In this Exclusive Interview OLUMIDE OYEDEJI an Ex-International, former NBA player and D’Tigers Captain who is also the President of the Nigeria Olympian Association (NOA) had a chat with JOSEPH ODOEKWU of SPORTS INTELLIGENCE MAGAZINE. He commented on the forthcoming Sports Federation election and other issues affecting the development of Basketball in the country. The excerpts read.
Can we meet you?
I am Olumide Oyedeji, Ex-International, former NBA player and D’Tigers captain that led the team to first Afrobasket trophy in 2015. I represented Nigeria between 1996 to 2016 and had 9 Afrobasket appearances. World Championship, 5 time All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games, and also the Olympic Games. I was also Team Nigeria captain from 2006 to 2016 and have won gold at the All Africa Games. I am also the first Nigerian and third African to be honoured with the Laureus Global Ambassador and was honoured as an Honorary London Metropolitan Police Officer.
So much has been said about the forthcoming Sports Federation elections, what do you have to say about it as it concerns NBBF?
I agree totally to an all inclusive free and fair election that will carry everyone along, where all basketball stakeholders can sit around the table to resolve the issues surrounding Nigeria Basketball. If we all mean well for Nigeria Basketball, nothing will stop us from sitting around the table and dialogue. I hope and pray the new election will bring peace and all the Basketball family together and look for the way forward to improve the game locally.
You made mention about improving the game locally, but Nigeria relied heavily on foreign-based players even at the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is this not of concern to you?
As a stakeholder, it is of concern to me. However, I have never been in support of all foreign based players in the national team. I am an advocate of home grown player as I was once one. We should encourage our local talent by giving them a chance. At worse, invite them to the camp and let them measure themselves with the other foreign players. This is also part of their development, which will surely improve their game , confidence and better chance somewhere else . From my experience , this helped me when I joined the men national team in 1997 , few weeks after Afrobasket , went for World University Games in Sicily 1997 and I became one of the five best players in Universities Games and led Nigeria to first and only semi finals in any world major basketball event .
You also prayed for peace, are you saying there is no peace in the basketball family?
As I said this before and I will say it again, only the ignorant people will say we have peace or progress in Nigeria Basketball locally. The real stakeholders, players are suffering. Board dissolution is okay but I believe that only an all-inclusive and unbiased election can bring peace to Nigeria basketball. The earlier this done is better for the game. Let everyone go out there and try their popularity.
But Engr Musa Kida seems to be the most preferred candidate for the Presidency, what do you think?
Absolutely incorrect, Whoever says that is a trumpet blower and praise singer. They should get to the real stakeholders to know the truth. He has surrounded himself with praise singers and they are all entitled to their opinion.
How exactly do you mean, where other stakeholders stopped from contesting?
No one has come out directly to say that other genuine stakeholders have been banned from contesting the election, but Engr Musa Kida has indirectly included some clauses in the NBBF Statutes that he made which practically stop other stakeholders to come out and contest to become board members and other positions on the board. Take a look at section 21.3.3 of the NBBF Statutes which states that “To be eligible for any post on the board, candidates must have resided in Nigeria for at least four (4) consecutive years”. What does that mean to you and how is that going to make other stakeholders contest? Where in the Nigerian Constitution can such be allowed where other stakeholders who can contest and add value are not allowed to contest in an election? In fact, those who are playing for Nigeria in the team are all foreign-based; but why are you saying a board member must live in Nigeria for four consecutive years? That is an attempt to sideline some people who have a lot to contribute to the development of Nigeria Basketball.
If you also look at section 21.3.11 of the NBBF Statutes it states that “For the position of the President and Vice President, current serving President and Vice President are qualified to contest their position without necessarily belonging to any of the constituencies mentioned above , provided that they must be nominated by two state Associations of the Federations”. We have 36 States plus FCT making it 37, so why must only two now nominate for an incumbent to become a president. What percentage of 38 does two represent and where is that practiced anywhere in the world. And also 21.8 gives room for eligibility of the resident to run without his constituency, all these clauses are enshrined to make Engr. Musa Kida emerge for President thereby keeping other genuine stakeholders away from contesting as President.
When were all these clauses enshrined in the NBBF Statutes?
According to what he said, he mentioned April 2019 which many stakeholders already kicked against.
But the election will still go on or are there efforts been made to get a Court Injunction to stop the election?
Absolutely none from me, and am not sure anyone will want to do that. But am surprised Engr. Kida is even taking part in this election going by what he has stood for in the past
How exactly do you mean, could you explain?
The Sports federation election is been organized with the authority of the Ministry of Sports that alone has made the NBBF lose its autonomy and Engr. Kida has never supported .
Could you please further clarify?
Thank you. On June 12, 2013 when the Honourable Minister and National Sports Commission(NSC) did a similar thing by conducting elections, Engr. Musa Kida and three other persons (Babs Ogunade, Igoche Mark and Osita Nwachukwu) wrote an 8-page petition dated June 12, 2013 to the IOC asking the International body to annul the election and mandating NBBF to conduct an election without the intervention of the NSC. So why is it a different case here and why is he so much interested in taking part in an election that is now been conducted by the Sports Ministry after criticizing it back then?
There are speculations that you dragged the Kida-led board to court to stop the league in 2018, how true is that?
That is not true, I challenge anyone to produce any court summons where my name appeared as an Applicant with my signature on it. I never did that, those speculating should please check their facts well. However, I am aware that Gombe challenged the decision of the Kida-led board in court for stopping them to represent Nigeria at the continental league championship, that is the much I know about the court issue but was never involved in it. What Gombe was asking for in 2018 was to represent Nigeria at the Continental level, not to stop the league. But the Kida-led board’s failure to appear in court on several occasions after Gombe summoned them led to delay which made the court stop both the Kida-led board and the Tijjni Umar-led from conducting the league.
On a personal level, what are you doing to develop Basketball in Nigeria?
Honestly, I don’t want to be self praised. I am doing everything and will continue to do all in developing the game in this country. This game gave me everything.
Thank you very much for your time.
You are welcome.