By Olukayode Thomas
As a Northerner, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, is probably conversant with the popular saying by Sheik Uthman Dan Fodio “conscience is an open wound; only the truth can heal it.” OLUKAYODE THOMAS urges the Minister to heal his conscience and the wounds he caused in Nigeria Basketball by upholding the truth.
The scenario playing itself out in Nigeria Basketball today is like a scene in most Nollywood films we are familiar with.
In 2013, an errant lady, dissatisfied with the leader of her husband’s family because of his high moral standard, discipline and strict adherence to due process goes to every length to discredit him and the family.
She moved from local to international courts, including the court of public opinion, condemning his actions as illegal and unconstitutional.
No effort was spared to cast the family and its head in bad light, because she lost in a fair contest.
Fast forward to 2017, the family has a new head whose moral standard, is swayed by all manner of gains, an activist, whose dressing and speeches evoke the memory of Thomas Sankara but acts contrary to all Sankara’s ideals.
With a new boss in power, the errant lady finds available, a leader who could be easily bought over.
Suddenly, the family that she cursed and used all manners of negative adjectives to qualify, including dragging them before a court of law is now the best thing that has ever happened to her.
With help of the new family head, the process she condemned in 2013 and fought in court is now in line with best global practices.
The above describe the relationship between the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Musa Kida Group four years ago and today.
Members of a group that abhorred government interference in sports in 2013 and reported the Ministry to international sports bodies and even sued the Ministry suddenly see the same organization as the ultimate in sports whose guideline must supersede their federation constitution.
The Musa Kida Group took the ministry to court and petitioned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Federation of International Basketball Association, (FIBA) over the 2013 National Sports Elections arguing that the then National Sports Commission (NSC) had no powers to dissolve sports federation boards and that each sports federation should be responsible for the conduct of its elections in line with the statutes governing their international bodies. Now, they appear to be happily in bed with the new leader of sports in Nigeria, supporting everything they previously condemned.
KIDA GROUP’S ROMANCE WITH DALUNG
Discerning members of the sports family knew months ago that the crisis rocking the NBBF today is an accident waiting to happen.
A few months after Solomon Dalung assumed office as Sports Minister, his romance with the Musa Kida Group became obvious.
Members of the group, informed whoever cares to listen that they would soon takeover Nigeria basketball.
There were allegations that they may have compromised the top echelon of the Ministry with pecuniary gains.
As the election drew close, it was obvious that the Tijani Umar group would organize its election in line with the NBBF constitution which should be binding on all members.
Aggrieved members who felt the constitution is imperfect ought to appeal to FIBA Africa or FIBA International or Court of Arbitration for Sports but they ignored these channels and relied on government guideline which is illegal and unacceptable to international sports federation once a federation has a constitution.
The NBBF election fixed for Kano on June 12 had a majority of basketball stakeholders in attendance.
Determined to stall the election, security operatives were sent to arrest the leaders of the group and stop the election but they failed.
The Abuja election of the Kida Group the next day had a lot of question marks. It was even against the guideline that gave them ‘legitimacy’.
The guideline stipulates that all elections must hold at the National Stadium Abuja and Basketball Venue was Gate 25B but they claimed they had their election at Ibro Hotel, Abuja. This is a clear violation of the guideline.
They cited lack of adequate security as reason for moving their election venue to Ibro Hotel but the real reason they could not hold the election at the National Stadium was because the who is who in basketball in Nigeria were at the Kano election.
Till date, the Kida Group has not published the list of NBBF family that participated in the Abuja election. If they are not hiding anything; let them publish their list of delegates like the Kano Group did.
The security excuse is also untenable given the fact that police and other security operatives were everywhere at the National Stadium and the few clashes among the delegates were quickly doused.
The guideline also states that all elected Boards of the National Sports Federations shall be inaugurated by the Minister, at a date convenient to the Honourable Minister, but not later than four (4) weeks from the conclusion of Elections.
The Kida Group went ahead to inaugurate itself immediately after its election. One would have expected an impartial umpire to sanction them for these violations but the Minister accepted and recognized the Kida Group. He has been defending them in the media, while describing the Kano election as illegal.
Former Director General of the NSC , a man who is highly knowledgeable about sports politics, Patrick Ekeji,’s verdict about the NBBF election that produced the Tijani Umar-led board, is “the authentic board of the NBBF’’ ought to bed all the controversies surrounding the election.
Ekeji told the media that, “I have followed the arguments with respect to NBBF, (and) going by best practices, the Kano election is the authentic one.
Ekeji’s revelations ought to put to bed all debate but those who the gods have destined to kill, they first make mad.
FIBA SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO RESOLVE THE MATTER
Kida Group raised issues about Tijani Umar ineligible to contest because FIBA constitution forbids a third term tenure. If they have issues with the Kano election and ineligibility of Umar to contest, the right channel to complain to is the governing body of basketball in the world, FIBA and not the Ministry of Sports and if they fail to get justice from FIBA, they could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
Probably aware they have a weak case which FIBA and CAS will throw out, they resorted to area boy tactics and the use of the Sports Ministry to foist themselves illegally on a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that government ought to have no control over how it runs its activities.
In less endowned countries like Bahamas, Benin Republic and Kenya, it is an aberration for the Ministry of Sports to be involved in the day to day running of sports federation or their election. So what is wrong with us?
KIDA’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE SHENANIGANS
I can understand perennial sports administrators fighting over election; I cannot understand the involvement Kida in this dog fight. If Kida loves basketball and intends to use it as a tool to empower our youth, raise global icons and promote our country’s image positively on the international scale, must he be on the board of NBBF? Why this do or die attitude?
Charity, they say, begins at home. What has Kida done for basketball in Rivers where he is chairman? Does Rivers have good, viable, and all year round basketball championships or league for the high schools and tertiary institutions in the state? Do they have a highly lucrative and competitive state league?
What about the South-South that he is representing. Do they have any of the above? Kida is from the North-East. What has he done for basketball in his home state of Borno and the entire North-East? Does his charity begin abroad? Kids from a region destroyed by Boko-Haram surely need basketball to engaged them and put food on their table.
DALUNG, NOC AND THE MEDIA
If Kida’s involvement in all these shenanigans is shocking, more shocking is the omerta in the sporting press. Why are we afraid to tell Dalung that he has no power to interfere in the election of a federation that has a constitution, that members who feel aggrieved should channel their protest, complains and legal battle, if any, to FIBA and CAS.
Equally shocking is the double standard of the Nigerian Olympics Committee (NOC). When they are in Lagos, they talk about the illegality of the Minister’s action but the moment they are in Abuja, they sing a different tune.
Could their alleged involvement in the Rio 2016 ticket scam be the reason they are scared to speak the truth? Those with ears to the sports ground must be conversant with the story making rounds that the Sports Minister used allocations for athletics and basketball, to buy tickets for athletes to travel to Rio Olympic Games. That it was after they games that he became aware the IOC and LOC of the games also made provision for Team Nigeria and the NOC’s inability to account for the fund is the reason why they can’t speak the truth.
In the final analysis, what does Dalung stand to gain in orchestrating this crisis in basketball? Is he on an ego trip or other gains we don’t know?
How does Dalung want to be remembered? What is APC’s agenda for Nigerian youth in sports. Is that what Dalung is implementing? Nigeria is renowned for sports worldwide but the truth is that there is no sports in Nigeria today. We don’t have a good league in any sports. Sports at the grassroots, elementary school, high school, tertiary institutions is dead yet we have a sports minister who is not bothered by all these but concerned about activities of NGOs called sports federations?
Does Dalung sleep at night? What bothers him? Is he aware that his action, especially in basketball, could lead to Nigeria being banned by FIBA?
What will be his defense if Nigeria is banned? That some unpatriotic Nigeria have reported Nigeria to the international body? When his own unpatriotic actions and interference in an affair that does not concern him led to Nigeria ban.
Dalung should be informed for free that the retinue of aides and civil servants, including sports politicians, that are urging him on now will be the first to call him all sorts of unprintable names and stop picking his calls when all change—- so Dalung, mind the gap, a lie is a sprinter, truth a marathoner.
OLUKAYODE THOMAS is a Lagos-based sport journalist and manager.