By Aderonke Ojo
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has been urged to either immediately dissolve the 2019 SWAN National Elections Committee or witness a gradual disintegration of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN).
The demand was made by a group of senior sports journalists drawn from several media houses across the country, through a letter to the NUJ President, Chris Isiguzo.
The group, in the letter submitted to the NUJ President in Abuja on Tuesday, said the time has come for the union to intervene in the “strange happenings’’.
In the letter signed on behalf of the group called “Concerned SWAN members’’ by two former Secretaries-General of SWAN, Andrew Abah and Olawale Alabi, fears were expressed about the upcoming SWAN National Elections.
“….we have been worried by various events in the Association. We have observed that the …. events are very inimical to the continued existence of the Association.
“The failure of the 2019 SWAN National Election Guidelines to be derived from both the SWAN Statutes and the NUJ Constitution, as highlighted by the Lagos, Edo and Kano chapters of SWAN at recently-held Congresses, is indeed outrageous.
“The Congresses of these state chapters raised the issues of item 6 of the 2019 SWAN National Elections guidelines, which unjustifiably strips the SWANECO of the right to screen for voting delegates from the state chapters.
“This item therefore allocates the responsibility of clearing voters to the National Secretariat, thereby giving room for manipulation by the incumbent. This is wrong.
“Item 11 of the guidelines, which says candidates for the positions of President and Secretary-General must have served in any capacity at state chapter level and must have been a member of NEC, is also an alarming requirement.
“This is a contravention of the SWAN Statutes, as it twists Article 13 b (i) into making a mockery of the process. A Full Member only needs to have served at state level to be eligible to contest.
“Also, items 4 to 7 of the time table/schedule indicate that the candidates may not have enough time in between to be able to respond to the demands of SWANECO and may have to be criss-crossing the country at the detriment of their health and job.
“The prohibitive cost of the nomination forms makes it look as if the elections were already meant for a few, and it does not allow for fairness.
“Asking candidates to pay between N70,000 and N150,000 for nomination forms into offices is a way of saying the offices are for the highest bidders,’’ the group which has members drawn from the FCT, Lagos, Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, Oyo, Ogun, Bauchi, Enugu and Anambra state chapters noted.
The “Concerned SWAN Members’’ also cited as instructive the resignation of the SWANECO Chairman, Yusuf Alhaji Isah, saying it was an indication that all was not well with the electoral body.
“We should all take a particular note of lines 2 to 4 in paragraph 2 of Isah’s resignation letter stating “…..due to some reasons which I consider threatening my integrity in person and also as chairman of NUJ Yobe state council…..’’.
The group also frowned upon the inclusion of Gabriel Nwanetanya of Rivers State, who is the Chief of Staff to the SWAN National Chairman, Honour Sirawoo, as a member of the SWANECO 2019.
“This is aimed at muzzling SWANECO, and this has been seen in certain untoward ongoings in SWANECO and which have led to the Chairman’s resignation.’’
It further noted that the refusal to announce the venue and date of the election, even after two months into the tenure of the SWANECO, was suspicious.
“This is an effort at denying candidates the opportunity of having an electoral process that is free and fair to all,’’ the group said.
It added that the insistence on the possession of current identification card by both candidates and voters was in furtherance of a move which has been on since April.
“That is just a way of disenfranchising many potential members of the opposition, when many members have paid for their cards of 2019 since April at least and are yet by Sept. 10 to receive the card or have any explanation made to them.’’
The “Concerned SWAN Members’’ then urged the NUJ to immediately dissolve the SWANECO as presently constituted, with an order for an immediate handover of all related documents to the NUJ Secretariat.
“Also, the NUJ should constitute a new electoral body with a mandate to conduct the 2019 elections within the next six weeks in Abuja.
“While we trust that as a trusted mother union you will always act with the best interests of your members and affiliate bodies in mind, we will not fail to inform you that failure to act now will lead to the fragmentation of SWAN as already being witnessed by the formation of some splinter groups.”(NAN)