BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Presidential aspirant of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Mr. Emenike Nwokeoji and his running mate, Prince Segun Oduntan yesterday encouraged members of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Chapter and their officers to henceforth show interest in elective positions at the national level, noting that it is not enough for the chapter to remain merely an onlooker despite its huge stake and commitment to the national administration.
Taking turns to address the absence of officers and members of MMIA Chapter in the ongoing national electioneering campaign, Nwokeoji and Oduntan assured members that the pool of national leadership will be more representative and the merrier, and promised to provide a special vehicle that will closely articulate and present issues that may be peculiar to the chapter for urgent treatment.
The ENSO Team and campaign Train which had visited the chapter in continuation of its nationwide campaign were treated to a carnival like reception by the leadership of the chapter and their members.
Addressing members of the chapter who turned out in their large numbers, Nwokeoji said the reason he threw his hat in the ring was the urge to help restore, rebuild and reposition ANLCA, which he said has since 2018 after the change of leadership baton fallen from glory to gutter, and from grace to grass.
He said ANLCA members have become orphans in the industry where they were once looked upon as princes and princesses, and regarded very highly as relevant stakeholders. He accused the expired but sit-tight National Executive Committee (NECOM) leadership led by the duo of Iju Nwabunike and Dr. Kayode Farinto for destroying the goodwill, image and integrity of the association since taking over in 2018.
He offered to along with his team, revive, rebuild and reintegrate ANLCA and its members back into reckoning if elected and asked members of the chapter to support and vote for the ENSO Team; assuring that the team has the capacity, the foresight, experience and wherewithal to successfully lead the restoration of ANLCA.
His words: “We are here as the restoration team. Why are we here? I was here 2018 and in your traditional passion you welcomed me and my team. I went for that election in Enugu and l lost by three votes. When I lost I walked across to my opponent, a brother, Tony Nwabunike, I hugged him and congratulated him. Those that were there will remember, the next morning I came to the hotel to meet my supporters, we had breakfast and I encouraged them to take whatever had happened in a sportsmanship spirit and they listened to me.
“I have been participating in every ANLCA stakeholders meeting where I am needed or invited. Anytime you are in any public office, once your tenure expires, go home and mind your business. We allow them to pilot the affairs of this association since 2018. Of course all of you know what happened. We have been in crisis and people that cannot perform keep telling us they want to return us to past glory, which glory are they talking about? The glory they destroyed?” he asked incredulously.
He proceeded to provide record of his stewardship and responsible conduct in office, serving as a dutiful vice president and not one that opposes or tries to antagonize or outshine the boss, obviously pointing fingers at some known contestants.
“Under Prince Shittu, the only constitutional right given to me as the Vice President is to be the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee. Any other constitutional role will depend on whatever the assignment given to me by the president was. And in that capacity as the chairman disciplinary committee, we inherited six cases from the past administration and then six other cases that were instituted against the administration. I was able to use diplomacy and leadership style to resolve all the cases before we handed you back to another administration. We did not leave one case unsettled.
“Ordinarily I will not share this experience but I need to, because from record one of the most difficult cases we handled was the case of bringing back Dr. (Kayode) Farinto to the association after he took Prince Shittu’s administration to court. It got to a point I sat with him one-on-one, because our position was very dicey and I appealed to him, l said “can you go and make peace with some of these people so that it will make it easier for us to bring you back?” And then, he made a very funny statement that nobody paid his school fee and that he will not apologise or beg anybody. But despite all of that, we were able to convince the leadership to readmit him.
“Some people bought him form to contest the NPS position later just to make sure peace reign. Why am I telling you this? You cannot offer or give what you do not have, Farinto was vice president from 2018 until early 2022 where Tony transmitted presidential power to him. In the past five years and more, we have lost respect among the agencies we are working with. We have lost integrity; we have lost everything that had made thick.
“They took over and destroyed the good relationship between us and the agencies of government, and now we are paying. An agent sleeps better nowadays when you have no job or bill of laden, the moment you are able to receive one bill of laden, your blood pressure will rise because you don’t know what you are going to meet on the field. This is the truth, in the east, I don’t know about the west, in the east it has been turbulent, it’s been burial upon burial, why must it be this way?
“And people have been enduring all this in the past five years. Their tenure was over in 2022, they claimed that there was a constitutional amendment, for God’s sake, we have just elected some governors and even the president, and they were issued certificate of return by INEC. Is it possible that these members in the 10th National Assembly can sit and amend the constitution to the point that instead of them serving four years that they would serve five years? It is not possible. They (Nwabunike/Farinto led NECOM) have all the right to amend the constitution, but they will not be the first beneficiary, no rule supports such travesty.
“But for obvious reasons we allowed them the one year, believing that things will change. They called again to extend their tenure for another three months. The three months was granted, the three months will expire in four days time. And yet crisis, there is no change in their conduct, they ride roughshod over everybody. As a result, all agencies of government have become like tiger waiting for us. Because of the arrogance and antagonism of this people, they treat us as enemies instead of partners in progress. We cannot continue this way.”
He continued: “During our tenure with Shittu as president, we were able to take agents out of this country to US, Greece and to Dubai. Many agents have the first opportunity of obtaining international passports and visas. We were members of so many international organizations… we made impact and it was giving us all opportunity of going abroad to interact with people.
“Today we have lost our collective voice. If you have any challenge now, you will go and sort it out yourself. If you have one job, no matter even if it is 30kg, you will see multiple alerts here and there…on one job, what do you do? Some of the alerts are coming from beyond the command. All these things are things we can sort out, if we are united like we were before 2018.”
He says the restoration team he leads will get everybody involved in the process of filling the gaps, reconstructing broken bridges, healing wounds, and opening doors, even if it meant having to fall back on retired and former leaders and the elders.
“The same way the restoration team has paid due respect to the soul of our former late president, Aare Shittu, same way we will continue to relate with our elders and past leaders. We have visited all the past presidents of this organization because we must give respect to who respect is due. And you can imagine if we have all these challenges and we now ask one or some of these past presidents, “please we need to see the controller general of customs or even the minister of finance on our issue, they will be quite willing to come out. If they are in the front we will be following, which door can they not knock and open for us to discuss our challenges?
“The capacity of a good leader is not to lead cool headed people; the capacity is for you to bring the cool headed, the hot headed together to achieve a common purpose. Our faces are different, so is our minds and so our attitude. All of us cannot behave the same way. So everybody has a role to play. We should learn how to meet one another and how to manage one another. You remember this administration we are talking about at a point suspended even past national leaders. They suspended the entire Western Executive that is not how to manage crisis. Our restoration team will talk and do, if you have your phone, record what we are saying now, later on maybe after a year, challenge us about what we have achieved as part of our manifesto.
“I encourage you to please support us by giving us your votes. My records are there to speak for themselves. I’ve been the secretary of Onne chapter, I’ve been two times chairman of Onne chapter, I’ve been zonal secretary, I’ve been zonal chairman, I’ve been vice president for eight years, and I have served in presidential committee at the national level. If I am a politician, l will add that I was a former presidential aspirant (general laughter).”
Responding to a question on the criteria required to partake in national executive leadership, he said the first requirement is expression of interest; and went on to enjoin members of MMIA chapter to seek to participate at the national level.
“I am aware that your chapter is one of the richest chapters, l also know that you contribute much to the national. Do not just sit back, take interest in the national affairs of ANLCA, it is a pity nobody from here is in our restoration team. With your kind support and votes, if we are able to get there, l will ensure that someone or a particular office represents your interest, so that whatever appears to be an issue can be looked into immediately.”
Also speaking, Oduntan informed that he actually made effort to talk someone from the chapter into contesting a national position, but that the person declined.
“I have served this association; we have done our bit at the chapter level before trying to go to the national. For some of us, it is a sacrifice; we have to go because many things are wrong, so that we can serve again and fix those things. We have done it in the past, and what I am coming to do now is just to be able to assist my incoming president carry out his program.
“I don’t have a program but I can tell him, let us do it this way, but that is not to rock the boat, it would be an advise. We are all joiners in the affairs of ANLCA, from day one, it is about what we are going to eat that we are looking for, thank God some of us have been able to establish ourselves; that is the more reason we must look back and offer to serve, to solve problems.”
Others who spoke include Comrade Sewa Soleji, Nze Theodore Ejezie and Alhaji Idowu Owoade, vying for the post of Western Zone Coordinator; Assistant National Secretary and Western Zone Secretary, respectively.
Chairman of the MMIA Chapter, Prince bamgbala Adewusi in his remark thanked Nwokeoji and his team, even as he applauded the presidential aspirant’s leadership capacity and wealth of experience, and said the chapter under his leadership will be quite willing and ready to work harmoniously with his government, should victory come his way.
The ENSO Campaign Team which visited the MMIA Customs Area Command was also received by the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Mohammed Umar in his office, who wished the team the best of luck in its aspiration.