BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
The fortunes, image and relevance of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) has been on a free fall for five straight years running.
Every member of the association is feeling the pinch and every member except those who chose to live in denial knows deep down in their heart that should the trend continues after the coming election, ANLCA will be completely displaced, immaterial and become dead, literally.
As such, its members will finally lose their collective voice and bargaining power, and thus disintegrated, be unable any more to engage in profit making clearing and forwarding businesses; since they will be completely at the mercy of the industry and government fiscal policies.
Only the strong and those already made may continue unaffected, while those in the struggling bracket and the vulnerable, the smaller agents with limited capacities will be left unprotected by the otherwise big umbrella power of a going ANLCA, united and focused at all front.
Given the above possibility, there is no gainsaying in warning that members must think straight and ensure that their votes will usher in the right leadership with the right competence and capacity, character, confidence and trust, that is expected to rub off the past stains, moral and economic deficits, failings and inefficiencies, needless industry acrimony and self effacement that has been the worth of ANLCA since the Enugu election of 2018.
However anyone wish to twist and turn, the irreducible fact as of today is that ANLCA is at a crossroad and need a performance orientated leadership, one with recognizable capacity to pull it out of the woods.
ANLCA does not need the politics of self adulation and crass idiosyncrasy, what the association and members need is character and capacity to deliver in all fronts.
Members should ‘shy their eyes’, and should be able and willing to reason together, or at least to engage in soul searching and be circumspect at the personal level, given ANLCA’s precarious situation.
Every sane man would deploy the right tools including seeking the right human help to put out the fire on his roof. He does not have to like the face of the man with the proper agility, right drill and appurtenances to put out the fire, sentiments will not serve his need.
Those who understand ANLCA without bias say it is a burning house, and cautions that it is its members’ duty to put out the fire that has engulf its house by engaging the right hands. To all intent and purposes, this fire has been burning and smouldering, leaving ruins on its trail, while those positioned to watch over its affairs and commonwealth are believed to have proved largely incapable, if not entirely indifferent.
Therefore, the 2023 election should not be one for those with baggage of failure and those who are not only suffused with indifference but with scathing arrogance. In the military, the cliché that says ‘do not reinforce failure with reward’ should hold true under the present dispensation.
Two presidential candidates have emerged, Dr. Kayode Colins Farinto and Mr. Kingsley Emenike Nwokeoji; whose stewardship and leadership track records are in the public space and well known to its members.
While one appears to be excusing his abysmal performance and failures based on purported acting capacity limitations, the other has proudly referenced his achievements in the legacy left behind by Prince Olawiyola Shittu; whom he deputized, with scintillating loyalty, industry and character.
It is on record that the Shittu presidency and its unmatched successes was a story of collective in which Nwokeoji was an asset and team player. It is also on record that his successor, Tony Nwabunike tenure was not only challenged by acts of disloyalty by those who should offer him the most support; it is said there was a gang-up that led to Nwabunike losing grip steadily, which ultimately also played up in silhouette and sabotages, under which atmosphere the former president secured a safe retreat.
It has been almost a year and a half since Farinto took charge of ANLCA, those in the know say it is hard to say if any achievement can be ascribed to the association, 2018 to date; before or after he became the official de facto president.
In the interval, ANLCA has since lost touch and goodwill with a number of federal institutions such as the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigeria Customs Service and the organized private sector participants, among who the association hitherto enjoyed the benefit of critical engagement.
For a long time already, members no longer enjoy the benefits of ANLCA’s status intervention and protection, while members’ occupational cost-benefits analysis is believed to have plummeted drastically.
Whether we like it or not, the 2023 ANLCA Election is one of restoration to which both camps have subscribed. It will also be a make or mar election. The only debate and point of disagreement is which camp has what it takes to deliver. Everyone knows that performance and character are inherent and cannot be hidden; precisely in keeping with the popular axiom that ‘no man can give what he does not have.’
Those familiar with the ANLCA sad commentary since the inception of the Nwabunike/Farinto administration also knows that those who ignited the crisis and have continued to fuel it, directly and indirectly are still active.
They are not merely still hanging on to the reins of power through utmost desperation and process manipulations, the main actors have expressed interest to contest in this election, and have been scheming to retain power through electoral trickery and convoluted conspiracies.
But since no fraudulent manipulations can succeed without the human element, members have the duty to resist attempts to compromise them, and to ensure that they vote for restoration, peace, productivity and true democratic dividends.
Nothing else will suffice. At the risk of repetition, let it said loud and clear that if ANLCA fail to get it right in the forthcoming election, chances of recovery will be very slim if not entirely impossible, thereafter.
With Prince Segun Oduntan as his running mate, Nwokeoji has replicated the astuteness of the ALCA 2010 Election which paraded people with capacity, character and diligence.
What is more, only people with character and moral are wont to respect association’s internal democratic dynamics and doctrines. ANLCA has a regime of rotational power arrangement, under which Prince Olayiwola Shittu served out his two terms of combined eight years, without an Igbo member seeking to upset the arrangement.
Under that arrangement, it is the turn of Igbo, hence in the 2018 election the contest was exclusive to the Igbos, and thus between Nwokeoji and Nwabunike; which is to lapse in 2026, devoid of the ambush by Nwabunike’s administration in 2020 vide the controversial Owerri AGM.
It is a shame that supposed elders and certain principal officers who have championed the sustenance of this doctrine has suddenly become ethnic turncoat and moral outcasts, currently drumming support for a Yoruba candidate; whilst it should be the other way around.
When it is said that Nwokeoji possess the capability to rebuild and restore ANLCA the facts are not far-fetched. Amongst his leadership credential is a mirror of character and integrity. Despite losing the 2018 election to Iju Tony Nwabunike amid controversy, he conceded defeat in a sportsmanship like manner and also graced Nwabunike’s inauguration ceremony in Lagos. Character cannot be more demonstrable.
At the said election, his boss and then outgoing National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, manifestly supported Nwokeoji’s ambition to succeed him, a rather uncommon practice in Nigeria where principals deploys every arsenal at their disposals to prevent their deputies from succeeding them.
That demonstration of confidence and trust in Nwokeoji was perhaps the greatest testimony yet about his capacity to nurture ANLCA and improve on its fortunes at the time. Those who knows the presidential candidate closely says it is his singular wish at this time to revamp and reposition the association; by way of giving back.
Perhaps, l should leave members with the concerns and verdict of the following persons, in the hope these will help in shaping their views and ultimately help them to vote correctly.
Pius Ujubuonu, Estwhile Interim NECOM National President
“We are expectant and hopeful that after the long period of impunity by those who lack personal discipline and public decency, the duo of Nwokeoji and Oduntan have stepped out to wrest ANLCA from captivity.
“All the smiling faces here is the expressions of our hearts, we are elated because we are hopeful that the good days will be here again, where customs agents and the ANLCA family can now reconnect with the mission and vision that brought us together.”
Baba Alhaji Audu, leader of the Arewa Maritime Group
“We are not happy with the situation ANLCA is in now, so we are looking for a great man that will carry us along and bring us back to the right track. We have purchased the vice presidential nomination form for Prince Segun Oduntan to run as Chief Emenike (Nwokeoji) vice. We need government of national unity, we need people that can sanitize the system, unite our association and carry everybody along.”
Brother Chukudi Ike
“I happen to be one of the front runners for the support of Emenike Nwokeoji, at least to complete the tenure of the Igbo in line with the zoning arrangement which has given us a pedestal for peace and equity. I am a full believer (of the rotational arrangement) and I will continue to support it anytime, any day. That’s why I am now saying that it is not yet time for the Yoruba to come into leadership, because I worked with President Olayiwola Shittu for eight uninterrupted years of two terms.
“The Nwokeoji/Oduntan Team wants to rescue ANLCA from the doldrums’. We got to a height which was very enviable under the legendry leadership of Prince Olayiwola Shittu. Some of us, seeing ANLCA in a shadow of itself, we don’t feel happy. That’s why we have come to pick the forms, first for Emenike, and today for Oduntan as his running mate.”
Kabiyesi Waidi Ajibola Sadiku
“We have been getting it wrong for quite some time and as a family, we must take steps to get it right. We did not come to the port to do unionism, but along the line, unionism joined us together. We are here to support Omoba Segun Oduntan to be the running mate to Emenike Nwokeoji.
“I don’t want to talk much, but I want to say we don’t need hustlers in this business any longer. We need leaders who can use their money and influence to take us to a very enviable height. ANLCA is in a trouble state, we need people who can fix the problems, not people who will be adding to it. A hustler is more concerned about himself and not the association.”
From the testimonies above, Nwokeoji and Oduntan emergence is clearly a product of recognition and consultation, with no room for desperation and its concomitant acts that promotes such tendencies.
He and his running mate have lived past everyday struggle for survival. While simply maintaining and nurturing their businesses, their present effort to return to active association politics is the yearning to help pull ANLCA out of the gutter.
With their experience and abounding goodwill, ANLCA can only get better. ANLCA needs both gentlemen, and not the other way around. And it stands to reason that all they are asking is for members to show the required courage to choose service over sentiment, capacity over brigandage, competence over arrogance, lawfulness over impunity, and accountability over rascality.
Without controversy, Nwokeoji/Oduntan’s victory at the forthcoming election is indisputably ANLCA and that of its vulnerable members’.