BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Whenever man ignores the little things that matters most in the belief that everything must gravitate towards him, he often misses the healthy connectivity with his environment and others.
He will sooner come to the bitter realization that he has marred his own progress in whatever activity or undertaking he has entered into due to his arrogant, erroneous thinking that he is the centre of all things.
But it would already be too late, since his opponent who leaves no gap in his humility and meticulous strides in the pursuit of his contest for a leadership office would have reached out to everyone that matter and secured their support.
Like in a dance, competition or not, knowledgeable dancers don’t start with the wrong foot first, otherwise they will make costly mistakes that can hardly be filled up. Long after the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA) election was supposed to have been concluded, some presidential candidates just remembered last week that the association has former leaders they should pay courtesy visits.
This seeming lack of respect and similar disturbing traits has been the undoing of ANLCA in the past few years; but the election is near and the men have shown themselves apart from the boys.
The Emenike Nwokeoji and Segun Odutan (ENSO) Restoration Team has left nobody in doubt that they possess the genuine aspiration to offer selfless service, especially with the agenda to restore all that has been lost since 2018; when the current crisis of the association started because those who lost election refused to go; which point was succinctly made at the Customs Consultative Council (CCC) recent peace initiative parley with the two camps standing for election and other organs of the association, in attendance.
Recall that immediately the ENSO presidential candidate and his running mate, together with the team flagged off their campaign at the Amusement Park Lagos, the team started going from one former past leader to the other, to pay their respect and to solicit for their blessings, support and votes. Some members of the opponent presidential candidate had sniggered and made jokes of the ENSO Visits, boasting they don’t need the endorsement of expired, past leaders.
Last week in an apparent Volta face, they visited Prince Olayiwola Shittu, the most celebrated past national president of the association, who reportedly reminded them that he does not keep grudge. If the elections had run since the initial May 2023 date according to the permutations of those desperate for power, those who went to visit the past president last week would have been in office for two months, since there was no campaign presidential opponent at the time; and should the elections have held according to their prompting.
There is no gainsaying the obvious that ANLCA has been in crisis, one that has put the association at a cross road of monumental reverses. It is common knowledge that the crisis started in 2018 when Chief Henry Njoku lost the new Board of Trustees (BoT) chairmanship election but refused to leave. While those that ignited the crisis and have continued to fuel it, directly and indirectly, in the bid to remain relevant; together, they have joined forces for some of them to stage a comeback.
Their attempts to do so through the back door and vide repeated convoluted AGMs designed for the purpose has however been stoutly resisted and effectively aborted, to their chargrin. Even with the CCC Peace Accord, their machine of manipulation is still humming with the vibes of temptation.
Until the CCC intervention that produced a Peace Accord and Election Timetable recently, they were not merely still hanging on to the reins of power through utmost desperation and process manipulations, but more confounding is the fact that they have also been scheming to retain power through electoral trickery and ungodly conspiracies at unusual official high places, and through the unimaginable display of utmost dishonesty possible only amongst twisted souls and minds.
So far, the developments of the past five years has been one of continuous minuses which has literally brought ANLCA to it’s knee; with the attendant loss of relevance, influence and indeed, direction. For a once proud association with undisputed national identity, industry visibility and goodwill, its primary goal which is the protection of members overall gains against unjust fiscal and operational policies, and checks against oppressive and official high handedness, have since been lost.
Gratefully after what seemed like an endless void, the atmosphere changed into one of huge hope and great expectations with the coming of the former most cerebral Vice President of the association, Mr. Kingsley Emenike Nwokeoji, and an equally, detribalize, successful and impactful former Tin Can Port Chapter Chapter, Segun Oduntan and their group under the ENSO Team.
Those whose business it is to know explains reasons the ENSO Team is the only saving grace at this material time, if ANLCA is not to be completely obliterated.
Pius Ujunuono, an erstwhile interim president of the national executive committee (NECOM), described the Nwokeoji/Oduntan joint ticket as the most heartwarming news coming the way of the association in recent time.
“We have not been happy, 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.
“I am a realist, l am not saying Emenike and Oduntan’s victory at the election will be a walk over, we know about the landmines and sordid fraudulent machinery those desperate to hang on to power have erected, but having been bruised and shortchanged by them for this long, l believe that common sense will prevail, so that together, we can say to those that have held us hostage, enough is enough.”
He continued: “Ordinarily, like Emenike said in a recent newspaper interview, we needed to put our house in order before talking about election, but like most of you in the media know, those holding the association to ransom are intent at stretching their impunity so that they can perpetuate themselves in office.
“In order to avert this, the good people in ANLCA resolved that since it takes iron to cut iron, we should confront them at the election and seek through the otherwise constitutionality of the process to end their reign of impunity.”
Also speaking after leading a group of supporters to the ANLCA National Secretariat to pick Segun Oduntan’s nomination form, Alhaji Audu said they believe that Oduntan fondly also called Omo Oba has the experience, exposure and personality to join Nwokeoji to secure a breather for the revival of ANLCA through effective reordering of priority that recognizes the yearning of members; and to work to reposition the association, in the determined effort to achieve a restoration of all that has been lost.
“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 need government of national unity, somebody that is going to unite our association and to carry everybody along, and to sanitize the system”, he said.
Also speaking, Chief Chukudi Ike said “The Nwokeoji/Oduntan Team wants to rescue ANLCA from the doldrums’. We got to a height which was very, very enviable under the legendry leadership of Prince Olayiwola Shittu. He took ANLCA to a very great height and today, some of us, seeing ANLCA in a shadow of itself, we don’t feel happy.”
He described Nwokeoji as an accomplished customs broker, a competent and detribalized personality, who demonstrated his worth and versatility as a loyal vice president to Prince Olayiwola Shittu, between 2010 and 2018.
It will be recalled that owing to Nwokeoji’s charming personality, undivided loyalty and leadership acumen, Shittu stoutly supported his ambition to succeed him; in a rare gesture to be seen in our polity, either at the national or sub national levels.
Despite losing the 2018 election to Iju Tony Nwabunike despite the alleged fraud, Nwokeoji nevertheless conceded defeat in a sport like manner and also graced Nwabunike’s inauguration ceremony in Lagos. Perhaps, no one could be more unassuming, more open minded and committed to the ideals, goals and aspirations of ANLCA.
It is for no other reason that Ike summed up the acceptance of Nwokeoji and Oduntan to throw their hats in the ring as a ‘rescue mission.’
He said, “Emenike is a seasoned maritime practitioner, he worked closely with the most brilliant and the most successful president of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, and I know that he will carry on from where we stopped and rebuild what has been destroyed. He is coming for a rescue mission, to rescue ANLCA”, adding:
“Remember that Prince Oduntan was Chairman in Tin Can Chapter at the time, when you look at their joint ticket (Nwokeji and Oduntan), it gives you hope and assurance. To rescue ANLCA means to reunite, focus and work, not to abuse or blackmail institutions and establishments.”
During the campaigns Kabiyesi Waidi Ajibola Sadiku, has been consistent with the notion that ANLCA is under what can be described as been under ‘intensive care’ and requires competent and qualified people with vision and character, influence and the wherewithal to embark on its rescue, as against those without capacity.
“When we say we are supporting Emenike Nwokeoji and Omoba Segun Oduntan as his running mate, we are pretending about it. 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.
“I don’t want to talk much, but I want to say we don’t need hustlers in the leadership of ANLCA 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”, he said.
On his part, Joe Sanni, former National Publicity Secretary said the emergence of Nwokeoji and Oduntan is the best thing to happen to ANLCA at this point in time.
He said, “Assuming without conceding that the electoral processes that is ongoing in ANLCA presently isn’t what it should be, fact is that men of integrity like Emenike Nwokeoji for National President and Prince Segun Oduntan for National Vice President, have shown up on the scene.”
Emenike was a former Chairman Port Harcourt Area 1 and the pioneer Chairman Onne Chapter. He has been served in various capacity as Zonal Secretary and Zonal Coordinator before serving as a very loyal National Vice President (2010 to 2018). His presidential aspiration is supported with the right leadership experience, the wherewithal, clout, capacity and sincerity of purpose.
Unlike those who are desperate to use the office to pursue their personal interests, Nwokeoji has a history of responsible, loyal and selfless service.
This is demonstrated through his diligently working relationship with his boss, the then National President, Prince Olayiwola Shittu, step by step; all the way. He did not at any time attempted to pull the carpet out of his boss’ feet, he did whatever duty was assigned to him and has no record of subversive tendencies.
Owing to his honest and reliable leadership acumen, it is also on record that Nwokeoji has served in a number of inter-governmental committees, some of which has been at the presidential level. His capacity and sincerity is therefore common knowledge.
Nor his his running mate, Omo Oba, Prince Segun Oduntan any different, and has a track record of meritorious stewardship in the politics of ANLCA. Between 2017 and 2021 when he was the Tin Can Chapter chairman, Oduntan grew the asset base of the chapter, and established a free insurance scheme for members for members.
For all it is worth, the upcoming election is not only a defining moment for members but one of decision time. It is the offering of a rare opportunity for members of ANLCA to choose wisely by voting the ENSO Team.
From all indications, testimonies and affirmations, the two gentlemen holds the answer to the revival of the association, and as sure guarantee to better time for members and their businesses.
At one of the recent campaigns in Lagos, Nwokeoji and Oduntan believed to be eminently accomplished and blessed, said their motivation is to serve and to help rebuild ANLCA. The task is also more of their desire to give back to the association through honest and selfless service. What can be more serene, their emergence was clearly a product of recognition, consultation and amity; unlike the demonstration of morbid desperation in some quarters, who unsure of themselves have resorted to mayhem and physical attacks of opponents during campaigns.
As has been aptly accentuated by HRH, Kabiyesi Waidi Ajibola Sadiku, Nwokeoji and his running mate have lived past everyday struggle for survival. While simply maintaining and nurturing their businesses, their present efforts to return to active association politics just so to help pull ANLCA out of the ditch stand them out as gentlemen.
In doing so, they have resolved to give their time and energy, give themselves and resources, which is the hallmark of genuine service. Like the National Secretariat that has lost colour, fixture, beauty and attraction, and has become a dungeon of sort, Nwokeoji and Oduntan has promised to have it renovated and made attractive once again for the use of all members and stakeholders.
They also promised to build an Abuja Office if elected to make their presence at the Federal Capital a reality that will bring the association closer to government.
With their experience and abounding goodwill, ANLCA and will sooner move past the pariah status it has since been relegated. It can only get better when ANLCA is again able to relate appropriately with Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers Council, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Aviation Authority, amongst others; and there is no doubt that these two gentlemen holds the ace to total recovery.
The other option is for ANLCA and its teeming struggling members to remain where they have been in the past five years, looking forlorn and neglected like an orphan, with vulnerable members having no one to fight for them when they run into problems with the authorities.
These are the deficits that Nwokeoji and Oduntan have pledged to come and reverse and make good, and all they are asking is for members to show the required courage to choose service above sentiment, capacity over brigandage, competence over arrogant posturing, lawfulness over impunity, and by no means the least, accountability over rascality.
As things stand and without any gainsaying, Nwokeoji and Oduntan by providence are well established and comfortable; to the extent they individually can sort themselves out in the industry.
Thousands of their struggling members in ANLCA still need support and protection, something that has been a scarce menu in the past five years, owing to the kind of selfish, closed door leadership as well as lack of capacity.
Now is the time for ANLCA members to choose wisely, by voting the ENSO Team, who will not only fulfill their campaign promises but re-establish the broken down members collective-interest structure.