The National Executive of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, led by its President, Sir Honor Sirawo, has again waded into the crisis rocking the Ebonyi State chapter of the association.
This time, the national leadership has sacked the Interim Committee headed by Ajah Okike, and appointed a new Caretaker Committee to run the affairs of SWAN in the State for the next three months.
It also suspended elections into the executive committee of the state chapter to douse tensions building up from pre-election intrigues.
The decision of the national body was conveyed in a letter by the National Secretary of the Association, Jude Opara, to Okike, dated April 16, 2021.
The letter named Emmanuel Nnaji of Blaze FM as the new Caretaker Committee Chairman.
Other members of the Committee are: Egbo Grace Udodịmma of Tribune Newspaper (Secretary), Kelechi Okoro (Member), while the Zonal Secretary of the Association, Ijeoma Nwante of Nigeria Television Authority, will serve as Advisor to the committee.
Sirawo said the Committee is to ensure peace and development of the Association in the state, and charged the members to conduct a peaceful and orderly election into the State Executive Committee.
Part of the letter reads: “Following unpleasant reports emanating from Ebonyi state chapter of SWAN deemed to be bringing the Association to disrepute, the President, Sir Honor Sirawo in exercise of his statutory powers has suspended the planned election into the Executive Committee of the State chapter.
“To ensure peace, orderly conduct of elections and development of the Association in Ebonyi State, the National Secretariat hereby set up a Caretaker Committee consisting of:
1.Emmanuel Nnaji – Chairman
- Egbo Grace Udodinma – Secretary
Emenike Ogalagu – Member
4. Kelechi Okoro – Member
5. Ijeoma Peter Nwante – Advisor.”
Meanwhile, it was not immediately clear why the NEC took the decision.
Investigation however revealed that the committee was sacked for alleged plot to impose an unpopular candidate as State Chairman of the Association.
The committee had also failed to conduct the election on two different occasions despite warnings and extensions given to it by the NEC.
Recall that crisis had rocked the state chapter for over two years now as members revolted against the erstwhile Chairman of the Association, Opara, whose tenure elapsed last year.
Members accused him of high handedness and other infringements and moved to impeach him at some point.
But some Elders appealed to the members to sheath their swords and allow him to conclude his tenure.
However, at the expiration of his tenure, he set up an electoral committee made up of only his loyalists led by Okike to return him as Chairman despite being largely unpopular.
This further polarised the chapel, and coupled with the outbreak of COVID-19 the election could not hold.
Again, the erstwhile Chairman in connivance with the Zonal Vice President imposed a three-man Caretaker committee again headed by Okike.
Okike’s short time as head of both the Electoral Committee and Caretaker Committee was characterised by more crisis.
Among the unpopular actions he took was the decision that some members who were up to date in their dues were no longer members of the Association.
This was despite the fact that the national leadership had listed their names as bonafide members who were up to date.
According to him, the reason was that they chose to pay their dues directly to the National Executive account (as directed by the National Executive), instead of via the state chapter.
But members believed he took the decision to reduce the number of perceived voters for the opponent of Opara.
Investigations also revealed that Sirawo may have wielded the hammer following alleged attempts to hijack the state chapter by some State Executive Committee members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists allegedly working for the President of that Union, Chris Isiguzo.
According to insiders, Isiguzo, who had been engaged in a bitter battle with Sirawo, had used the same state Executive of the NUJ to constitute a parallel state chapter of SWAN.
The state NUJ was also used to suspend some State and Zonal Executive members from the state for standing with the Sirawo-led SWAN, which is still the authentic SWAN in the country.
But as the election was getting closer, seeing defeat staring him in the face, the former Chairman conscripted the same NUJ members who suspended him and other SWAN Executive members to lobby the state government to impose and return him as Chairman of SWAN.
Using political might of the state government, they armtwisted other aspirants to step down for the erstwhile Chairman, a situation which rattled the National Executive members who viewed his actions of aligning with the NUJ as a betrayal.
Sirawo had nominated the former Chairman as a Board member of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria and extended other juicy political favours to him in the past, but his desperation to hold on to the chairmanship position made him to stab the National Chairman in the back, forcing him to suspend the election.
Meanwhile, some members who spoke have called for the total cancelation and probe of the botched elections.
They also called for the sack of the electoral committee headed by Ajah.
“We also want the National Executive to order a fresh electoral process from the scratch as the integrity of the suspended one has been badly eroded,” a major stakeholder said.
However, in a reaction, Ajah denied working to install any candidate even as he described his committee’s dissolution as disgusting and unfortunate.
Okike reacted: “What is happening in Ebonyi SWAN is rather unfortunate and really disgusting.
“It’s quite unfortunate.
“However, I wish to state clearly that I, Aja Okike have no hand in it nor was I consulted by anybody before the new Caretaker was formed.
“This memo was sent to me by Swan Admin Secretary, Habila Ibrahim.
“I have done my best to ensure peace, unity and progress in SWAN, but some people are bent on dragging my name to the mud.
“It’s rather embarrassing to me that the national body that prevailed on me to help restore sanity to the Association and has not found me wanting should just dissolve my Committee and form a new one without recourse to me.”
It is the hope of most SWAN members in the State that the new Caretaker would restore the long desired leadership sanity in the Association as well as reposition it to effectively meet its social and professional responsibilities.