By NWOGHA NDUBUISI ANDY, Abakaliki
National President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Sir Honour Sirawo has again waded into the crisis rocking the Ebonyi State chapter of the association by sacking the Interim Committee headed by Mr Ajah Okike.
Secretary of the Association, Jude Opara announced the dissolution of the committee in a letter to Mr Ajah dated April 16, 2021.
According to the letter, Mr Sirawo also announced the suspension of elections into the executive committee of the state chapter.
It said:”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”.
The National President further appointed a new Caretaker Committee to be headed by Mr Emmanuel Nnaji of Blaze FM.
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 (NTA) will serve as Advisor to the committee.
Mr Sirawo said the Committee is to ensure peace and development of the Association in the state.
He also charged them to conduct a peaceful and orderly election into the state Executive Committee.
The National President, according to the letter said the committee will manage the affairs of the State chapter for the next three months.
“While we wish that every Bona Fide member of the Association will accord the Caretaker Committee the maximum cooperation, we direct that henceforth the committee be in charge of the Affairs of the chapter for the next three months in line with Article 22(G) of SWAN statue”, he said.
While it was not immediately clear why the National Executive 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 National Executive.
Crisis had rocked the state chapter for over two years now as members revolted against the erstwhile Chairman of the Association, Mr 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 sword 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 Mr Ajah to return him as Chairman despite being largely unpopular.
This further factionalized 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 Mr Ajah.
Mr Ajah’s short time as head of the both the electoral committee and the Caretaker committee was characterized 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 bona fide 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 Mr Opara.
Investigations also revealed that Mr Sirawo may have wielded the hammer following alleged attempts to hijack the state chapter by some State Executive members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists(NUJ) allegedly working for the National President of that Union, Mr Isiguzo.
According to insiders, Mr Isiguzo who had been engaged in a bitter battle with Mr Sirawo had used the same state Executive of NUJ members to constitute a parallel state chapter of SWAN.
Also the state NUJ was also used to suspend some State and Zonal Executive members from the state for standing with the Sirawo lead 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 arm twisted other aspirants to step down for the erstwhile Chairman, a situation which rattled the National Executive who viewed his actions of aligning with NUJ as a betrayal.
Mr Sirawo had nominated the former Chairman as a Board member of Athletics Federation of Nigeria and extended other juicy political favors 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 Mr Ajah.
“We also want the National Executive to order a fresh electoral process from the the scratch as the integrity of the suspended one has been badly eroded”, a major stakeholder said.
However, in a reaction, Mr Ajah denied working to install any candidate even as he described his committee’s dissolution as disgusting and unfortunate.
“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 & 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 without recourse to me”, he said.