By Oni Guarantor
I am so excited that basketball players are coming together with one voice to ask for an end to the factions in the Nigerian basketball federation
This comes at a time when the elite men’s league has been crippled for the past 3 years with no end in sight due to court injunctions by some aggrieved stakeholders who cannot really point to the stakes they claim to hold.
These bickering and legal road blocks have in its own way eclipsed the achievements recorded on the local scene in the last 3 years.
The expanded Zenith Women’s League which has made the women’s league more competitive.
More women now have the opportunity to play basketball. No more monopoly by First Bank, First DeepWaters or Dolphins with the recent arrival of MFM and Air Warriors of Abuja who came second and first respectively during the 2019 league.
More games were also being introduced which saw games played in phases and conferences before the national finals.
Division two for men was introduced. Never before had we seen such a situation where teams play enough games at the state level before proceeding to the zonal phase, conference and then national finals. This became possible under the Musa Kida led board. Although, it has not yet been perfected, but with time, a fail proof system will emerge.
The Division One which used to be a one week fiesta between 10 or 12 teams also got expanded courtesy of cash infusion from Total Nigeria PLC.
Now, teams have over one or two months interval to play at the conference level before the National phase. This has improved the level of competition for those at that level.
The time has come for true emancipation of the sports in Nigeria
Over the last 15 years, we have seen different groups stoking the ember of discord among critical stakeholders which has not augured well for basketball.
Funding has been a serious issue for the organization of these leagues.
The Ministry of Sports does not give a penny to any federation to run its local leagues. They only release money whenever they deem fit for only international competitions. So, federations must go about looking for sponsorship from individuals or corporate organisations
Zenith Bank has kept faith with basketball in Nigeria. That is why it is easier for the women league to be organised.
Total recently committed to Division One and Two for the next 5 years. So it is safe to say that these leagues will run for the next forseable future.
For the Men’s league, it has been difficult to get a sponsor for it because of the murky waters we have found ourselves courtesy of few elements.
No corporate sponsor wants to come into an athmosphere where there is rancour. Instead of sponsoring basketball, they will prefer to sponsor ram fight or table soccer where there is tranquility.
This is not restricted to basketball alone because when you look at most federations in Nigeria, you will find sore losers trying to cripple the wheel of progress of duly elected boards.
Rugby, Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Nigeria Football Federation, Gymnastics, Taekwondo just to name a few have been facing unending crisis but for today, it is about the NBBF and the resolve of players to come together and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
This is where the sad truth must be told no matter how unpopular it may seem.
Players must come together under an umbrella that suits them while also having strong individual voices. This will make it difficult for the powers that be to arrest their agitations or infiltrate their ranks.
Going by what we recently saw during the #EndSars protest, many voices were heard but under a unified umbrella of ending sars, police brutality and bad governance.
Despite attempts to single out few individuals for negotiation, it was impossible to silence the voice of the people across the different states of the federation who were clamoring against the same societal issues.
Players must also participate actively at the local, state and zonal levels to effect the desired change they hope for in the Nigerian basketball eco system
The problem is not just about NBBF or who is in charge. The problem starts from our local governments where sports officers are operating under no mandate.
State officials (board members) are not known until when there is either a stakeholders meeting, National Sports Festival, Youth Games or any national events that will bring in some cash.
How many state associations have consistently held events in the last 3 years?
Stakeholders must also task Zonal reps to also wake up to their duties of providing quality leadership, coordinating states under them as well as organising zonal programs.
The state of these units will always reflect in the overall output of the whole (which is the NBBF in this case)
Selfless individuals with the best interest of the game at heart must make themselves available for elective positions.
If you are not satisfied with state of affairs, you have to get involved because you can always and easily make changes from within and not when you are outside.
Another important element is that before coming out with requests, opinions and views of players must be aggregated which will make it easier for compilation of the agenda to pursue
Resist the urge to want to be led by people who have been on the scene for long. They will come as unsolicited advisers who may volunteer to fund the cause but with the long term objective of hijacking the movement as usual for their selfish interest.
Agitators must name and shame people who have been holding Nigerian basketball to ransom for the past two decades with special focus on those protagonists in the last 3 years.
An example is the chairman of Gombe State basketball association who went to court on behalf of Gombe Bulls.
Despite the extention of an olive branch in 2018 and 2019 when they were invited to come for the premier league to determine continental representatives, he has stuck to his guns.
A man like Ajibarede Bello who is fronting for a non existing League Management Committee which is not recognised within the basketball circle has also dragged the League to court.
A man like Bello who has no team in the elite league fighting on behalf of club owners is not just an abberation but a serious slap on the faces of genuine club owners.
I have seen people calling on FIBA to speak up for the sake of the players, but truth must be told, it is out of their jurisdiction
FIBA is only concerned with international representations (clubs and national teams) and that was why they swiftly endorsed and recognised Musa Kida.
No team which seeks to represent its country at the continental or international stage can participate without endorsement from the National Federation which in this case is NBBF.
To be honest, FIBA especially the Africa Office is really happy with what this federation has achieved
The continued rise in profile, media awareness, victories at international competitions have not gone unnoticed.
Hence, at the last FIBA World Conference in 2019 before the World Cup in China, thr NBBF alongside some other National Federations were recognised and presented with awards for their landmark achievements for the year under review.
Lastly, calling for a disbandment of the NBBF board as duly recognised by all known National and International authourities may not be possible. It is just like calling for the dissolution of Buhari’s government without recourse to the constitution.
It is tantamount to a coup which will not be allowed by any legitimate administration.
So, till another election comes up, let us continue to keep the fire burning for a better tomorrow of basketball in Nigeria