By Tony Nwankwo
The crises that seem embedded at the Fancy and Furniture Dealers Association (FFDA), Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos, will soon be a thing of the past, following the credible, free and fair election, recently conducted by the electoral committee with Nwakpa Festus Agadi (Gadisco) as chairman, and Chigozie Nwafor (Okadigbo), as secretary. to usher in a new executive in the market.
Following the election, the following individuals emerged as elected officers to pilot the affairs of the association. Mbonu Udochukwu Geoffrey (Chairman); Udenkwo Paul Nnamdi (1st Vice Chairman); Ikechukwu Okafor Francis (2nd Vice Chairman); Ugwu Eugene Chinagorom (Secretary); Onozie Chike Marshall (Asst. Secretary- returned unopposed); Chukwuma Uchechukwu Mayor (Financial Secretary); Onyeanusi Samuel Osondu (Treasurer – returned unopposed); Idoh Kelechi Stanley (PRO); Ozonwako Celestine Nwannebuike Chief Welfare Officer); Igwesi Donatus Stephen (Asst. Welfare – returned unopposed); Nwokpor Nicholas Nwokwu Chief Provost); Okonkwo Nnaemeka Emmanuel (Asst. Provost).
Meanwhile, the outgoing chairman, Hon. Ernest Okonkwo pledged to give the incoming chairman, all the necessary assistance and cooperation, describing him as a good man who performed creditably during his own tenure. The new chairman, Mbonu Udochukwu Geoffrey, spoke with journalists at the swearing-in of the new executive. Excerpts:
Your emergence, we are told, was foretold?
My emergence was divine, as I had nursed the ambition of playing a leadership role in the market to put things right. This position will help me rectify several issues that regularly trigger crisis in this market. As a political scientist and as an activist, I chose to involve myself in the politics of Fancy and Furniture, to correct the problems. You discover that people who have no business here, speak for the stakeholders. I was appointed a member of the Constitution Review Committee which Constitution we now have. We did a lot of amendments to reduce issues that trigger crisis here. When I started to campaign, I discovered that the masses were behind me since I had held positions as committee chairman in the market. I never held an elective office but only as appointees. This remains the most credible, free and fair election ever conducted in Alaba International Market, a position that was acknowledged by observers and the people themselves.
Why has Fancy and Furniture always in one crisis or the other, and how will be check this?
An earlier research showed that power tussle was at the root of crises here. The system was bad and faulty. Kangaroo elections were conducted in the past coupled with the system of godfatherism, with efforts made to distort the will of the people. Sometimes they closed the market or hired touts because they wanted their person to be elected. But then as a stakeholder with properties and my wife also trades here, I had more at stake. Last time, we lost one of our big boys through crisis. He was shot dead here. I am committed to improving the way business is done at Fancy and Furniture. Before, it was winner takes all, there was no accountability. But looking at my records, as a committee head, they found that before I give money, I must get a receipt. I kept records. There will be accountability, there must be division of labour. It is not about winner takes all. I must know my duty as chairman, the treasurer must know his duty as treasurer. From time to time, I will render account to them. We are going to pay much attention to security, because lives and properties are the major issues in this market. The Constitution must be applied; the rules and guidelines of the market must be respected and applied.
How do you liaise with government to improve this environment?
If you look at the income generated by the Ojo Local Government Council, and you check the records of past chairmen, you wonder whether they knew the amount of money the Ojo Local Government generates from this market. It should interest them to ensure they provide all we need in terms of infrastructure. I will go there, because I know those of them who are representing us in the House. I intend to draw up a letter to ensure that the Chairman of Ojo, who is the first citizen here, has a list of things we need to fix, because its all about give and take. I know how to meet with government. I know how to persuade them to do what it right. We are the ones generating this revenue for the local government and I have earlier told them that there was a time, I stopped them from collecting revenue from my own plaza, I told them what must be done. They summoned me, and I told them the reason we would not allow them to continue to collect revenue. At the end, they succumbed, and we continued to support them. I have already contacted them, and we are liaising with the security agencies, because we are having a lot of security issues in this market. I have gotten in touch with the AIG, the CP, the Area Commander, and they have promised that whenever I put a call through to them, they will answer me. So, all these touting here will be a thing of the past. I am not a novice in the system. Its just that the opportunity had not been given to me, now that the opportunity has come, I will tell them that I am part of the government. To God be the glory, the government of APC is the government in Lagos State and I am an APC member, so I think I should have easy access to government here.
Message to your members?
They surprised me to the extent I didn’t believe they could give me support because the masses came out to vote for me. And they said I am the man of the people. So, I promised I will never disappoint them. My message is for them to be law abiding traders. They should respect Fancy and Furniture Constitution and give me their full support. And my message to the outgoing chairman, who is now going to the Elders Council, because when you have been chairman and finished your tenure successfully, and conduct election successfully, free and fair, automatically, you become a member of the Elders Council. This is when I need his support the most. This is when I need his advise the most. The same message I am passing to the members of the market, is also going to the outgoing chairman, Hon. Okonkwo. He was my chairman and appointed me as a committee head and he knows that I have never disappointed him. I know that I have never been indicted of one kobo in this union. I need his support, I need his experience for us to bring everybody together.