Possibly for the first time in its long history, the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria witnessed the threat of factionalisation, both at the national level and in various state chapters, under the the leadership of Honour Sirawoo.
The division was precipitated mostly by the manipulation of the processes of the last election to exclude many bonafide members, apparently to cut off any challengers for the office of the President against him.
To be clear, whereas members welcomed the registration of SWAN with the CAC while the Full Council also voted for its de-affiliation from the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the new order was mismanaged into such dictatorship as marked by incessant tyrannical infringement on the rights of members.
Under that circumstance, those who felt disenfranchised through unjustifiable and unfair disqualification insisted on continued affiliation with the NUJ with a view of sustaining possible checks over the rapidly emerging monster of a President.
This led to the emergence of the late Ahmed Aigbona faction at the national level which was supported and followed by a few stakeholders in some state chapters.
Some of us however felt that, no matter what the issues were, we should work to sustain the singularity and unity of the body, while we try to manage whatever conflicts and disagreements through suasion and diplomacy. We thus stood against any splintering.
The expectation was that, learning from past mistakes, the leadership of the association would manage the coming elections better, particularly to ensure inclusiveness, transparency, credibility and accountability, standards which a body of journalists, being watchdogs of the society, should exemplify.
It is therefore disappointing that the Honour leadership has decided to drive the association deeper into darkness by the even more devilish manipulation of the processes of the forthcoming elections.
This is seen in the extra-statutory disqualification of many bonafide members, state chapter leaders and even currently serving members of NEC from contesting.
While this was earlier indicated when it turned out that the SWANECO would be led by a veteran whose only contributions to SWAN through the years have been foolhardy expertise in turning truth on its head, it was further underscored by reports of Honour’s scheming to blatantly disqualify some people to pave way for his preferred candidates.
We however thought that, with age and experience, the SWANECO leader would change his ways to redeem his reputation with a legacy of providing an inclusive atmosphere for the body but, like the leopard, he remains dyed in the wool with low virtue.
While affected members are expected to make their cases to appeal their disqualification, I take particular notice of the contradiction and travesty implied in same SWANECO which disqualified the members standing also as the organ for appeal, much like sitting in judgment in petitions against its very conduct.
I especially consider exceedingly ridiculous, the purported disqualification of the immediate past Chairman of Kano SWAN, Lurwunu Idris Milikawa for, according to the SWANECO, not resigning as Media Officer of Kano Pillars FC 12 months to the election.
I state that such condition or requirement is alien to and not provided in our Statute.
The sections of the SWAN Statute that deals with Elections and Eligibility are Articles 12 and 13, and in these, there is no provision, whatsoever and howsoever, requiring an aspiring or serving officer not to hold any position or be engaged in any standing or ad-hoc assignment in the service of his state or community, club, other associations or federations, be they sports or not.
We have always and still consider it a testament of excellence and an honour for our members, be they officers or members of congress, to be so engaged by the larger society.
Indeed, SWAN had a pride of history with its President having a reserved seat in the Executive Committee of the then Nigeria Football Association while other national officers were commended to serve in other associations.
The State Chairmen were also reserved a seat in the State Football or other associations in many states.
While the SWAN lost this privilege at some point, it is recalled that in one of the Full Council Meetings under Honour, it was resolved that the association should roll back by encouraging and supporting members to vie into and penetrate various federations and associations, and even strive to possibly work up to their leadership positions, that being not only good for the image, visibility and exposure of the association, but also for members to achieve and maintain strong voice and relevance in the sports sector and industry.
It was in this vein that this same Honour regime solicited for the appointment of members into each of the national sports federations and state sports associations, under the ministerial tenure of Solomon Dalung.
In the case of Kano, the FA board has always reserved a seat for SWAN which the stakeholders often accorded to Malikawa for his relevance, experience and continued contributions. Whether he bought a form or not, the position is always unchallenged.
We have similar situations in Lagos, Ondo, Enugu, Bauchi, Delta, to mention a few, where officers and members of SWAN are co-opted or reserved a place in sports associations in recognition of their relevance or according to the needs of their state sports establishments.
Interestingly, some of these officers in same position as Malikawa were cleared by the SWANECO to contest in the elections.
Notwithstanding, it must be said that their engagement in other areas of our sports is in consonance with the aims and objectives of SWAN as established severally in Article 5 of its Statute, to wit:
(iv) “To CONTRIBUTE through advice, suggestions, criticisms or OTHER MEANS to the development and growth of sports in Nigeria”
(vii) “To consult, and advice in creating the best possible media services”
(viii) “To ENGAGE in any other purposeful venture that may advance the cause of sports development and sports journalism in Nigeria and (even) beyond.”
Accordingly, the members are to live and give life to the aims and objectives of their association in various ways.
If not characteristic life of dishonour, therefore, then it is an irony that same Honour regime would now contemplate the disqualification of persons based on that which the association’s Statute prescribes, which its history commends and which Honour himself also personally advocated and solicited.
The question is why would a SWAN leadership attempt to limit the relevance and progress of its members across other sectors or sports by using their growth against them in elections? But that is even far beside the real issue.
The most essential point to note is that the SWAN Statute is simple and clear on all issues pertaining to the adminstration of its elections and the eligibility of members to contest for offices. It does not contemplate any such limitations as now being mischievously introduced by Honour and his SWANECO.
It only provided in Article 12 (c) that “No member shall hold elective offices at both the State and National levels at the same time.”
That provision does not, in any way, refer to engagement with other sports bodies. It is only in reference to holding positions in SWAN leadership, and in Malikawa’s case, while his tenure as Chairman of Kano SWAN or as Vice President of the North West Zone have since elapsed, his former or later engagements in Kano Pillars and Kano FA are definitely not SWAN offices nor positions.
While I am not unmindful of the power of the SWANECO to deem a candidate qualified or not, it must also be noted, as provided in Article 12 (k) under Elections And Terms of Office, and Article 13 b (i) under Eligibility, that such power is neither discretionary nor arbitrary but ONLY and WHOLLY in observance and maintenance of the provisions of the Statute.
Article 12 (K) reads: “…may be deemed eligible IN LINE WITH THE STATUTE.”
Article 13 B (i) reads:
“…are eligible to contest National offices SUBJECT TO LIMITATIONS IMPOSED BY THE STATUTE.”
Both sections never provided nor suggested, in any way, that the SWANECO can make its own new laws to add to or remove from the provisions of the Statute. They are only to observe, maintain and act strictly IN LINE WITH and SUBJECT TO the provisions of the STATUTE.
The spirit of those provisions is so that we would be guided by the words of our Statute, not by the dictates of any individuals in leadership, no matter whatever positions they hold; and especially so that the SWANECO would not arbitrarily tailor eligibility conditions particularly aimed at and to witch-hunt certain identified members for disqualification, as they have now done.
But even more noteworthy, is that the SWAN Statute NEVER EVER gave any powers to SWANECO to draw up anything called a GUIDELINE.
The whole provisions in both Articles 12 and 13 of the Statute which deal with election administration and eligibility DID NOT and NEVER mentioned any such word as GUIDELINE, neither did it provide for nor authorise it to impose any other eligibility criteria outside what it has provided.
This is because everything about the election has been adequately prescribed, spelt out and described by the Statute.
Where then did Honour and his Ogele derive their powers to draw up such guideline, to manufacture and impose those childish limitations with which they shamelessly seek to arbitrarily disqualify certain members?
It is terribly disappointing to see that those who claim to be upholding the SWAN Statute can be as illiterate not to have been able to read nor understand nor know the content of the lawbook that they printed by themselves and say they are administering on members.
What is most disturbing, however, is that their motive and the tyranny of their arbitrariness immediately violate and injure Article 5 (ii) and (iii) of the Statute which mandates the association and its leadership “to develop and sustain a spirit of solidarity among members without infringing on their individual rights as citizens of Nigeria,” and “to develop and uphold the moral and professional rights of members…”
These ideals are now being observed in abrasive breach, and enough should be enough.
True members and stakeholders of SWAN must now rally together to steer it back from the prevailing dark age and the sustained destruction of its cherished and proud heritage of oneness, togetherness and comraderie by a mere urchin who only trades and thrives in the desecration of good virtues and in the idiocy of violence and conflict, along with the snides who clap and dance around his clay foot.
By Fred Edoreh
(Former Chairman, Lagos SWAN)