By Patrick Omorodion
Before 1995, the Lagos State chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN)Â was in real mess. The Executive Committees were regularly changed for inefficiency or fraud. Members lost faith in the Association and the public looked at members with scorn.
However, a group of senior members in 1995 led by Muyiwa Daniel, a.k.a MD, put heads together to map a way forward for the association and the result was the emergence of a vibrant Executive Committee led by Tony Ubani.
The Committee included yours sincerely as secretary general, Adeniyi Adeshina, vice chairman, Simon Ekpe, Femi Solaja, Ben Efe andÂ John Ebhota among others. The Ubani team secured a second term with this writer still as secretary general and John Akopdovhan as vice chairman among others.
During our tenure which lasted from 1995 to 1999, eminent Nigerians were appointed Patrons of the Association like Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, the late Prince Dokun Abidoye, the late Daniel Idama, former chairman of Julius Berger Football Club of Lagos, Dan Ngerem, respected cleric, Rev Moses Iloh and together with these men of vision, the Ubani Exco took SWAN to the highest level in its history.
Its programmes drew the attention of the corporate world as well as individuals like Coca Cola, Cadbury, Adidas and Taribo West who sponsored the annual 5-Aside football competition. The Ubani team tried to put up a secretariat for the association at the National Stadium in Surulere but their effort was frustrated by then sports minister, Chief Jim Nwobodo, who claimed that Lagos SWAN was too antagonistic of his regime.
After the Ubani team left, another set of visionary leaders with Frank Ilaboya as chairman and Joe Apu as secretary general came on board. Together with the Patrons, the Association finally secured a space at the National Stadium where it started its secretariat, courtesy of Dr Amos Adamu, then director of sports development in the sports ministry. Ilaboyaâ€™s effort was consolidated by his successor, Emeka Enechi but the team got stuck at a point.
Before the new team led by Chairman Niyi Oyeleke and Fred Edoreh as secretary general came on board, activities of the association went under and Patrons were either no longer carried along or they were no longer interested in SWAN affairs.
The lull however, became a thing of the past last week as the Association once again was revived by the Oyeleke team who consulted with its Patrons like Rev Iloh, Ngerem, Okoya-Thomas and one of the new entrants and a supporter of grass-root sports, Chief Enoch Ajiboso, a commissioner with Lagos State in-charge of Agric and Co-operatives.
The big story is that, for the first time in many years, the Grand Patron of the association who is the Governor of the state visited the Executive Committee and some top members to discuss on ways to lift the association back to its number one status in the country, the same way the state government is number one among the 36 states of the federation.
Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola showed why he is the man of the people, very humble and ready to mingle with his subjects. Rev Iloh summed it all in his prayer for the action governor when he said that â€œNigeria has never had any governor like Fasholaâ€ as he prayed God to keep him alive not only for Lagos but the entire country.
During the mind-rubbing session, Edoreh presented a list of demands which the association sought the governorâ€™s support for. His presentation was well crafted and articulated and he got a loud applause for his flawless presentation, which the governor also acknowleged.
In his response, Governor Fashola however, told the Executive that it did a fine job but forgot to put the cost of the completion of the secretariat to a world standard.
Assuring Lagos SWAN of his governmentâ€™s support, the governor said the cost would determine if the governmentâ€™s support will come once in piecemeal. He promised to assist the association improve the lives of its members through the soft loan for small scale businesses and advised that they should apply through the appropriate ministry or agency.
On the issue of refresher courses, the governor said instead of going abroad for such, the state would be ready to bring in experts into the country to organise the courses here for the maximum benefit of members.
He however, regretted the stop of the annual competitions Lagos SWAN usually held including the friendly with the All Stars Football team of which he is a member. He recalled how they beat SWAN in one of the matches as he told the audience how the government is helping to engage the youths of the state through programmes like the MTN Street Soccer competition, the revived Principalsâ€™ Cup among others.
He would not end without talking about the sad aspect of the on-going Africa Nations Cup in Angola. One, he said, was the shooting incidence that took the lives of some members of the Togolese contingent and two, according to him, was the loss of the Super Eagles to Egypt.
He however, assured that all hope was not lost as he called on Nigerians to show love and support for the team in their remaining group matches.
His prayer was kind of answered on Wednesday when the Eagles rallied to a 3-0 win over the loquacious Mambas of Mozambique and picked a quarter-final ticket to meet either Cameroon or Tunisia on Monday.