By Jacob Ajom
It’s one week after the controversial elections of new boards of national sports federations. The dust raised by the exercise is yet to settle. Predictably, the elections, which were conducted by the Ministry of youth and sports have created factions in various federations led by monstrous gladiators who, it seems, are not ready to sheath their swords. Sadly, the end to this unfolding scenario can be predicted: Nigerian sports will take a deep plunge to the abyss.
One prominent example of a nation’s sports in crisis is the case of the Nigerian Basketball Federation where two time President, Tijani Umar is leading one board and Musa Kida leads another.
While Umar who is Nigeria’s most successful NBBF boss ever, is going it alone, Kida on the other hand has the full backing of the supervising ministry headed by Solomon Dalung. As stated earlier, the ministry set up the battlefield after issuing guidelines that were considered by some stakeholders as ‘far outside the statutes of international sporting bodies.’ That formed the very foundation of the present crisis rocking the federation as the Tijani Umar-led faction of NBBF refused to abide by the guidelines, ignored the ministry and went ahead with its elections; not in Abuja, but far in away Kano.
His board which also has former national team captain, Olumide Oyedeji as Vice President, Muktar Kaleh of FIBA Afrique as member, among others has transited seamlessly, organising activities such as the Zenith Women Basketball League, the Kwese Sports Premier Basketball League among others. Only last week, the All Star match which paraded the best basketball players from both the Atlantic and Savannah Conferences come together to play against each other. These events have, no doubt, given the Tijani Umar-led board the upper hand so far.
But Babs Ogunade, Vice President of Musa Kida is not perturbed by the existence of a rival board. “I don’t know of any parallel board,” Ogunade started. “As far as I am concerned, there is no other board than that led by Musa Kida. That was the board elected on June 13, in Abuja through elections conducted by the Ministry of Sports.”
Ogunade who is chairman of the Lagos State Basketball Association informed that the Kida board has since swung into action with their focus on grassroots development. “We met Friday last week and mapped out our plans. Our focus is to develop the sport from the grassroots. We are partnering Nestle Milo because they have been on ground and have the platform which we can use to our advantage.
“Very soon we will invite players identified during the just concluded Milo Secondary Schools Basketball Championship to the national U-16 camp. We are going to extend invitations to some other states that were not at the championship to send their players.”
Ogunade said the Tijani Umar-led board was a distraction and they won’t allow them derail their plan for Nigeria basketball. He disclosed further that his board has since communicated with the world basketball governing body, FIBA.
But former Nigeria Captain, Olumide Oyedeji who was elected vice President by the Tijani Umar-led board at the Kano elections said the Musa Kida-led group shot themselves in the foot when they took the ministry to court and petitioned the International Olympic Committee and the Federation of International Basketball Association, FIBA over the last board elections in 2013. “It was after their petition that the IOC and FIBA wrote to the Nigeria Olympic Committee, saying the National Sports Commission had no powers to dissolve sports federation boards and that each sports federation should be responsible for the conduct of its elections in line with the statutes governing their international bodies.”
He said, “it is unfortunate that people who have been fighting every regime for the past two decades are the same people trying to draw back the hands of the clock. They went to IOC and FIBA to nullify our elections but it ended up serving as an eye opener. Today, they are aligning with government they disparaged so much in the last regime.” Olumide said
Former Director General of the National Sports Commission, Dr Patrick Ekeji has thrown his weight behind the Tijani Umar-led board, saying they were “the authentic board of the NBBF.”
Speaking with Sports Vanguard on the controversy, Ekeji said, “I have followed the arguments with respect to NBBF, (and ) going by best practices, the Kano election is the authentic one.”
To buttress his assertion, the one time Director of Sports Development in the sports ministry argued that the NSC introduced a policy of privatization of sports federations with the aim of making them “cut their teeth towards Management Independence devoid of overbearing control by the government.”
Continuing Chief Ekeji said, “Clear cut pathways were defined with strong encouragement for Federations to evolve their Constitutions. Some Federations such as Hockey, Swimming, NBBF, etc did. Indeed Hockey and Swimming carried on with their programmes without recourse to the NSC for funds.
After my exit (from the NSC) that Policy was thrown out. Going by what I know, it is a dis-service to our sports development by government not to encourage independence of Sports Federations.”
The Minister Solomon Dalung has not helped the issue as he has been quiet on the mater.
As the drama unfolds, with both sides claiming to have opened lines of communication with their international parent body, FIBA is yet to issue a statement on the Nigeria situation.