A basketball fundraiser and loyalty question

As little children, we loved the song “Come and see American wonder”, interpreted to mean an act which defied logic and interpretation.  Some people say wonders shall never end. The N500m fundraising dinner organised recently by Aspire Marketing on behalf of the last board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation led by Tijani Umar  is indeed an “American wonder” because it defies logic.

The idea of a fundraiser for basketball was not bad but the execution and planning was mediocre, testimony to why the Umar-led NBBF has outlived its usefulness. That event should have been postponed because there was no board membership in place as membership of the boards of all National Federations stand dissolved. While the outgoing board members remain stakeholders of basketball, they lacked the moral and legal backing to conduct the fundraiser as members of the NBBF. Mr. Umar, who gave an address as President of the NBBF, had no authority to do so.

Amongst the few dignitaries that were present at the fundraiser was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Sports, who has continued to show special interest in  the affairs of the basketball federation, while at the same time turning his back on other sports. But no person from the Ministry of Sports, not even the secretary general mandated to oversee the federation till a new board membership is elected,  was invited to the fundraiser.

This raises an issue of loyalty.  Where should the loyalty of a National Federation be? Is it to a member of the legislature or to the Ministry of Youth and Sports or the National Sports Commission as the case may be, which directly supervises it? This situation leads to an inference and clearly underscores the point that the recent motion by the House of Representatives, championed by the Chairman of the House Committee on Sports, that the Honourable Minister of Sports should rescind the dissolution of the membership of the boards who have completed their tenures, was done to protect the outgoing NBBF president, Mr. Umar. That is now history.

 As a reminder, in 2009 when Mr.  Umar and his board sought to raise funds through similar event, the NBBF could only raise N1.5m.  For a similar fundraiser designed to raise N500m on May 19th, 2017, only a paltry N2.8m was raised on the night, it was learnt. From information gathered from some of the people who attended the event, there were less than a hundred guests in the hall and these included three basketball teams and members of the Nigerian Basketball Supporters Club.

Using the words of Efe, the winner of the recent  Big Brother Nigeria reality show, “based on logistics”, the money spent to rent the hall at the five-star Oriental Hotel in Lekki, food, invitation cards etc, is far beyond the region of N2.8m that was reportedly raised at the event.  This amount could easily have come from one man’s pocket without having to expend energy unnecessarily.  The entire event and process leading to it amounts to a wanton waste of resources and effort, which came about because Mr. Umar had refused to face reality. I hope and pray that the marketer who took this ill-advised business risk will be able to recover his money from Mr. Umar and the outgoing members of the NBBF board.

While that event was going on, Bauchi Nets were in Kano for a  Premier League fixture against Kano Pillars  but refused to play that game and they were walked over.  From what I gathered from media reports, the team complained of poor welfare, lack of motivation and non-payment of allowances since the 2016/17 season began. They also complained of lack of adequate equipment to play with, as their current jerseys were as old as 10 years.  For those who don’t know, Bauchi State is Mr. Umar’s state of origin and the platform through which he has been representing the North East on the NBBF board all these years. It is a sad testimony that a president of a National Federation does not deem it necessary to support his state team, even if it were with a simple thing like a set of jerseys to participate in a league which he and his federation members organise.

His state team were being walked over somewhere while Umar was organising a fundraiser elsewhere for which he has no legal backing, since he is no longer president of the NBBF.

And I hear that there is a $12.5m received from Kwese Sports International for sponsorship of the Premier League dubbed “Kwese Premier Basketball League.” If it is so, where is the money and why is it that over eight weeks into the league, clubs have not been paid the usual subsidy as take-off grant for the league as was the case with the DSTV Premier Basketball League. Clubs are silently crying and need to be paid urgently before the league is turned to “Gbese Premier Basketball League.”

It’s a known fact that stirring up acrimony in the polity just to remain in power has never helped because in the end, the truth will be revealed and  the chicken will come home to roost.

  • Godwin Malu, a Nigerian basketball enthusiast, writes in from Dakar, Senegal

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