Election across different federations in Nigeria’s Sports Ministry are a few weeks away. Basketball Within Borders had a chat with Patrick Omo-Osagie, former assistant coach of the Senior Women’s Basketball Team for thoughts on the upcoming election as it concerns the Nigeria Basketball Federation. Read on to find out what he thinks about the impending election.
BWB: Elections to Sports Federations are approaching in Nigeria and the NBBF seems to be one federation that is on the minds of many; what are your thoughts?
PO: I don’t know if it’s on the minds of many, but it is surely on the minds of basketball stakeholders. I strongly believe that most casual basketball followers in Nigeria know nothing about our internal issues.
BWB: Why do you thinks so; that the Nigerian people are not hearing all the noise about TJ (Umar), the current president and his many detractors?
PO: I would like to say that they might hear a thing or two, but that they know about all the internal fighting? I have very serious doubts. The truth is that all the casual observer will know is that in the last two Olympics, Nigeria was represented and two years ago, the male team won the very elusive African cup. This is what I believe the casual basketball follower will know.
BWB: So are you saying then that there is no need for TJ to have detractors?
PO: Absolutely not! TJ is reaping what he sowed. Let me explain. TJ has a style of leadership that is very shaded, he barely puts out any policy proposals and he seems not to talk much to stakeholders and it eventually looks like my way or the highway. I have a personal experience as you might have heard; I was once hired by the Federation as an assistant coach to the female national team under head coach Ayo Bakare and later fired for asking too many questions. Till today, and I have met with TJ a few times since then, he has refused to answer to my questions as to what really happened. By the way, the Federation still also owe me money from that period as assistant coach. But, this is not about me, so let me continue to explain how I see TJ’s reign as president. To me, his biggest flaw is his over reliance on surrogates; in his first term, it was all Ayo Bakare and now it is all about Olumide Oyedeji. I hope both Ayo and Olumide do not see this as an insult but it is hard to fault TJ without bringing up these two gentlemen. And there is a reason for their very deep involvement with TJ and the Federation. TJ’s inability to raise funds and his lack of policy ideas. Nigeria’s basketball success under TJ, was built on the strength of Mr. Bakare’s policy ideas and financial support. You all might remember the very public fight over money between TJ and Ayo; this was money that Ayo used to pursue his policy ideals and they have very well succeeded. Like the saying goes, Ayo put his money behind his policy.
BWB: So why did TJ allow for surrogates to have so much control?
PO: I cannot get into his head but I can guess and use a bit of history to explain why it happened. If you look back at past presidents of our Federation, they have been men of immense connections within Nigeria and that means they had the ability to raise funds for the Federation. I cannot recall who was president when the Federation had on the board one of the 7UP directors. That man raised a whole lot of money for the Federation. I believe after that board we had the UK Umar board. Umar was at the very top of Nigerian Immigration Services and I don’t need to tell what kind of influence he had and how he used that to benefit the Federation. Then came Mr. Buba head of Nigerian Customs; do I need to explain further? Then came TJ – he is also well-placed in government but he is not in the realm of influence that the past two presidents had. And that is why you see Mr. Oyedeji as a very important person on this board; he has the Chinese connections we rely on today (playing tours and PEAK).
BWB: Who is your ideal candidate for the Federation president?
PO: Private sector person. Real private sector. Someone that has the weight of a major company behind him or her. I’m not talking about ‘business man’, because you elect a businessman and the success of the Federation is tied to his business success. But the real private sector person that can influence many things without being present. And I still believe that the number one job for any federation president is find money to develop your sport. As we stand now from what I read, Musa Kida is the man that fits this ideal. I supported his ambition in 2013 but he was skilfully defeated by the ‘cabal’. I have no other person in mind.
BWB: Cabal in Nigeria Basketball?
PO: Yes now. Go and read one of my articles a few years back, where I talked about the hijacking of our basketball by various groups; these groups are the cabals in Nigeria basketball. They are local and they are foreign, and they know themselves. They have all at some point exerted influence on the Nigerian basketball for good and bad.
BWB: You must have followed the drama at the last Stakeholders/AGM in Abuja? What did you think of it?
PO: Nothing unusual as far as I am concerned; yes some people were locked out of some proceedings. Some of these same people were locked out at the last elections and they are still in court with the Federation. And about the new constitution, I don’t know much about and I have refused to read it. It does not matter in the scheme of things, I believe TJ is using it as a smoke screen and cudgel over other groups that might be challenging him. Bottom line, that constitution is irrelevant; Nigerian sports federation election are contested under the rules made up by the Sports Ministry and the NOC. And they will design the election rules to favor their preferred candidate. A federation president is always the person that the ministry wants. Simple. End of story.
BWB: Who do you think is the preferred candidate this time around?
PO: Always had to say. For the last election, it was obvious that TJ was the preferred candidate to the minister. After hanging out with TJ at the London Olympics, it was an uphill task for anyone to displace TJ. And they had a masterfully designed plan that they carried out to the letter; it was a beautiful thing to watch. So this time around, those interested in challenging for the position of president must be campaigning hard to the minister and not to stakeholders. Stakeholders have no stake in elections.
BWB: Correct me sir, are you saying that we have a flawed electoral process?
PO: Yes, you can say that. It is not only at the national level; it is at the state level. You have states that have not had state basketball chair-persons in years and we have other states that have had persons there for donkey years and all this is done at the behest of government power. There is nothing democratic about federation elections or appointments; if you want it and pull the right strings, it is yours.
BWB: Any suggestions for the next president?
PO: My first suggestion is please host an international tournament; we need it for developing infrastructure and popularity of the game with people who are on the outside. We got to start with junior events, learn to host little parties, get your equipment up to date and then we can go for the big one. The second thing I can think of right now; develop coaching. Our coaching is awful, not due to coaches’ fault but the Federation’s lack of understanding. This is a major job for any federation, develop coaches alongside players. And last thing off my head, create tournaments for young players, the Federation must have at least one yearly tournament for U15 and one for U18.
BWB: Do you have anything else to say?
You can leave a comment below or reach Patrick Omo-Osagie via email [email protected] for reactions to this story.