Alhaji Tijani Umar is the immediate past President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation. His reign witnessed a tremendous rise in the stock of Nigeria Basketball. They midwifed the national team to annex the African Men and women Championship titles and qualified the male team for two straight Olympics.
His attempt to return as NBBF President was truncated when the former Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung ensured his favoured candidate, Musa Kida took over under very controversial circumstances. The result is the crisis that has rocked Nigeria basketball to date
TJ, as the former President is fondly called, was in Lagos a few weeks back to witness the unveiling of the Organised Basketball Network (OBN) Academy. He spared a few minutes to chat with Jacob Ajom.
How do you see this concept in Nigerian Basketball?
Let me say that Obinna has taken the first right step. It is about investing for the greater good of the game and the kids in Nigeria. We can never get it right if we put our sports development in the hands of the public sector. We simply don’t have the resources, we don’t have the networking; in fact, we don’t have what it takes to move forward without private initiative. The mere fact that you put a facility like this in place, is going to attract other things and more will follow.
What OBN is doing is to teach Basketball development, not only from the side of basketball but also the physical development of the kids, then there is also the medical attention; all these things go hand-in-hand. And that is what takes away from the ability of our national teams back home(at the local level) to do well simply because these facilities are not there. Establishing an academy is not enough, but every other thing that is required to make an academy complete is here.
That makes OBN Basketball Academy a one-stop-shop. What I can say is that in the next few years, some of the kids from here are going to explode and succeed in Basketball and we will also see them succeed in their academic pursuits and it will see us raise very good junior national teams from where they can graduate to play in the senior national team.
Nigeria Basketball is enjoying a good run at the moment. Nigeria will be represented at the Olympics in both male and female categories. What do you think are the prospects of Nigerian teams at the Games in Tokyo?
Let me say, I have led the Nigerian national team to two Olympic Games. What I can see is just greatness. We are the people who put the national team on the world map from the London Olympics in 2012. If we can just put our acts together and get the right resources, and we all work together to harness our talents on the side of players and on the side of management, Nigeria can compete in the top ten bracket of the world.
Federations are preparing for elections, probably after the Olympics, do we expect to see you come back to contest for the presidency of the Nigeria Basketball Federation?
What I can tell you is that I am absolutely interested in the elections of the NBBF. I am actually a stakeholder in the elections. I am a very busy person now and because I am working at a higher level now, it will be very difficult for me to say I am putting myself forward as a candidate because of time constraints and the demands of my present office.
However, what I have always dreamed of is to see the election run transparently, upholding the international federation’s statutes and taking them away from the hands of pretenders. We need something open so that we can begin to harness the good management that will begin to put good things like this(OBM Academy) in place. This is my own interest and I can tell you that don’t count me out of having a stake in the elections, I am there full time because we will ensure we put people there who will do the right thing. We need all of us to rally around and ensure people who take away from the game don’t have a chance to hold the game to ransom forever.
Who should we blame for the crisis that has rocked Nigeria basketball that has not been resolved up till this moment? Should we blame FIBA that has failed to organise another election up till now?
I think the resolution is partially in the hands of FIBA because they started a process to resolve the problem. By the time FIBA said they would now take the matter to the purview of stakeholders in Nigeria basketball, now we have a draft constitution that we have improved, we want to put it out there to the stakeholders. It is the Nigeria Basketball Congress that would now say go and ratify the constitution and hold your elections according to our statutes. It is then that we can move forward.
Thank you very much.
It was my pleasure.