By Kenneth Jukpor
Prince Olayiwola Shittu is the immediate-past President of the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA). Since he vacated office as President of ANLCA, the association has been engulfed in an unending crisis. In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus, Shittu highlights his numerous efforts to curb the fracas and ensure stability in the association.
I didn’t want to talk about this issue of ANLCA elections but the petty talks are becoming worrisome. The current President, Tony Iju Nwabunike was a victim of an organized setup that organized the Abuja NEC meeting. Tony didn’t plan the setup but the organizers used Tony and he wasn’t there on time. They suspended elected officials, when Tony arrived they briefed him that they had gone far with the deliberations and told him that they had suspended the elected officials. You know what it is when you are elected and by fiat you’re suspended. As a new President, he wondered why people wouldn’t come to a NEC meeting he had called.
Let me tell you my position in ANLCA, I’m neither loved by the Igbos nor the Yorubas. So, if you’re in my shoes, you will have to be careful what you say. Tony has met me several times and I have discovered that some people working with him don’t like it.
Recall that at the twilight of my administration I had an interview with MMS Plus where I stated that I looked inwards and supported the then Vice President to be my successor. I felt that my VP, after eight years of working together would do well. I had a right to think like that and support my deputy at that time; but as soon as the election was over I told Emenike that it wasn’t a do or die affair. I also told him earlier that if Tony wins him, he should take it in good faith. As soon as it was announced that Tony won, Emenike got up and embraced him. What is happening in ANLCA at the moment is the fight of people who don’t have anything at stake in both camps.
Tony should realize that he is the President of all parties. I had a worst case scenario when I emerged President. I had lots of cases against me; I had staff who were no longer in ANLCA but came back because I frequently dashed them money in the past. They believed that as President they were entitled to such, if not better free monies. Some of them later filed court cases demanding that I pay them six years salaries. I went through all that without making a fuss. I went to Taiye Oyeniyi’s house to beg him that I needed to work. I also went to Peter Obi’s house to get his advice on what he wanted me to do irrespective of whatever he thought was wrong. That was how I humbled myself and got their support to start making progress at ANLCA. I have told Tony to utilize the same approach to invite those giving him tough times to his beautiful home or meet them somewhere to discuss over a drink or pepper-soup.
People want to be relevant and you give them that relevance by meeting with them under a calm environment to seek their support and get their advice. Despite all these, I feel sad when I talk to some top Yorubas in ANLCA and they say that I have been bribed because I’m from Port Harcourt. Some even say that I’m in the same cult with Henry Njoku. I have never thought about belonging to a cult.
I advised Tony to set up a committee to address the lingering issues and he took it. However, the committee grew so large. I recall advising that the committee shouldn’t be too large because it would cost him money for the committee to go round to meet people across the nation. They would have to pay transport fare and Tony would have to sponsor them. The committee grew from five to nine and some of them were appointed because of certain interests. How do you resolve issues when you are succumbing to interest in setting up a simple committee? People who love trouble would probably accuse him or the interest of one member would clash with another.
Recall that Tony called another NEC meeting where he said let bygones be bygones; that was my advice. He told all officers to resume their duties as the suspension was lifted and I celebrated that move because it was something to build upon. The people who learnt that was my advice to him started creating more problems by whispering in his ears. Joe Sanni comes to my office to visit me and as goodwill I give him some money; he writes something and people say that I’m bankrolling him to write. Joe Sanni dealt with me while I was President. He wouldn’t tell me anything until he had written it and he would say it was his job and would always dare me to sack him if I wasn’t okay with his style. At a point I had to sack him. I have told Tony to look for a way to accommodate Sanni because he has always being in Tony’s camp. I also experienced the same challenge Sanni is posing to Tony.
After the suspension of elected officials was lifted, I told the committee that it was important for Tony to meet with the chapter chairmen who were behind the suspension to dialogue. He should assure them that they all had clean slates ahead of the elections. Most of these chapter executives had served two tenures already or the second one is about to expire. Moving forward, in order for the Western Zone elections to be properly conducted the executives should remain for another three to six months and be part of the transition. That was my advice as at that time. I never said any other thing after that period. Tony also called me about this and I confirmed it because this would show that they weren’t forced out of office but their tenures elapsed.
Strangely, some other people told Tony that all he needed to do was to appoint new executives into the chapters instead of the systematic approach I suggested. ANLCA’s constitution no longer has room for interim government and that’s why elections must hold when due. If I was a treacherous person as most people think I am, there are ways to make it impossible to have the election that brought Tony. Nevertheless, I believe in a democratic process and I have done my best; so it was time for someone else. Tony appointed chapter executives into positions where the elected ones have neither been sacked or resigned. His Vice President was in charge of new appointees and those that were elected see him as somebody who hasn’t forgotten the NEC meeting in Abuja. This is the crux of the ANLCA crisis. It isn’t a problem caused by Shittu. What interest should I have in ANLCA again, after being the President for two tenures?
Sometime ago, I moved for all former Presidents to be made Board members so that when crisis comes up, we can address them. Such league of former Presidents should have meetings once in a year with the current one to discuss the headway; but Henry Njoku killed this idea.
I don’t run ANLCA today and I have never sponsored or asked anyone to work against the current administration or Tony. Everyone I meet would only hear me say, that’s our President (Tony Iju Nwabunike). I have also given him this assurance at several instances when we have met. However, I’m beginning to rethink my relationship with Tony because I keep advising him but he seems to believe that I’m responsible for his challenges. I have stopped proffering advice and I have also told Joe Sanni not to come to my office anymore. I wouldn’t tolerate Joe Sanni making sensational write-ups and using my name or ANLCA. If he has personal issues with the President, he should face it personally and not drag ANLCA or me into it.
I once asked him why he ends his write-up with immediate-past Publicity Secretary to the former President and doesn’t stop there but adds Prince Olayiwola Shittu? His reply was shocking. He told me that I had a name and the write-up wouldn’t be relevant if he didn’t add my name. I never sent him to make any write-up