IN THE NEWS: An appraisal of 54th SWAN Full Council Meeting in Port Harcourt
BY EMMANUEL AKPAN
……….It was a gathering of sports writers and presenters. A moment where sports promoters across the country came together again to fashion a new course.
A meeting, sports enthusiasts met to x-ray and examine the journey of SWAN so far in the past one year. An annual meeting which was tagged, “Sports Development and National Unity: The Role of SWAN” had in attendance National Executive Members (NEC), Chairmen and Secretaries of all the chapters of the association.
Formed on February 1, 1964 with a charged to coordinate the activities of the Nigerian media in the promotion of sports and their social cultural values, the 54th Full Council Meeting of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) took place at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The one-week event started on Monday 14th – 18th May, 2018 with the arrival of NEC members. Followed by Chairmen and Secretaries of each State as well as special guests on Tuesday. On Wednesday was the opening ceremony proper. It was a master and peculiar host by the Rivers State Government. All thanks to Rivers State Governor, His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, CON.
Speeches were made by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of Rivers State, Hon. Kenneth Kobani, African President of International Sports Press Association (AIPS), Mr. Mitchell Obi, National President of SWAN, Mr. Honour Sirawoo as well as past Presidents of SWAN.
After remarks, it was then time for lecture. Peter Esuh, Professor of Marketing Communications and Applied Rhetoric, Department of Communication Arts, University of Uyo, took the stage. He presented a paper on the topic “Sports Development and National Unity: The Role of SWAN”.
Presenting his paper, Professor Esuh said to achieve sports development and nation building, a sports writer is an exceptional journalist who watches the sails and the horizon of sports and positions it through promotion and presentation as the object of national cohesion and growth.
The University Don also noted that to achieve national sports development, Nigeria and the key players must concentrate efforts on sports policy, professionalism, institutions, infrastructure, programmes, funding, promotion and regulation. While submitting that sports are an important part of the Nigerian Culture today, the University of Uyo Professor said the interest and popularity of sports affect political, social, economic and educational dimensions of existence as a nation.
According to Peter Esuh, “To understand the role of SWAN, we need to get adequate knowledge of its aims and objectives in the modern day sporting environment. To understand the value chain of the objectives of SWAN, one must first understand the functional principle for its set up. The constitution of SWAN in its preamble professes: “we the professional sports journalists of Nigeria and members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), resolve this first day of February, 1964, to create a corporate body to be known as the “Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) charged with coordinating the activities of the Nigerian Media in the promotion of sports and their socio –cultural values.”
He however listed some of the aims and objectives of SWAN on his paper to include; to coordinate the activities of all professional sports writers in the country, develop and sustain a spirit of solidarity among members without infringing on their individual rights as journalists or as citizens, defend and uphold the moral and professional rights of members, explore avenues towards ideal working facilities for members and contribute through advise, suggestions, criticisms or other means to development and growth of sports in Nigeria and elsewhere.
Others include; to initiate and engender steps aimed at the continuous training and upgrading of sports writers locally and abroad, ensure that statutes of organization to which the association is affiliated is respected, collaborate and promote closer relationship between the association and other stakeholders in the sports industry, collate and circulate information to and among its members and to convey to other organizations its views and decisions among others.
The academic expert further stressed key roles of SWAN which is having direct and indirect bearing on the economy of Nigeria as a nation. Hear him, “Sports writers fight corruption in high places, they expose decay in our sporting polity including decay in infrastructure and facilities, moral decadence, abuse as well as draw attention to them. Sports writers were in most cases the exposers of tournament thus bringing about hosting rights that boost the economy of the people, cities, and states, including security network. A few times Nigeria hosted FIFA Age Grade Competitions; the rip-off was of great economic importance.”
“In the process of doing this, SWAN helps to boost and develop tourism in Nigeria. When major tournaments are held, a lot of people (tourist) move in and depend on the dexterity of the sports journalist to showcase the tourism potentials of the country. When we watch sports and engage in its recreational content, we forget that it is the sports writers that help the media to perform one of its cardinal functions –entertainment. SWAN approach to sports coverage brings about not only the commercial importance of sports to make that sense of pleasure for the well- being of citizens but the social interaction therein provides platform for patriotism and national unity.”
He pointed out that SWAN in partnership with the National Assembly should come up with a bill to establish a University of Sports in Nigeria, adding that sports has been identified as the second largest employer of labour and creator of wealth, saying establishing such a university as is found in the UK, India, United States etc., will expand the horizon of knowledge, impact on sports development and the general well- being of the country even as he reiterated that SWAN is a major stakeholder in sports development and that SWAN is therefore a major stakeholder in nation building.
Away from the opening ceremony, the business season of the day (Full Council Meeting) started properly and deliberations began in earnest. Both zonal vice Presidents and State Chairmen were given an opportunity to present their progress reports. Individual suggestions and contributions were also made in order to move the association forward.
After two days exhaustive deliberations, the council resolved as follows; that the Boko Haram insurgency has hampered the growth of sports in the North East and therefore called on State Governors in the region to use sports as a tool for engaging youths in the area meaningfully.
The council reviewed the level of Super Eagles’ preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and commended the Governments of Akwa Ibom and Rivers States for their role in the team’s qualification and preparation for the Mundial and urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to match its words with action by ensuring that the country’s senior National team surpasses previous achievements at the World Cup in Russia.
While acknowledging the promises made so far, the SWAN highest making body urged the Federal Government and the NFF to ensure prompt release of bonuses to the Super Eagles and avoid previous distractions occasioned by delay in releasing funds, and charged critical stakeholders to do the needful by ensuring that Nigeria put up a good performance in Russia. The Council also gave assurances that SWAN will play its role in ensuring the full reportage of Nigeria’s World Cup campaign in Russia.
Also, the council acknowledged with deep appreciation the financial commitment and efforts of the Rivers State Government under Barr. Nyesom Wike in contributing to sports development in Nigeria, particularly the hosting of the Meeting. The council also commended the role played by the SWAN leadership in the investiture of the Governor as the first recipient of Africa’s Power of Sports (POS) award at the AIPS Congress in Brussels, Belgium.
Council condemns the demolition of its Imo State Chapter’s office and decried the non-existence of a ministry responsible for sports development in Anambra State. The Association called for immediate action to address it and urged state governments to take the issue of sports development seriously in view of its ability to engage the nation’s teeming youths positively.
Council commended the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports for securing a host city for the National Sports Festival after six years since the last one and demanded the full involvement of SWAN members at all levels of the organisation of the event.
However, let me use this opportunity to commend the National President of SWAN, Mr. Honour Sirawoo for his visionary leadership qualities in piloting the affairs of the association. Again, I must give kudos to the Rivers State Government for approving the hosting of the 54th Full Council Meeting of SWAN.
The hospitality we enjoyed during our stay was a warm and memorable one. Members had enough fun and a happy deliberations in the busy city of Port Harcourt. Once again, congratulations to Honour Sirawoo led Executive for a successful hosting of the 2018 Full Council Meeting. Yours truly is looking forward to next year’s Full Council Meeting.