Mr. Fanen Iornem is a Consultant, Blogger and Social Media Activist. He is the founder and president of 2Feet Africa Foundation. He is also one of the Pioneers of the Abuja City Basketball League. He has been sponsoring the Gboko End of Year Basketball Carnival for the fifth (5th) year running. In this interview, he enumerated the challenges he has been facing in trying to make this event a perfect one, as well as the benefits sports brings to the youths. Read Excerpts:
Question: Can we meet you?
Fanen: Yea, my name is Fanen Iornem. I am the convener and sponsor of the Gboko End of year Basketball Carnival.
Question: We have heard about the basketball Carnival that takes place here in Gboko at the end of every year. Can you tell us much about it?
Fanen: Yea, it is called the Gboko End of year Basketball Carnival and it is the initiative of 2Feet Africa Foundation (2FA), which I happen to be the President. The idea behind the Gboko end of year Basketball carnival is to come here and gather people around, spreading the message of love, unity and at the same time to educate the youths on the benefits of basketball as well as the need for western education. We also bring people to talk to them and to help them stay off the streets because sports is a very key element in the Nigerian economy as it creates employment. Now, if we get people here and harness their skills, they can become the next Akinwola Jones and a host of other NBA stars. Basically, what we are trying to do in Benue is to gather the youths around, keep them off drugs and other social vices as well as present a platform for them to show case their talents to the world.
Some of the participants at this year’s event
Question: For how long has the tournament been running?
Fanen: Since we came on board to sponsor the event as 2FA Foundation, this is the fifth year that we are sponsoring this tournament. The tournament used to take place way back but somehow along the line it stopped. We at 2FA Foundation decided to bring it back to life and have modified certain things. Before, the competition was not done the way we are going about it now. It was a case of gathering the adults around to play only basketball. So when we came on board, we modified it such that even the younger ones too now have the opportunity to play. Even the kids are now gathered and taught the intricacies of basketball as well as the need for education and other life skills. That is what we do.
Question: Are they challenges since your foundation took over the sponsorship of the tournament?
Fanen: Yea, there are a lot of challenges.
Question: Can you mention them so that people who are willing to help can equally come and key in to make it a better competition in the future?
Fanen: Yea, the challenges we have are mostly logistics problems. We have been calling people but not necessarily to bring their monies to us because there are a lot of other areas they can help. If you look at this basketball Court for instance, it is substandard! Anybody that falls on this court in the process of playing, we are going to have a problem, although we have first aid here but it is not supposed to be this way. We are looking for people that will come and fix this court for us. At the same time, if you look at the people participating in this tournament, they get the jerseys on their own. We try to bring jerseys but because of financial challenges we cannot get all the jerseys. We also try to bring T-shirts for them, which requires money. We equally need more basket balls; we need sound system. The lighting system we have here is also not enough. In fact, we need all the support that we can have. We can not do all these things without support from NGOs, individuals and the government; we cannot do it all by ourselves.
Question: Have you tried to look for help from NGOs, individuals and even the government, to see if they can bring something little to support this thing you have been doing for the past five years?
Fanen: Yea, we have done that. Even this year, we submitted our proposal to the commissioner of youths and sports here in Benue state, trying to show him what we do so that we can partner. You know, the government can even use this as one of it’s pet project because I believe what we are doing here is part of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); MDGs and SDGs is part of what we are doing here. And as I was saying, we sent out a proposal to the ministry, followed it up but nothing came out. It wasn’t just the Ministry of youths and sports that we contacted; we contacted a lot of individuals as well but there was no response.
Question: What message of advice do you have for the youths out there?
Fanen: First, I want to say that I am a product of basketball. Maybe if not basketball, I would have indulged myself in things that are not profiting in life. When I started participating in sports right from my secondary school days, all I think of is how I will come to the basketball court and become a better person. Sports is not all about just playing; it equally builds you. We have organized this competition to run into the night because this is the time that you find most youths indulging themselves in vices such as drinking, arm robbery and so on. But since we are going to have them gathered here, they are definitely going to learn things that will better their lives. We are going to have resource persons that are going to speak to them. My candid advice to them therefore, is that they should get involved in sports and learn the positive aspects of it too. They should stay away from drugs, arm robbery, cultism and other social vices. Sports is a way out for some of these things because once you engage yourself in sports, you are doing your education thereby presenting you with better opportunities in life. Thank you