Two-year Basketball Ban: South East Stakeholders Sing Discordant Tunes
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By Amaechi Agbo
The 2-year suspension of Nigeria from international basketball championships have continued to generate reactions with South East region of the country basketball stakeholders hugely divided over the President Muhammadu Buhari’s 12th May pronouncement.
On Thursday,, May 12, President Muhammadu Buhari through the ministry of youth and sports announced the suspension of all national teams including D’Tigers and D’Tigress from international competitions following years of intractable crises that gave got the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF factionalised and two presidents being elected.
However, a group referred to as South East Basketball Association, which comprises Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, categorically condemned the suspension of Nigerian basketball from international competitions.
But in a counter move, some stakeholders of basketball from the South East, described as nonsensical and inconsequential, a press statement, issued last week, by a group who called themselves South East Basketball Association, rejecting the withdrawal of Nigeria from all International Basketball tournaments, for two years, as enunciated by the Federal Government, and announced by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development.
The stakeholders, headed by the proprietor of Novena Heartland basketball, which has camps in Owerri and Absksliki, Mr. Osita Nwachukwu stated this while reacting to a statement, he said emanated from s faceless group.
Describing the development as most unfortunate, Mr. Nwachukwu told reporters in Abuja that it was clearly an attempt by some disgruntled individuals to infuse an ethnic dimension to a prolonged NBBF crises that started in 2017.
According to him, it is of essence to remind all, that the youths of the South East States would be the ultimate losers, should these misguided few manage to have the region boycott the intervention by government to organise grassroots and Secondary school basketball championships, to cushion the effect of the presidential order, while lasting peace is being restored amongst the warring stakeholders.
Mr. Nwachukwubalso warned that playing an ethnic card at a time when efforts are geared towards restoring basketball in Nigeria to the path of growth is unwholesome, and negates the principles of team work in the sports sector.
He hailed sports as the greatest unifier in Nigeria, and urged renegates, who he said sre sponsored by individuals that had in time past, held down the domestic component of the game for years.
He then urged them to lay down their arms, and identify with the concerns of the Sports Ministry and genuine stakeholders of the game, to breathe fresh air into the spot.
“The personal attacks and rhetorics aimed at Mr. Igoche Mark is a regressive and most barbaric act of savagery, because discerning Nigerians are aware of his immense contributions and sacrifices toward the development of the game; unlike those who have been milking the system since 1997”, said Nwachukwu.
Reminding all, that the Federal Ministry Youth and Sports are the biggest financiers, and sole custodian of all sports including basketball, in Nigeria; the Novena Heartland CEO insists thst the change of tactics by the agents of Engr. Musa Kida, who are bent on destroying Basketball in Nigeria, is not and can never be a collective wish of all stakeholders of the game, in the South East, as porported in the clandestine statement pushed out.
“Even if there are sufficient grounds to resist the Ministry and Federal Government, it is not an exclusive preserve of the South East States to go it alone, without the other five regions. It will be foolhardy for anyone to even imagine such”; he added.
Nwachukwu signed off by declaring that the Sports Ministry has rightly dismantled the Nigeria FIBA Office and the Igoche Mark group has vouched to work with them, with a view to ensuring that the domestic game, and welfare of the players and all who earn a living in Nigerian basketball are properly catered for.