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Nigeria’s Withdrawal from International Basketball: The Cause & Effects

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has staunchly defended the decision of the Federal Government to withdraw all of the nation’s basketball teams from international competitions for a period of two years.

The Ban

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Alhaji Ismaila Abubakar announced Nigeria’s self-imposed ban on international basketball, last week following a fresh leadership tussle for the soul of the Nigeria Basketball Federation(NBBF) in the aftermath of the rival elections of January 31, 2022 in Abuja and Benin City.

The exercises had produced two sets of NBBF Boards.

While the faction headed by Engineer Musa Kida had been relatively calm and has yet to officially react to the presidential order, the faction is believed to have instigated the response by the nation’s senior women basketball team, D’Tigresses.

D’Tigresses Response to Ban

Using their official and verified Twitter handle, D’Tigresses, who at the heat of the renewed NBBF crisis, qualified to represent Nigeria at the FIBA Women’s World Cup to be played in Sydney, Australia, rejected the move, and called on the authorities to reverse the said withdrawal.

Reaction

On the other hand, the second faction headed by Igoche Mark, which has the backing of critical stakeholders, like elite domestic players, body of Coaches, Referees and Commissioners, issued a statement, expressing shock at the presidential directive without due warning.

They, however, reluctantly welcomed the suspension, pledging to key into their programmes of developing the domestic component of Nigerian Basketball, while prioritising players welfare and working with the Sports ministry in its efforts to rid the game of all vices and bugs, in addition to stimulating growth through grassroots and secondary schools developmental projects.

In truth, the stakeholders of the game in Nigeria were sharply divided in two.

The media, Sports journalists, fans of the game, potential sponsors and to a reasonable extent, the authorities of the Sports Ministry were also divided along the fault lines, as the factional battles irked on.

The Federation of International Basketball Associations (FIBA), which has also been complicit in the crisis that first raised its ugly head in 2017, declined entreaties to help the Sports Ministry restore peace in the NBBF, but waded in with letters that clearly showed their preference for the Musa Kida-led faction.

Even when the Sports Ministry had yet to ratify any of the elections held in January, Fiba wrote to Congratulate Alhaji Kida, addressing him as President.

At this point, agitations grew, and the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare was pressured to make a decision.

He did promise to do so, and assured that whatever verdict he was going to deliver would put the overall interest of the development of basketball, the career of players and the welfare of all those that earn their living via the sport first and above any other considerations.

Minister of Sports

Mr Dare has therefore urged the warring factions to now put aside their differences and try to find common ground, in order to end the impasse and restore Nigerian basketball to the path of peace, growth and prosperity.

According to the Minister, the stakeholders should also use this period of self-imposed bam to demonstrate that they truly care for the future of the game, and are not driven by emotions or what they can grab from holding positions in the NBBF Board.

This postulation of the Minister is perfectly in sink with the thinking of most pundits and journalists Radio Nigeria has approached on this matter.

It is widely believed that once the highly toxic clauses in the document which Alhaji Kida and his group calls the NBBF Constitution are exponged, to provide a level-playing field for all persons desirous to be on the Board, fresh elections should be held as soon as possible to ensure that a leadership is in place to drive the ship of all stakeholders , if only to wrest the running of the game from the Interim Committee announced recently to hold fort during this self-imposed two-year hiatus.

With this, Nigeria’s potential absence from the Women’s World Cup, and D’Tigers missing the remainder of their FIBA Men’s World Cup qualifying campaigns, would have both been averted.

Writing by Chinedum Ohanusi, Editing by Omotola Oguneye