INTERVIEW: ANLCA Board Chairman Advises SIFAX Group Boss, Dr Taiwo Afolabi

Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha


Says he is too big For the “RofoRofo” Politics in ANLCA

By DAPO OLAWUNI

Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman of Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha in this interview with DAILY TREND NEWS in Lagos last week, said that, SIFAX Group Chairman, Dr.Taiwo Afolabi was misled into participating in the alleged “illegal” BOT elections conducted by the National Executive Committee (NECOM) of the association in Owerri, Imo State last year. He advised Dr. Afolabi not to dabble into the RofoRofo politics in ANLCA.

The ANLCA BOT Chairman also said he would never deny the fact that he knew the members who staged an attack on the ANCLA Secretariat last year.

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Give us a brief summary of the efforts towards achieving the Tin Can Island Port and Lagos Airport Chapter elections, and perhaps, what difficulties you encountered along the way

One basic thing about life is to stand firm for justice and for fair play, all these while that the crisis started, one of the reasons we delayed the Tin Can Port Chapter Elections and the Lagos Airport chapter Elections for over one year, was simply because we were looking at it that, perhaps, it could be part of the steps to make peace within ourselves. I remember the last time that some of our guys stormed the National Secretariat, and I kept saying it till tommorow, I will never deny the fact that I know these guys who actually went to the secretariat, they were our members, but where they got it wrong was when they invited the OPC boys with gun, not that they didn’t tell me that they wanted to protest, they told me they wanted to protest because of the way Tony Iju and his executives were making it look as if nothing can happen in the Western Zone.
I told them that, if you want to protest, carry your placards, call the press and stand in front of the secretariat, this is enough protest.
Where I am driving at is that, at the end of the day, at the instance of the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, when we were trying to make peace among ourselves, the Tony Iju and his group brought seven conditions for peace, and one of it was that all the Western Zone elections we had conducted before must be cancelled and re-conducted all over again, and that he wanted to immediately conduct the one of the Lagos Airport chapter.

Dr Taiwo Afolabi, Chairman of SIFAX Group

At the end of the day, I told the officer that I only came with two conditions which are; the board elections of 2018 that started the whole crisis must be recognised and respected, we are not compromising that, otherwise, based on what Tony Iju requested that we should go for another board elections, then what is the essence of fighting for the past two years? Part of of the conditions I had brought forward was that the Western Zone elections we conducted must stand, but at the end of the day, i agreed that we would conduct the elections all over again, and that i would appeal to all the members, this is because I am sure that these guys would still win the elections based on the fact that they are all popular in their chapters. We agreed on this.
The next day, we came back, and Tony Iju said without us agreeing to all their conditions, they are not going ahead with the peaceful resolution.
When we met with the OC SARS, we told him we cannot go ahead with the peaceful resolution. The officer told all of us there that, for now, nobody should conduct any elections, we should allow peace to reign, pending when we can make peace.
But what we saw next was that, Tony Iju went ahead to conduct Kano and Abuja chapter elections, as well as the so-called board elections they did in Owerri, despite all advise of the Police.
When our guys saw this, they started calling me that what stops us from conducting our own elections here? Since Tony Iju has violated the peaceful resolution conditions given by the police, we should also go ahead and conduct our own elections, so, it was on the strength of that we carried out these remaining elections.

You keep saying that you are still exploring avenues of peace with the Tony Iju executives, now that another BOT is in place, who do you want to negotiate with?

I believe that ANLCA is one, and whoever is ready to negotiate and engage us, we are ready, as long as I see that the person is being realistic and objective. It took me time to realise that Tony Iju and Henry Njoku were actually deceiving me personally, at the beginning of the crisis, I met with them one–on-one, not minding what we were discussing at board level or at national executive level, we discussed as friends. As far as we are concerned, the law recognises us as the authentic, registered BOT of ANLCA, the case is still in court.
If tommorow, Tony Iju decides that he wants peace in the association, I would be the first to jump at it.
But if I say that I am looking for peace in ANLCA, and you went ahead to conduct your own illegal elections, despite the fact that the court has ruled that you cannot parade yourselves in office as national executives.
They are busy interpreting the court order differently and stupidly, they said the court order is for 14-days, the court order is written in simple grammar, it states that “this court order stands until the determination of the case”, it is not every court order that expires after fourteen days, when Adams Oshiomole was suspended as APC Chairman, after fourteen days, while didn’t he go back to the national secretariat and say the court order is for fourteen days? One “jankara” lawyer cannot just collect your money and start interpreting rubbish to you.
If not because of the relationship I still have for Tony Iju, by now he would have been served Form 49, but I told our lawyer to suspend the form, the form 49 is served on people who have violated the court order which is contempt of court, form 48 would first be served to you as a warning, after one week, if you are still doing the same thing, firm 49 would be served on you and you would be taken to court, and when the Judge sees it that it is glaring you violated the court order, the next thing is that the person goes to jail.
But I asked myself, what do I stand to gain if I send the person i called my friend to prison? It is going to be a lasting wound, so on the basis of that, I told my lawyer to hold onto the form 49.
So, if by all these, I am still looking at fundamental ways of getting things resolved and Tony Iju and his group are calling us a nobody, by going ahead to conduct another board elections, it means that they are not ready for peace.

We saw that Taiwo Afolabi, SIFAX Group Chairman was elected into the board recently at the elections conducted by Tony Iju, do you think this could bring about peace?

I don’t have anything personal against Taiwo Afolabi, this is because I have a strong feeling that he was misled, but let’s now assume that he was not misled, and he knew the details of the whole crisis and yet he decided to go into the association, for me, I still don’t have anything against Taiwo Afolabi or his co-board members, the issue didn’t start with them. For now, I still want to take it that those who were elected into that board, especially Taiwo Afolabi were misled.
He is somebody I look at and I respect a lot, though we do not have so close relationship, one of my brother is his Managing Director, Mr Oyinloye, I called Oyinloye to find out if he has discussed all these issues with Taiwo Afolabi before now, he said No, and that Taiwo was not aware of all these crisis in ANLCA, he asked me to give him 5minutes to call me back. After 10minutes, he called back and said he was not aware of all the details of the crisis in ANLCA, and that they just put his name to come and participate in the elections.
But by and large, my advise to Taiwo Afolabi is that he is too big to dabble into this kind of “RofoRofo” politics we are playing in ANLCA. Right from the beginning, I kept telling everyone around me that I stand to gain nothing in this whole board election issues, for me, I dont see anything material in it, but I see it as a call to serve my people, you cannot tell when you would need them tommorow, money is not everything.
When Tony Iju lost the House of Representatives elections and came back, i called him privately i begged him to find a place in his heart to overlook the fact that the Western Zone did not support him when he contested election, he is a leader of all now even if he won with one vote, so, he agreed with me.
But the events that followed did not show that he was ready to remove that grievance from his heart, what he did was to start appointing Cordinators for the various chapters, he should have allowed these guys to finish their tenure and have his peace. Unfortunately for those he appointed, none of them could get close to the port, not to talk of going to take over, the one that went to Seme Border chapter with six of our members to take over were all humiliated.
Later, when he saw that his move was rebuffed, he called all the substantive chairmen of the chapters for a meeting at the Secretariat, they all went there to pay homage and pledge their allegiance, I was thinking that we could move forward from there, but just about one month after, he started issuing letters that he wants to conduct another elections and that he is giving them only three months, this was like dragging the clock backwards.

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