A former Nigerian international, Mohammed Abba ‘Jugu’ has blamed the withdrawal of Nigerian basketball from all international competitions for two years on stakeholders he has described as self serving. In this interview with Trust Sports, the graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria backed the recently appointed Interim Management Committee (IMC), spoke in support of the ban and proffered solutions to some of the problems that have continued to bedevil the sport in Nigeria.
Where do you stand on the recent ban on Nigerian basketball as announced by the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports?
Honestly, it was a shock to many of us. We were not expecting it. However, the ban was inevitable as a result of the greedy and selfish dispositions of some stakeholders. We all know that on many occasions, the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development invited the warring NBBF factions to peace meetings but all the parleys were deadlocked because the gladiators refused to shift grounds due to selfishness and personal interests. Everything was about power and greed. Unfortunately, those who run the NBBF in the last five years completely ignored the domestic leagues as they concentrated on international competitions that benefitted them. Our local players, coaches and officials became redundant as everything was centered on D’Tigers and D’Tigress. For the past five years, we have done nothing. Do we continue like this? I don’t think so. Therefore, the ban came to me as a surprise but when you look at all these, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
But most Nigerians think the ban is not the solution to some of the problems you have enumerated…
It may not solve the problem immediately but something has to be done. If the ban can wake everyone up for us to discuss and find lasting solutions to the problems that have divided us, so be it. The Interim Management Committee (IMC) set up by the government to reorganise basketball is also a step in the right direction. It will help in restoring order for the good of the game.
Would you say the committee is made up of credible members who can deliver on the assignment?
I can tell you for free that every member of that committee is qualified to be there. They are all credible stakeholders. The Professor from ABU Zaria, Adamu Ahmed is very okay. He has been in basketball for a very long time. Peter Nelson was once a national team captain. He has been there for long as well. The officer from Gombe State, Group Captain Rahinatu Garba has been in basketball right from her days in ABU Zaria. She was also a captain in her days. Then the proprietor of HotCoal basketball club, Udon Ubon Humapwa is also a major stakeholder. The coach among them, Aderemi Adewunmi, is good at basketball development at the grassroots. Therefore, I believe that if they are given a chance, they will do a lot for Nigerian basketball.
The Kida led NBBF board has since denounced the committee calling it illegal. Don’t you think Nigeria is toying with FIBA ban?
Let me be honest with you, many of us don’t believe these letters in circulation are from FIBA. The other faction is only using the name of FIBA to get away with some atrocities or put fear into the ministry of sports. The letters are not genuine. They are not coming from the real FIBA that we all know. FIBA won’t ban Nigeria once they know that the government only intervened to arrest the dangerous drift in our basketball.
But have you considered the negative impact the ban will have on the D’Tigress who have qualified for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup?
You will recall that two or three months ago, the female national team players protested in a video that went viral on the social media that they do not want to have anything to do with the Kida led NBBF board. They were fighting for their outstanding allowances. The boys also came out two weeks ago saying the same thing. Although they have the same situation with the girls, they were begged not to protest openly like their female compatriots. Personally, I am not afraid for the D’Tigress because I doubt if the ban will last up to two years. I believe the government will lift the ban once there is the desired peace in Nigerian basketball. I am confident D’Tigress will participate in the World Cup.
To what extent do you agree with those who have said the self imposed ban may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for basketball?
I agree with those who hold such views. Most people have refused to look beyond the consequences of the ban on the D’Tigress who have qualified for the World Cup but some of us are looking at the devastation the wasted years have brought on Nigerian basketball. Like I said before, for more than five years, the domestic leagues have not been played. So I believe this present ban will lead us to permanent solutions to some of the lingering problems.
As the IMC prepares to tackle the problems in Nigerian basketball, what is your advice to the warring factions?
My advice is that for the sake of the teeming youths who want to make a career in basketball, they should stop being too proud and selfish. I don’t want to start calling names here. Some of us are close to these players and we know what they have been passing through for the past five years. So I want all aggrieved parties to give peace a chance. Some of us are old already but what about the youths? Those fighting for selfish reasons should have a rethink.
This interview was conducted before FIBA’s recent decision to replace Nigeria with Mali for the 2022 Women’s World Cup in Australia
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