Miss Baliqees Salaudeen leading her group on visit to Radio Kwara

Iku doro: Tribute To Madam SWAN

 

 

By Fred Edoreh

 

 

 

She was a barely literate Ijebu woman. She had been selling at the National Stadium, Lagos, since 1975 when she was first employed as a sales girl in a sports shop until she started her own business, selling drinks, pepper soup and assorted snacks.

Her joint eventually became the meeting point for sports journalists who then didn’t have a secretariat, and sportsmen, administrators and managers who sought to interact with the journalists.

That was when I met her in the 1990s at which I came into sports journalism.

I saw that she was not just a trader but a mother to all sports journalists. She knew everyone of them closely and by name.

We would buy and owe her and all she would do was to yap us but still give us further credit. Those who didn’t have transport fare to go home or to their offices would borrow from her. Those who didn’t have foodstuff in their homes for the weekend would borrow from her. When our girlfriends, wives or children came calling, she would keep them, entertain them and harass anyone that attempted to molest them.

She knew everyone’s personal difficulties at home and office and she would intervene in a matter between an Editor and a reporter. She would attend all events relating to sports journalists, sportsmen, administrators and their families: from weddings to birthdays to burials and more, as a matter of duty.

People left their bags, cameras, midgets and other valuables in her shop. She kept money for sports journalists. In fact, our colleagues overseas sent dollars and pounds to her through persons coming to Nigeria for their families to go collect from her. She was so trusted and she never disappointed.

She cared so passionately for the welfare and career progress of sportsmen and journalists.

She was a Muslim, I am a Christian. She was Yoruba, I am Niger Deltan, but she practically campaigned and fought for my elections as two times Secretary and two times Chairman of Lagos SWAN even when I contested against her own people.

During Muslim fasting periods, top editors, top sportsmen, bank MDs would contribute money for her to cook for them to break their fast in the evenings. She would deliver and I as a Christian shared the rations. All she did was smile and laugh.

When Frank Ilaboya called a fund raising to commence the building of the Lagos SWAN Secretariat, she donated. Some of the newspapers anchored their headlines on the event on her solidarity, to the chagrin of the big donors.

When we completed the Lagos SWAN Secretariat, I had wanted her to take up the major space to expand her business but she declined, pointing out that she did not have the capacity to make the required investment for sophisticated upgrade.

At a point, she was relocated from the stadium gate area to the far back and remote end, but the new place still remained the rallying point for the sports community.

A Minister of Sports came along the line to insist on expelling businesses at the stadium. He said he wanted to reorganize the place. We were not averse to the plan but we only pleaded that he should plan it in such a way as to sustain the businesses and the over 5,000 employments at the stadium. He did not heed.

 

That was in 2020, the year of the COVID. After the lockdown and when the businesses were hoping to return, he brought down the shops and displaced the businesses despite our plea that the people needed time, having just returned from the six months lockdown. Sadly, even after the demolitions, no reasonable thing was done.

 

Many, including Madam SWAN were left stranded. They had no place to go nor funds to restart new businesses or rent new shops in new places.

Madam SWAN was living at Mushin. She had a plot of land at Ayebo area, in or close to Ogun State. It was undeveloped but under the circumstance, she had to relocate there to start a new life.

She had not the money to develop the place. She cried out to me. I reached out to my colleagues to raise funds for her. A community of Nigerian sports journalists in the Diaspora led by Rashid Adewuyi (Bafana Bafana) responded. Some of our local colleagues responded. But the collections were hardly enough to build her a new home and a new business place. Moreso, it was a completely new and strange environment for someone in late age.

She struggled with the situation but eventually descended into depression. All sorts of underlying ailments began to manifest stronger.

We tried to support but, under the reality of our economy, we could not be consistent.

I had thought I could put her on a monthly stipend. I tried to but I could not maintain it.

In fact, sometimes, I avoided her call. When I managed to pick, she would acknowledge that I had tried for her but that I should please not give up because she still relied on me.

Madam SWAN had three children – Lukman, Risikat and Kazeem – but she took me as her child. I did not know that her condition had deteriorated until Kazeem called me on Wednesday to say she had been taken to a hospital in Ijebu Ode and was like in a coma with symptoms of high sugar level, diabetes and the such; and that the hospital needed money to commence treatment.

I was far away in Delta with scant resources, trying to reorganize myself, but I reached out immediately to our friends: Felix Awogu, GM Supersport West Africa; Godwin Enakhena of Sports Flash and Secretary of Nigeria Professional Football League Club Owners; Rashid Adewuyi of Nigerian Diaspora Sports Journalists; Bimbo Adeola of the UK community of crazemen; Alhaji Gafar of 36 Lions and others. We raised more than the needed fund.

On Thursday morning, Risi called to inform that she was responding to treatment. In the evening, Kazeem called that Madam SWAN indicated that she wanted to speak with me but that she could not talk. It was arranged for Kazeem to put the phone on speaker while she just listened.

I was happy with the development and expecting to hear news of greater recovery later on, but on Friday night, Kazeem and Lukman called me to say that Madam SWAN had given up the ghost.

So, we lost the battle to save Madam SWAN in business and we also lost the battle to save her life.

I have looked at the reactions to my post about her on Facebook. Many sports men, women and journalists in Nigeria are grieving. So too are “her children by informal adoption” across the world, persons that she impacted their lives: Sylva Abure and Rasheed in Canada, Tee Cee, Rotimi Arabi in the US, Wunmi, Oyin Damola in England, Ladi Egbedire in Scotland, Stella Olajiga in Germany…They are too numerous to mention.

So too are senior colleagues in sports journalism: Emeka Inyama, Emeka Odikpo, Sam John, Gboyega Okegbenro, Alloy Chukwuemaka, Adekunle Salami, Osaretin Emuze…and many associates, Col Sam Ahmedu etc etc.

In the course of my leadership of Lagos SWAN, I had suggested that we do a celebration of her. I lost the vote. During the celebration of SWAN @50 +1, I also suggested that she be included in the awards. I also lost the vote. Sad too that I cannot immediately lay my hands on any photo of her.

She was “nobody” but, to me, she was “somebody,” one of the best of souls.

Madam SWAN will be buried at about 2pm today, September 16.

Iku ooo, iku doro
Iku pa biri, a biri ikun
Iku pa biri, a biri r’orun
Iku po nifa, o nifa ikun
A waa, a ori, a osun, a owo…

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