A leading aspirant in the suspended Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) election, Igoche Mark, has declared that a tough task awaits the incoming board because Nigerian basketball is completely deflated and must be pumped to bounce again. In this interview with Trust Sports, the proprietor of Mark Mentors and Apa Flames basketball clubs who is vying to represent the north central on the NBBF board spoke on his passion for the sport, the crisis in Nigerian basketball and the way out of the doldrums for the game in Nigeria.
What informed your decision to contest for membership of the next NBBF board?
I have a lot of passion for the game of basketball. I grew up in the sport and most of my close friends are all within the circle. Over the years, I have tried to give back to basketball. Through the annual Mark D’Ball tournament, a number of kids are now playing abroad on scholarships. I have been doing this and many more so I feel, if I am elected into the Nigeria Basketball Federation board, I can do much more.
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What is your stand on the decision by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to suspend indefinitely the 2021 NBBF elections?
For me this is a welcome development. I want to use this opportunity to thank the Minister of sports for taking this stand. It is a welcome development and I applaud the Minister for that. In the first place, having Benin City as venue for the election was not a popular idea. And that was why we all kicked against it. So we are happy with that decision by the Minister.
You are one of those opposed to the NBBF constitution which the past board wants to use to conduct the elections. What is your grouse with it?
I think the issue of that document they are parading as the constitution of the NBBF should be looked into thoroughly. It is flawed and can’t stand the test of integrity and time. It is not inclusive in nature. It is not designed to accommodate all the relevant stakeholders in the game of basketball. It shouldn’t be about one person. I suggest the ministry of sports should take over and use its guidelines to conduct the elections.
How confident are you of victory when the elections are eventually held?
I know it is not going to be a stroll in the park but I am confident of victory because I have paid my dues as far as basketball in Nigeria is concerned. I have done a lot of basketball activities. Even here in Abuja, I have Mark Mentors, a Premier League club and Apa Flames of Otukpo, a national division one team. My present aspiration is for me to have more opportunities to impact on the game beginning from my zone, which is the north central to the national level.
How much support have you received from stakeholders in the north central?
I have the overwhelming support of stakeholders in the north central. As a matter of fact, most of them had approached me and asked me to contest to represent them on the new NBBF board. They believe I have done so much but I can still do more for the north central zone, if I am an executive committee member.
What would be your priority for your zone, if you are elected into the NBBF board?
One of the things that we lack so much is basketball courts. We don’t have enough. Courts are key to basketball development. Basketball is not like football where you can play in any available spaces using two stones as goal posts. Basketball equipment is not easy to come by. If I am elected, I will try to build as many courts as possible to encourage the development of the game. For me, it is all about basketball development at the grassroots. I believe in catching them young. If we have enough basketball courts, more youths would develop interest in basketball.
Would you vie for the NBBF presidency, if you make it into the board of the federation?
I will leave that for the relevant stakeholders to decide. I am not going to superimpose myself on anyone. If we all come together and decide that it should be so, then there will be no problem. We are all working for the good of basketball. But like I said, I leave that for the stakeholders to decide.
But are you adequately prepared for such responsibility?
I think anyone that loves basketball can take charge of the federation and do well. It doesn’t take rocket science. Anybody with genuine love for the sport can do it. If you can develop the game beginning from the grassroots, that will be it.
What would you say is responsible for the present crisis in the NBBF?
The past board of the NBBF is trying to impose itself on stakeholders. The players, coaches and technical officials who are the major stakeholders have not been treated well and they are now opposed to the bad leadership. The same people they have rejected want to impose themselves on the aggrieved stakeholders. I don’t think there is any need for someone to impose himself on others. If you are popular, people will willingly bring you back. If you think you have done well, why are you opposed to conducting the elections in a neutral place like Abuja where your popularity can be tested without harassment and intimidation? Why did you want to take the elections to Benin City?
What do you think is the way out of the lingering crises?
Already some of us are on a peace drive. It is not good for us to have factions in Nigeria basketball. It shouldn’t be like political parties where you have APC and PDP. I believe we are in this because we love the game. I appeal to everyone to put aside their personal differences. It is not about me. It is about the game. If you put the game first, I believe we would make progress.
How confident are you that the incoming NBBF board would restore the lost glory of Nigerian basketball?
I think they can do it, if they are serious minded people with genuine interest for basketball growth. If they love the sport, they would turn things around for good. Right now, the basketball that you are seeing is deflated completely. There is no air. The ball can’t bounce. Therefore, the new board should be ready to pump the ball so that it can bounce again. They have a big task ahead of them. At the moment, I can tell you that there is no basketball in Nigeria.