By Salifu Usman, Abuja
As the deadline issued by Federation of International Basketball Association (FIBA) to Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) to resolve the leadership crisis rocking the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) expires in less than 24 hours, there is unease among stakeholders and lovers of the game.
The nation’s basketball has not known peace since the controversial elections in Kano and Abuja which produced Tijjani Umar and Musa Kida respectively as contending presidents.
Since then both men have laid claim to the position, a situation that forced the world body to give the ultimatum. FIBA out-rightly rejected the results of the two elections. The body, in its letter to Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC) and signed by its secretary-general, Patrick Baumann, clearly stated that it did not recognise any of the two groups and directed the NOC and the two warring factions to resolves their differences before November ending.
According to FIBA, the so-called elections held in Kano, and in a hotel room in Abuja lacked procedural process and international standard for federation elections, and warned that failure to reach an amicable resolution could see it resorting to wielding the big stick on Nigeria.
But the peace move by the NOC to resolve the impasse between the factions did not yield result as Musa Kida walked out of the meeting after failing to agree on contentious issues with Tijuani Umar.
The meeting which had president of NOC, Engineer Habu Gumel alongside NOC general secretary, Tunde Popoola, Tony Ubani and other stakeholders in attendance at the ANOCA head office in Jabi, Abuja and lasted for three hours, saw the two factions sticking to their guns.
The spokesperson of the NOC, Tony Ubani, who spoke to newsmen after the unsuccessful meeting with the warring factions, said NOC could not achieve amicable resolution of the impasse because the two parties stuck to their guns.
“Almost everything we did to achieve amicable resolution to the dispute could not yield good result because everybody held on to his gun. Kida said he is holding on to his mandate, while Tijjani said he was disposed to the idea of fresh election because according to him, the statutes were compromised by the ministry,” he said. However, according to Tijjani Umar, the only resolution to the crisis is for the world body, FIBA to conduct a fresh election since it did not recognise any of the two elections.
“The letter of FIBA said it did not recognise any of the elections. So as it is today, there is no leadership in NBBF. The only resolution that will be inclusive and assuring, that nobody will be harmed or come after us, is for FIBA to come and conduct the fresh election themselves,” Umar said.
Meanwhile major stakeholders in the country, who are worried about the development, are of the opinion that the Nigeria basketball, most especially the players will suffer most if the right decisions are not taken timely. According to Ibrahim Galadima, a frontline sports administrator in the country, it is unfortunate that the confusion and intrigues in NBBF is happening at the time Nigeria’s basketball profile is rising high.
“The drama of intrigues and manipulation of the election process that led to this confusion at the time that our basketball profile is rising high was unfortunate.
‘Those who know me knew my position on the crisis. I don’t have problem with anybody and I still maintain my relation with them. But it is unfortunate that we have put ourselves in this mess and it will do anyone no good,” he said.
Also the former D’Tigers captain, Oyedeji Olumide, believes peace can only return to the basketball when the heavyweight fighters hang their gloves.
“Until the boxers of Nigerian basketball drop their boxing gloves, Nigerian basketball will never have peace. Some people are eating and milking the country and enriching themselves from this crisis and thus don’t want it to end. It’s the unfortunate part of it. Whenever I remember this part, my heart bleeds.
“They say when there’s no war, there’s no peace, but I don’t believe in war, I believe in peace. This fight is personal and selfish and not in the interest of basketball.
Umar and Ahmadu-Kida have their vision; everybody say they want to make basketball better. If both of them want to make Nigerian basketball better and reason the same way, why can’t they just agree? That’s the question,” Olumide said.
A suspension of Nigeria will automatically lead to the ban of the national teams including the
D’Tigers and D’Tigress from all international engagements, notably next year’s FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
But the biggest loser in the battle will be Solomon Dalung, the minister of Youth and Sports whose job will be on the line if the deadlock is unresolved, causing Nigeria’s eventual sanction by FIBA.
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