By Patrick Omorodion

Some people assume that when they are not in charge of a body or organization, those who are there are not qualified to steer the ship of that body. That is the case with basketball in Nigeria since 2013 when the present board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF led by an unassuming  gentleman, Tijjani Umar took charge of the federation.

The matter was made worse when yours sincerely was also appointed into the Board as a representative of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, a very strong stakeholder in Nigerian sports. My inclusion has caused nightmares for many a stakeholder in basketball.

That war which has continued to rage for three years now  culminated in last week’s column by a friend and colleague, Pius Ayinor of Punch newspapers. He portrayed the Umar-led board members as proud people who have refused to throw open the NBBF doors to outsiders to contribute to the development of the sport. His piece attracted the reaction of Mukhtar Kaleh, Vice President of the NBBF, which I have reproduced hereunder:

My good friend Pius Ayinor of the Punch Newspapers has been around basketball for quite a long time and  he surely knows about the game’s past administrations, he also has the right to express his opinion on any issue as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The write-up, ‘Yeye pride killing Nigeria basketball’, to say the least, is unfortunate and in bad taste. Even as Pius has the right to praise anybody he so wishes to, he should also remember that some of us were big players in the previous board and surely he can not claim to know what happened during the period better than we do. I want to advise Pius to look for pride somewhere else but sure not around the present board of the NBBF. We have been very open and have invited any stakeholder who has anything to offer basketball to come on board and a lot of people have since been contributing to the progress of basketball in Nigeria, people like Deji Jayeola, Ajibarade Bello, Bade Latona, Fani, Lawal Garba, Pastor Skambo Morrison, to name but a few. But those that are so proud are the ones that feel they know better than everybody else and so they can not serve their country unless they are at the driver’s seat; that is pride.

Pius should also remember that the current President of the NBBF (Tijjani Umar) was the first to visit the Dolphins basketball facility and was full of praise for his boss, the chairman of the Punch newspapers.

On the ABL issue, the NBBF has been  magnanimous with the management of the ABL. What I understand is that the league is supposed to be played in four countries, Nigeria, Senegal, Côte D’ Ivoire and Gabon, but has any game been played in any of those countries? No. The fact of the matter is that insiders deceived the ABL, the promoters were told by their friends that they do not need the NBBF and FIBA  AFRICA to run the league, and all the NBBF ever asked for was that due process should be followed. In fact the President of the NBBF was at a time, after realizing that a mistake has been done, offered a slot in the ABL which he rejected. I was with Col. Sam Ahmedu, the president of zone 3 in Cairo last month for the central board meeting of Fiba Africa where he was very critical of the ABL. He accused and castigated the ABL of not following due process and openly claimed that he does not own the Lagos Warriors basketball club, this is exactly what the NBBF asked for, due process.

If basketball is being killed as Pius wants us to believe, how come his body, the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, Abuja branch and the sports award committee selected the NBBF as the best federation in 2015. I would like to remind whoever wants to hear that the present NBBF has some modest achievements that will forever remain indelible in the history of basketball in this country. There is the back to back Olympic qualification/ticket for the men’s team, which is by no means a great achievement; there is also the Afro Basket trophy which was won for the first time in fifty years, all under the present leadership of this board, no one can delete this from history. Our prayer is, by the time the present board of the NBBF leaves office, whoever takes over the mantle of leadership of the NBBF should do better and bring more glories to Nigeria.

Mukhtar Kaleh,  Vice President,

Nigeria Basketball Federation

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