On at least two occasions, dangerous weapons have been used on opponents at venues of elections into the Lagos chapters of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). These attacks led to severe injuries that were sustained by some members of the association.
To forestall a repeat of the ugly incident, the association’s electoral committee (ASECO) which is headed by highly – respected former national president of the association, Alhaji Inua Mohammed relocated the venue of the elections to the highly-fortified and impregnable Nigeria Army’s Command Guest House situated within the Apapa GRA. No only that, the ASECO ensured that the venue was top secret until about 36 hours to the day of election.
But despite all the water-tight arrangement, the election could not hold, simply because some ‘powerful’ forces within the Western axis of the association pressed burtons and got the ears of the Army authourities to stop the use of the guest house for a purpose which the authourities had been adequately and for which permission had been granted.
Apart form this, another set of senior members of the association; also form the West had placed a ‘caveat emptor’ on the whole exercise via a paid advertorial in a national newspaper in which they claimed that there exist a court order forbidding the election.
In addition to these, there was a high presence of hired members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) who stayed close by waiting to unleash terror on their paymaster’s supposed enemies.
Elections into the various chapters in ANLCA had been successfully conducted, specifically in the East and the North. The same process that was adopted in other places has been frustrated by ‘powerful’ forces within the association in the West; more specifically in Lagos. For this reason, it has been difficult to conduct elections into the charters within the zone.
The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents prides itself as the oldest umbrella body for licensed customs agents in Nigeria. Dr Rafiu Oladipo (presently of the Nigerian Football Supporters’ Club) remains the first ‘documented’ president of the association and older generation members of the association also say that there was an interregnum of some years before Alhaji Sani Kamba stepped in to become the national president of a new look ANLCA which still enjoys a pride of place till today.
Alhaji Kamba’s tenure was followed by that of Mr Peter Okocha, Aare Sanni Shittu, Alhaji Inua Mohammed and Chief Ernest Elochukwu as national presidents.
This newspaper had cautioned on this same page some months ago that unless something was done and done fast, ANLCA was on the verge of losing its relevance.
As at the time, it was simply about an ANLCA that was torn in between tribal hegemonists within its Western axis. A group which wanted to arm-twist and which insisted that its preference must be considered when the time for elections into the Lagos chapters come up started wiping up ethnic sentiments.
And true to their threat, they and their agents have truncated attempts to elect leaders into the executive councils in Tin Can, Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Seme border (all in Lagos) and Idiroko, in Ogun state.
Why on earth will some people frustrate genuine attempts to democratise like other chapters if not because of selfish interests? Why should a group of people stand as stumbling block in the match by an association to regain its lost glory?
For probably the same reason, the association’s board of trustees has practically transmuted to the national executive council, refusing to conduct elections since taking over some months ago.
The Western Zone of the association which used to be the rallying point has gradually lost that enviable position as tribal warlords reach for the jugular of the chapters while stakeholders, especially young and up coming members of the association watch helplessly.
While commending the efforts of Alhaji Inua Mohammed and members of the association electoral committee for their commitment, we urge that they should be more resolute to see the process through. History may not be fair to them if the hurdles can not be crossed and these elections conducted.
The presence of OPC at the venue of the last effort at conducting the elections and the level of violence which characterised previous attempts are indicative that the forces are bent on enthroning their puppets and circumventing popular wish. This is certainly undemocratic.
Perhaps they will need to seek guidance from those who had carried out similar assignments in the past, the latest being Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu whose committee refused be cowed by anything to when it was given a similar task a couple of years back.
Equally, it is high time elders of the association in the Western axis took a cue from their counterparts in the eastern axis who always speak with one voice and who have more united and more purpose driven chapters and who have taken over the previously held leadership mantle from their western counterparts.
Those who truncated the last process are obviously conscious of the fact that their candidate(s) would lose. They are certainly not democrats; neither are they good ambassadors of the Yoruba race.
They should not be under any illusion that they can lay claim to being custodians of the leadership slots in these chapters simply because they are south west chapters.