not necessarily mean disaster, however, and the apathy amongst supporters struck comparisons with the feeling around Stephen Keshi’s ultimately victorious side of nine years ago.

Time will tell if Aribo can inspire Nigeria in the same way that the likes of Mikel Jon Obi and Emmanuel Emenike did in South Africa. This was a promising start, at least.

Questions had been raised around Aribo’s suitability for playing against physical, combative African opposition and this tournament is seen as a chance for him to win over any sceptics amongst a passionate yet unforgiving support.

His showing here was certainly a step in the right direction in that regard. Aribo is off and running, and there is plenty more to come from him as Sudan and Guinea-Bissau await in Group D over the next week.

With Wilfred Ndidi alongside and providing the foundations for the Nigerian performance, Aribo was given an attacking licence from the middle of the park. It was one that he made the most of as Nigeria controlled the central area, and as a result the match, against Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny and Trézéguet, the Aston Villa midfielder.

His touches were deft, his intentions incisive. Aribo – who has goals against Ukraine and Brazil on his international record - may have been providing a supporting role, but he was able to play a leading part in proceedings.

A strike from the edge of the area after ten minutes was scuffed as a half chance was squandered but Aribo would grow into the game and become increasingly influential.

It was his perfectly weighted pass – after he drifted from a central area across the Egyptian box – that sent Moses Simon through on goal. From a tight angle, Simon could only hit the side netting.

Just minutes later, that partnership paid dividends for Nigeria. Simon was an electric, entertaining presence down the flank and right-back Mohamed Abdel Monem had no answer to his pace and trickery.

When a cross was only half cleared, Aribo sensed an opportunity. He would react quickest to the loose ball and calmly cushion it into the path of Iheanacho.

His strike was powerful and precise. Mohammed El Shenawy, the Egyptian goalkeeper, was helpless as Iheanacho found the top corner of the net and Nigeria had the lead that their play merited at that stage.

The weeks leading into the tournament were far from straightforward for Nigeria but their first half could hardly have gone any better. With Aribo and Ndidi – who dragged a low effort wide from distance - composed operators and Simon and Iheanacho carrying real threat, the Super Eagles had taken flight in Garoua.

At the other end of the park, the most famous face and the biggest name cut an isolated, frustrated figure. Service to Mo Salah wasn’t just in short supply, it was non-existent as Carlos Queiroz’s side got little joy from a direct, long-ball approach.

It was Nigeria who continued to play the neatest football after the break. Aribo was again integral to their approach but Eguavoen’s side were unable to find the second goal that would have proven decisive.

The introduction of Umar Sadiq – yes, remember him? – didn’t exactly seem like the way to add a clinical cutting edge to the Nigerian forward line.

In the end, it wasn’t needed. The improvement from Egypt was marginal and Nigeria were largely comfortable as the clock ticked on.

When victory was confirmed, neither side could argue that it wasn’t earned, and the points and the plaudits were rightly claimed by Aribo and Co.

The road to glory began in Garoua. It may yet end in Yaoundé as Aribo sets his sights on silverware once again.