Patrick Omorodion

Plateau born lawyer and politician, Barrister Solomon Dalung, ceased to be the sports minister on May 28, 2019 but the mess he left behind in the administration of sports in the country is still oozing out a stench.

Apart from the embarrassing scandal of the ‘missing’ $135,000 belonging to World Athletics,  hitherto known as the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF, the confusion he set by hijacking the sports federations elections against the directive of the International Olympic Committee, IOC, has left many a sports federation still reeling in confusion.

The major federation affected by his ill-advised interference is the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF which has been in coma since the events of June 12 and 13, 2017 when two elections held in Kano and Abuja respectively.

I would honestly not blame Dalung entirely for the quagmire. He would have not been able to stoke the confusion if the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC lived up to its responsibility of liaising between the NBBF and the basketball world governing body, FIBA without bias.

FIBA statutes state clearly that member federations should conduct their affairs independent of any third party interference with the Olympic Committee of each country serving as observers and the eye of both the world governing body and the IOC.

And to be sure this is adhered to, the IOC and each world governing body rely on the NOC. But rather than serve as an independent body overseeing all Olympic sports in the country, the NOC has sold its independence by clinging to the apron strings of the sports ministry which it runs cap in hand to always to rescue it from financial mess.

Before the 2017 sports federations elections, the IOC through FIBA had written to the NBBF (and other federations) to draw up their own constitution and conduct their affairs without interference. This followed a petition it received from an aggrieved stakeholder who complained that the sports ministry conducted the 2013 elections and schemed him out.

Of course the NOC was contacted to confirm the ‘allegation’ that the election was conducted by the sports ministry. Rather than answer in the affirmative, then NOC secretary general, Tunde Popoola denied the ‘allegation’ and reported that the election was supervised by the NOC.

When the NBBF crisis blew up, Popoola went on a television station to say that he “lied” to the IOC to save Nigeria and the NBBF from sanctions. If only Popoola had owned up that the sports ministry conducted the 2013 elections, maybe a re-run of that election would have been held and the crisis the NBBF is plagued with currently would have been nipped in the bud.

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Not wanting to be caught in the web of a violation of the IOC directives and FIBA statutes, the NBBF under Tijjani Umar set in motion a constitution drafting committee which consulted with FIBA all through its deliberations before a final draft was approved by FIBA and endorsed  by the congress at the Annual General Assembly held in Abuja in early 2017.

Apart from FIBA, the NOC was carried along in the constitution drafting and the secretary general affirmed this when he said that a few federations, including the NBBF, had their constitutions and should conduct their elections themselves. This is also on record.

So it was surprising when the same Popoola made a u-turn to back the sports ministry’s insistence that it must be the one to organise the elections for all the federations. But the NBBF would have none of that and held its election in Kano, a day before the ministry organised another one in Abuja.

This stoked the crisis as the NBBF now had two factions, one led by Tijjani Umar and the other led by Musa Kida, the same man that protested during the 2013 election and pulled out of the contest when defeat stared him in the face.

As expected, FIBA waded into the dispute and consulted with the NOC through Popoola, who was now working with the sports ministry without consulting with the Executive Committee of the NOC or the Board. His statement that the NOC didn’t observe the Kano election was what has prolonged the crisis till today.

Of course FIBA was vehement on the involvement of the sports ministry and said it would not recognise the Abuja election on that ground. Again, because the NOC said it didn’t observe the Kano election, FIBA equally said it won’t recognise it.

It started the process of reviewing the constitution in order to allign it with its statutes. It drew a timeline which it was following until the unfortunate demise of its secretary general, Patrick Baumann. His successor, Andreas Zagklis, has however, kept mute on the NBBF crisis so far, carrying on as if all is well with Nigeria’s basketball.

Concerned about the lull in basketball, a key stakeholder, Ayo Bakare, former national team, D’Tigers coach and club owner has been making efforts to see that elders of the sport and other stakeholders proffer the way forward. He is of the opinion that a fresh election is the best optin out of the crisis. So far the elders are still looking from afar.

However, one expected that with the exit of the ministry’s hatchet man in the NOC and a new secretary general appointed, the decision of the former scribe to mislead FIBA would be addressed and a solution to end the leadership dispute found so that players and other stakeholders will heave a sigh of relief.

The NOC has kept mute on the NBBF crisis but was quick to wade into the IAAF $135,000 scandal with the aim of helping to cover up the crime and possibly rescue the AFN president whose members have passed a vote of no confidence on.

The NOC caused the crisis in the NBBF and it is only the NOC that will end the crisis by opening up, accepting its fault and supporting the reconciliation process started by FIBA, otherwise, the crisis will prolong.

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