A PAINFUL SUSPENSION IN THE WAKE OF A PROMISING FIESTA- Mark D Ball 2016 Edition Put on Hold
Our attention has been drawn to an ex-parte order of interim injunction from the High Court of Benue State, sitting in Makurdi, dated 16th of December 2016. It was obtained by one Edwin Owoicho, a purported trustee of the Idoma Private Trust on behalf of the supposed owners of the Otukpo Club, halting the usage of the club for this year’s fiesta of the Mark D Ball Basketball Annual Tournament.
We cannot ascertain what led to this, but as law-abiding citizens, we are inclined to comply and allow the judicial process take its full course. However, we have no doubts that this shadowy Owoicho is a mere front for certain vested interests, persons, agencies or government personages. Mark D Ball Basketball Tournament is an international sports fiesta held in Otukpo, Benue State between 26th and 31th of December of every year.
This competition has helped to put our small home town of Otukpo, the traditional and political headquarters of Idomaland, on the world basketball map for over six uninterrupted years. It has become the most sought–after holiday destination for sports and music lovers in Nigeria as it annually draws the hottest circles of Nigeria’s internationally celebrated artistes and basketballers.
It has equally become a unifying and home-drawing event for Idomas, Benue indigenes, Nigerians and a sizeable number of dedicated diaspora followers. The Mark D Ball Basketball Tournament, an NBBF endorsed program is a non-political, non–partisan, non–governmental and completely non-profit making venture.
It has been mainly sponsored by His Excellency, Senator Dr. David A.B. Mark, President of the sixth and seventh Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the invaluable purposes of youth empowerment, re-engagement and sports development in general in the same manner that he is doing for Football and Golf.
The tourney has led to the award of scholarships to many of our youths in the area of education and professional basketball in the USA. As a matter of fact, a D-League Basketball team, College and High School Coaches from the USA, representatives from NBBF, FIBA Africa and NBA were all billed to grace this year’s edition.
Mark D Ball Basketball tournament had led to the establishment of a home grown team known as Mark Mentors which won the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) apex DSTV league cup in 2014 and was ranked No. 8 by FIBA Africa. Also worth mentioning is the Apa Flames, a feeder team which plays in National Division 1 league.
The Children’s clinic that is the highlight of the tournament has recorded not less than 500 children as participants yearly. So many children were eagerly waiting for the tournament as it provides them the opportunity to learn the game of basketball, life skills, bonds of friendship and to earn lots of gifts and prizes.
As a fall out from our clinic, we were able to raise the winners of the 2014 Milo Championship of which the MVP Friday Haruna now plays for the Mark Mentors. We also produced notable players that have made the Junior National teams both male and female. Regrettably and painfully, we have been forced and compelled to put the 2016 edition of the Mark D Ball basketball tournament on hold till further notice. This decision is inevitable to avoid the consequences that the ensuing litigation and possible breakdown of law and order may pose to our peaceful community.
We however call for calm and understanding amongst our teeming youth and supporters. We want to assure you all that plans are afoot to conclude a permanent venue to host future tournaments, free from unnecessary political and legal encumbrances.
We sincerely regret the drawback and setback that this unnecessary inhibition may have on the socio–economic well being of our land and the untoward multiplier effects this forced postponement would have on our hoteliers, restaurants, small scale businesses and holiday makers. We had made conclusive and extensive plans to host this year’s event; we had booked A-class artistes, made extensive flight scheduling for international coaches and scouts, reserved hotels, engaged caterers, mobilized and sensitized towards the event.
Nevertheless, we are adamant and unflinching in our conviction that sports remains a tool to check youth restiveness and involvement in vices. This has been one of the cardinal objectives of the tournament. So, if the intention of the antagonists of Mark D Ball is to inflict political injury on the initiator and sponsor of the tournament, His Excellency, Senator Dr. David A.B. Mark, we dare say they have hit the brick wall because this is not an attack on Senator Mark but a brutal affront, insult and assault on the youths and the good people of Benue South, Benue State and the entire nation.
Whatever the reasons the antagonists against Mark D Ball basketball tournament may have, this sinister action is unarguably a cruel dagger to the heart of the good people of Benue State especially the youths and children who dream and look forward to this annual event.
We cannot quantify the loss in monetary terms but we regret to disappoint local and international basketball clubs and players, artistes etc who have purposed to participate in this year’s event. Our sincere apologies go to Nigerians who have already been invited to the tournament and who have concluded plans to grace it.
We also apologize to the various hoteliers, vendors and other business owners within Otukpo and environs who have been committed to the Mark D Ball basketball tournament since its inception. I repeat that this development is unfortunate, reprehensible, condemnable and regrettable. However, we are law abiding. We shall wait for the court process to be fully exhausted. I know that history will be kind to us for providing the needed platform for our people to realize their God given potentials.
Finally, we want to assure our good people to keep faith with us because the best of Mark D Ball basketball tournament is yet to come. We thank you all for your understanding, support and prayers during this trying period.
May God bless you all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
For: Mark Sports Foundation
20th December, 2016