The likes of Osaze Odemwingie, Obafemi Martins, Taye Taiwo, Kalu Uche were not considered for the tournament despite having a combined total of 179 caps between them.
But Keshi explained that he was working on a long term project and needed to give opportunities to younger players "It was difficult, very difficult but the thing is that you have to spread the opportunities to everyone.
"The younger kids here are desperate. They are on fire.
"I'm not saying the experienced ones don't have the same, but we are not here just for this Nations Cup, but building for the next five years and for the 2014 World Cup."
Keshi went to great lengths to insist that the excluded players remain part of the team. "They are still part of this team, and we still have the qualifiers in March and they can be involved."