On May 12, following the protracted crisis in the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), the federal government announced Nigeria’s withdrawal from international basketball for two years, putting players, coaches, administrators and other stakeholders in the limbo. According to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the decision is, among other things, to allow the authorities to reorganize the game in the country and end the struggle for the leadership of the NBBF once and for all. As a follow-up, on May 23, the government appointed a 10-person Interim Management Committee (IMC) to manage basketball in the country until normalcy returns. The committee headed by Henry Nzekwu was inaugurated on June 4 by Sports Minister Mr Sunday Dare, who urged him to “re-engineer basketball from the ground up”. Its terms of reference were “to develop programs that will revamp basketball from the ground up, attract corporate sponsors and revive moribund national leagues for the development of the game within two years, and ensure the development of facilities basketball throughout the country, and anything else that will facilitate the development of basketball in Nigeria.
The struggle for leadership in the NBBF dates back to 2017, when Musa Kida and Tijani Umar became NBBF presidents following factional elections won in two places on the same day. In fact, for three consecutive years, basketball league games have stopped in the country following a protracted dispute. The crisis, however, did not prevent Nigeria’s women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, from winning AfroBasket 2019 and retaining the title in 2021. Indeed, they also qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. Kida’s faction, which had since taken over running basketball in the country until January this year when another election was held which kept him (Kida) in power , is recognized by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). January’s election was in many ways a repeat of 2017: while Kida was elected from Benin City, Mark Igoche, who reportedly did a lot of work to grow grassroots basketball by sponsoring the annual Mark D for men and women, was elected in Abuja. This obviously provoked the anger of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which had previously set up a commission to ensure a single ballot according to the procedure provided.
Following the obviously misguided decision by the federal government, D’Tigress will not have the opportunity to show off their skills at the Sydney 2022 World Cup. The team have worked hard to qualify for the tournament, but it is Mali, designated by FIBA as a substitute for Nigeria, who will be in the world championship. The men’s team, D’Tigers, will also miss the 2023 World Cup qualifying series to be held in July. This means that Nigeria will also miss the 2024 Olympics. That’s not all: in the continental championship next year, the D’Tigers will not have the opportunity to defend the AfroBasket title won three times in a row. .
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To say the least, the federal government’s ban on Nigeria’s international basketball participation is misdirected. It’s a step reminiscent of the proverbial absurdity of ignoring leprosy while treating ringworm. It is ridiculous to close the doors of Nigerian international sport to long-suffering players and to deprive the Nigerian basketball faithful of the pleasure of seeing their teams participate in this thrilling game just because of the bickering among administrators. The ban becomes even more absurd when you consider that the solution to the crisis is under the nose of the government, but it prefers to chase shadows. We declare, without fear of being contradicted, that since the Kida faction, for lack of a better word, is the globally recognized authority of basketball in Nigeria, it amounts to a total waste of time and energy to lend Watch out for other factions. In pitching its tent with FIBA, Nigeria has pledged to abide by its rules and regulations, including non-interference in its internal affairs. It is therefore slippery, fraudulent and absurd to withdraw from this commitment just because of the crisis within the NBBF.
In case the government needs a reminder, sorting out basketball’s administrative issues is FIBA’s business, not the Department of Sports’. Indeed, even if all the Kida-led administration has is a slum, that slum remains the headquarters of basketball in Nigeria unless and until Nigeria decides to withdraw from the association and , by implication, international basketball. Compliance with FIBA rules does not amount to a violation of Nigeria’s sovereignty; it is a demonstration of integrity. In any case, it is quite disconcerting that the federal government thinks that the NBBF “crisis” can be definitively resolved in two years. If the crisis-promoting issues persist, what guarantee is there that all will be well once the government lifts the ban in 2024? And is the government even thinking about the damage it will have done to gambling in Nigeria by the time its ban ends?
We approve of D’Tigress’ reaction to the ban. He said: “We would love to have the opportunity to play for our country which we love to represent in this upcoming FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup competition. We have worked very hard to be three time AfroBasket champions, Olympians and now we We are blessed to have another opportunity to continue this representation for Nigeria. We want Nigerian basketball to continue to grow and succeed at all levels; from local leagues, grassroots football and even on the international stage! We believe that all levels of Nigerian basketball can excel with the proper care, solidarity and organization.This position is unassailable.