Battle for Soul of National Basketball Teams Begins


*Kida and Umar factions claim legitimacy over players

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The battle for the control of the national basketball teams has began as the two factions claiming legitimacy have invited players to camp ahead of the Africa Women’s Basketball Championship scheduled to hold in Mali later in the year.

Last Friday at the National Stadium in Abuja, the board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) headed by Musa Kida was inaugurated by the Minister of Sport Solomon Dalung along with other 30 elected sports federation boards to steer the administration of sports in the country for the next four years.

The Federal Ministry of Youth & Sports and the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), conducted elections into the boards on June 13.
A day before the election in Abuja, immediate past President of the NBBF, Tijani Umar, was returned for another term at another election in Kano. Some stakeholders in Nigerian basketball were opposed to the guidelines released by the Sports Ministry.

But Kida who is determined to give the game a new face in the country hit ground running as soon as his board was inaugurated. He directed the Secretary General of the federation, Chimezie Asiegbu to invite players to camp.

Interestingly, as early as Thursday, July 20, Umar’s faction had sent out invitation letters to the same players asking their various clubs to release them for camping. One Emmanuel Enejoh signed the letter in his capacity as Administrative Secretary.

However, to stem the tide of discordant tunes from the same basketball family, Kida’s NBBF yesterday issued a disclaimer on the so-called Administrative Secretary of the Umar board, insisting that such a position does not exist. Clubs were warned not to transact any business with him on behalf of Nigerian basketball.

NBBF’s Technical Committee of the Kida board yesterday released the list of 29 players called to camp in Nigeria and United States ahead of the Africa Women’s Championship.
The team is to be coached by Vincent James Samuel, appointed as the new Head Coach of the women senior national team in place of Scott Nnaji who is with Umar.

According to the release, signed by the NBBF scribe, the foreign-based players will converge on Orlando, Florida while the home-based players alongside with some of their foreign-based counterparts such as Sarah Ogoke, Uju Ugoka and Adaora Elonu holidaying in Nigeria will converge on Lagos for the preparations for the continental outing.

The Orlando camp will be led by D’Tigress Captain, Helen Ogunjimi alongside Ezinne Kalu, Promise Amukamara, Adaeze Alaeze, Ayoleka Sodade, Ndidi Madu, Cecilia Okoye, Aisha Mohammed, Patience Okpe, Sarah Imovbioh, Ugo Nwaigwe, Balogun Elizabeth, Joyce Ekworomadu and Evelyn Akhator.

In Lagos, the 11 invited players will sweat it out under the watchful eyes of Peter Ahmedu and Okworogu Ochuko who were also named as part of the new technical crew.
National team regulars, Chioma Udeaja (First Bank), Nkechi Akashili (First Bank), Upe Atosu (First Bank) will have a tough battle in their hands with Akaraiwe Nkem (First Bank), Elawure Tina Odion – First Bank, Ukato Igere Magdalene – First Bank, Nwamaka Deborah Chidinma – First Bank, Ulabo Queen Roseline – Dolphins, Olaosebikan Tokunbo – Dolphins, Ume Nwamaka Gloria – Plateau Rocks, Okonkwo Grace – IGP Queens and Isaac Christiana – IGP Queens all battle ready to book tickets to the tournament starting on August 18 in Bamako.

However, a basketball aficionado who would not want his name in print due to his position in Nigerian sports told THISDAY last night that the country was on the path of being banned by the world governing body of the game-FIBA.

“What is going on in NBBF is a shame. What we are witnessing in basketball is almost a repeat of what happened in NFF when there were elections in Warri and Abuja respectively. We all saw how Nigeria narrowly escaped being banned. But as things stand now, unless well-meaning personalities in the country’s sport intervene and get all the parties involved in the dispute to reach an agreement, Nigeria is going to throw into the waste basket all the gains made in the sport in the last four years,” observed the former sports administrator.

The Umar led board spearheaded the turnaround in the fortunes of Nigeria’s basketball as the national team broke the jinx of never qualifying for Olympic men’s basketball event with the D’Tigers debuting at the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as an encore at 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
D’Tigers also won the Afrobasket for the first time in Tunisia in 2015 after several heart breaking failures in the past.