*My Position on SWAN/Mitchel Obi/AIPS Saga
My attention has been drawn to a statement by SWAN National Chairman, Honour Sirawoo, where I was mischievously roped into the current SWAN/Mitchell Obi/AIPS controversy.
While the reason behind the cynical move remains unclear, I wish to make the following clarifications…
(1) I served SWAN diligently to the best of my ability as a state Chairman (Imo), two-term national chairman, Sec-Gen ASJU and Africa’s unelected representative in AIPS EXCO.
(2) Current SWAN card was designed and introduced by my administration with the accompanying criteria for membership qualifications as listed by Sirawoo and captured in the Constitution. If SWAN Constitution should be implemented, it should be in totality. There is the provision in the constitution for associate membership , those who are not fully employed in media organisations as sports journalists. This group of people are not supposed to hold offices. And if you follow that section of the Constitution strictly, many in the current EXCO, ab initio, shouldn’t be there.
(3) When I heard about this issue, I refrained from making public statements on the matter because I did not want to further fire the embers of discord. I reached out to key actors involved like Mitchell Obi, Sirawoo, Lagos SWAN Chairman and Sports Editors in a bid to find a solution that will not lead to factionalisation of SWAN. I wanted to bring all parties to a round table so we could sort things out. Unfortunately, none of the parties saw this as a viable option.
(4) The hard stance taken by all parties cannot lead to a united SWAN.
(5) Let Nigeria not be the loser in any position we take. The international embarrassment could have been avoided if we adopted a peaceful resolution. I am of the opinion that two wrongs don’t make a right and you don’t kill a fly with a sledge hammer. Even if discrepancies were detected in Mitchell’s application, there should have been internal mechanisms that would have sorted that out without bringing it to public glare. National interest should have been paramount, more so when there was no other candidate from Nigeria.
(6) On the letter I was said to have written to AIPS in 2003, the crux of the matter was not Mitchell’s qualification or suitability for the job. Mitchell’s reputation as an internationally acclaimed sports journalist is not in doubt. What was an issue at the time was the manner the SWAN Leader at the time went about endorsing Nigeria’s candidate for that position. I repeat, I NEVER QUESTIONED MITCHELL’S QUALIFICATIONS. HE WAS AND STILL IS, EMINENTLY QUALIFIED TO HOLD THAT OFFICE. I vehemently reject any attempt to deny any qualified Nigerian of such opportunity provided he meets the laid down requirements . I have been informed by SWAN Lagos, that Mr Mitchell Obi is not in default.
(7) I can’t claim to know where Sirawoo was in 2003 to make reference to AIPS activities that year but our president should guard against being manipulated by fifth columnists.
(8) My position is that this impasse cannot be resolved by people justifying their hard stance.
(9) My EXCO also inherited a SWAN in crisis but we reached out to all stakeholders and ensured the association regained its voice with landmark achievements.
(10) Our AIPS representative needs the national body and should have regular interface with his constituency. Should the parties involved opt for peaceful resolution, many past and present leaders will be ready to help. God bless us all.
Former National Chairman, SWAN