Czeslaw Milosz says “In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.” That shot came from Federation of International Basketball Associations [FIBA] last Thursday and it sent the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and the Ministry of Sports scampering.
The NBBF has been embroiled in a leadership tussle for the last 10 months between two factions led by the erstwhile chairman, Tijani Yusuf, and Musa Kida.
The Ministry of Sports mandated that all elections into sports federations must be held on June 13, 2017, at the National Stadium in Abuja. The election that threw up Tijani Yusuf held on the 12th in Kano while the one that brought forth Musa Kida held on the 13th, but away from the National Stadium in Abuja.
Two elections – with no Locus Standi, and nine months down the line, there is still a dispute over what is legal and what is not. Though there cannot be a vacuum in leadership, illegality cannot be the last resort.
Mr. Yusuf ran the NBBF from 2008 – 2016, with the constitution saying he could run for two terms of four years each, which he accomplished. But he wanted a third term and thus called for an amendment to the federation’s constitution. That was accomplished at an extraordinary Annual General Meeting [AGM] that held for five days under the guise of stakeholders’ forum in January 2017.
Musa Kida and his acolytes could not voice their dissension as they were locked out, but they did not remain silent. Using tacit approval from the Ministry of Sports led by Solomon Dalung, Mr. Kida organised an election at the Grand Ibro Hotel, Abuja, away from the mandated legal place.
Footage or photos from that election have not been seen by anyone apart from those involved including the supervisors – the Nigeria Olympic Committee Secretary, Tunde Popoola, and sports ministry director Hauwa Kulu – the major reason the Kida election had been held up as the right election.
Spencer Johnson tells us that, “Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
Mr. Dalung was thus being miserly with the truth when he said after the June 13 elections – “On that day, those that were there, you could see the bee-hive of activities that were going on, you could see networking, you could see engagement, you could see building of bridges and a building of relationships.
And when the FIBA fact-finding body came to Nigeria on February 7, Mr. Dalung was buoyant in declaring, “The position of government is that there is no crisis in basketball. We only heard and read in the papers of allegations against government of interference in basketball elections.
“Can a spectator take a shot from outside the field and the referee records it as a goal?”
Going explicit, Mr. Dalung continued, “Tijani Umar did not register to contest or obtain an election form and therefore could not have contested for the presidential post.
“If he obtained election form, then he could have gone to the Appeals Committee to register his grievances but he couldn’t appeal because he didn’t even buy a form, therefore he wasn’t even eligible to protest.”
A solution from FIBA
Ejike Ugboaja, President of the Basketball Players Association of Nigeria, told Punch in February 2017, “All I really want to say now is that we need to improve. We need to stop all the arguments and politics and focus on basketball.”
And FIBA concurred because, at its February 10 meeting, it decided there is indeed a crisis in Nigerian basketball and immediately instituted moves to bring it to an end. The question is how did Mr. Dalung misjudge (or reject) the fact that both elections were illegal and of no jurisdiction, being a lawyer?
Mr. Umar has since voiced support for the FIBA directive. “As a body that respects the reconciliation effort of FIBA and having consistently identified a new election as the only way for a fair and equitable settlement of the dispute, we accept the directive of FIBA for a fresh election based on the NBBF Statutes and overseen by FIBA without interference from any third party.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Kida also said his group would cooperate fully with FIBA. “We as a responsible organisation with a passion for basketball development in Nigeria will work closely with FIBA during this critical phase, forging a way forward for basketball in Nigeria.”
Currently, the Kida board is in charge of the national teams while the Umar-led team is overseeing the various leagues. “We shall continue with our home leagues and other local activities including concluding the National Divisions 1 and 2 championships,” Mr. Umar revealed after the FIBA letter was circulated.
Recently, Nigeria’s national teams had a kitting challenge because the Umar-led group signed an agreement with Peak but because of the fracas, the Kida-led board had to contact AFASports for kits.
This happened despite the fact that Peak has a running contract [until 2020] with the NBBF, contracted when Mr. Umar was in office, which should ordinarily be binding on any new board.
It is in this imbroglio that FIBA has thus taken it upon itself to amend the NBBF constitution to fit the FIBA template and organise new elections. “FIBA will determine when the NBBF statutes are compliant per the above and reserves the right to oversee parts or the entirety of the elections process”, the letter said.
The summary shows the sports ministry acted as judge and jury for an event in which it was supposed to be an unbiased bystander. With the ministry’s apparent collusion, basketball in Nigeria was being dribbled into a blind alley but FIBA’s letter has shone light into the engulfing darkness.