Basketball and the Umar legacy
By Patrick Omorodion
IN three or four months time, it will be four years since the present Boards of the sports federations got a four year mandate to direct the affairs of the various sports. And the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF is one of the federations.
Unlike many of the other federations, the NBBF faced a herculean task from the word go as some members of the Board pulled out of the election, protesting the exclusion of one of their members whom they believed was supposed to be on the Board.
Apart from withdrawing from the election, they took the NBBF to court. The court distraction notwithstanding however, the Board, in the face of poor funding, soldiered on with the purposeful leadership provided by its president, Tijjani Umar, an unassuming and workaholic gentleman who the aggrieved party and their leader misunderstood.
Apart from the law suit, different hurdles were placed on the way of the Board. These hurdles ranged from false stories planted in the media to disparage some of the members to gossips by the hate mongers to some of the federation’s sponsors on alleged misapplication of the sponsorship money, all in the bid to make the sponsors stop funding the federations activities.
Apart from these disgruntled members and selfish stakeholders, their friends in the supervising ministry also made things difficult for the federation. Genuine approvals of funds for teams’ participation in continental or world championships were either delayed or not given at all in some instances.
Umar, not wanting to fail in the national assignment he chose to do on his own because of his genuine love and passion for the sport went out of his way to convince the Board members to make various sacrifices to ensure the activities were not halted.
These members, from the vice president, Muktar Khaleh to members like Agboola Pinheiro, Mustapha Suleiman, Felix Awogu, Olumide Oyedeji and yours sincerely never hesitated to support Umar because they knew he was a sincere and selfless leader.
To show that they were not running a cult, the Board extended its hand of fellowship to willing stakeholders who wanted to contribute their quota to help the course of the sport. That was how men like Ajibarede Bello, Scambo Morrison, Deji Jaiyeola, Lawal Garba, Kunle Raji and Gbade Latona, among others joined hands to reposition the sport.
This is not forgetting the contributions of the secretariat staff led by Patrick Okeke, the secretary general who has been reportedly redeployed to the head office of the sports ministry. With one mind, all these men, with other stakeholders like coaches, referees, match commissioners, sponsors, partners, contributors, the Media and even ex presidents of the NBBF supporting, the country recorded some milestones within the short tenure of the Board.
Apart from the fact that the Umar-led NBBF was able to return the country to age grade competitions using the right ages of players, as against the old practice, with the women and men’s U-16 teams making appreciable impact on the their first year, the senior men’s team, the D’Tigers became African Champions, for the first time in 50 years, beating the ‘Almighty’ Angola to the crown and making a consecutive appearance at the Olympics. The senior women’s team also showed promise in the continent and missed the Olympic ticket after a good fight at qualifying tournament in France.
Efforts have been made to put structures on ground that will help the sport grow and also ensure that the NBBF rely less on the government for funds to sustain its programmes. That called for the bold move made to secure new sponsors and partners for the federation.
Even the blind could attest to the remarkable achievements recorded so far and it is the belief of the outgoing Board that if the momentum is sustained, Nigeria basketball, like the FIBA Advisor who came visiting in late 2015, Lubomir Kotliba said, will be way ahead of Angola.
As the NBBF begins to round off its tenure therefore, it has decided to honour all those who contributed in one way or the other to the successes recorded thus far. So beginning from tomorrow in the Federal Capital, Abuja, series of events have been lined up to celebrate basketball. First is tomorrow’s Annual General Meeting through which the NBBF intends to give stakeholders an account of its stewardship for 2016.
Twenty fours later, there will also be an Awards Dinner to recognize, appreciate and honour deserving athletes, administrators, technical officials, sponsors, partners, contributors as well as the Media for their meritorious service and outstanding contribution to the development and growth of the game in Nigeria.
In all these, the NBBF is not trying to play an Agama lizard. Its efforts have already been commended by Nigerians. It is just putting it on record for posterity. To God alone be all the glory.
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