Alhaji Ibrahim Tanko is a Chairmanship Aspirant for Apapa chapter in the forthcoming National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF). In this interview with our correspondent in Lagos, he speaks on his resignation from the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), his choice of NAGAFF as alternative to NCMDLCA, his ambition to become Apapa Chairman and many more. It promises to be an interesting and engaging piece. Enjoy it.
Can we meet you sir?
I still remain Ibrahim Tanko.
We got the wind that you are contesting for the Chairmanship position of NAGAFF, Apapa chapter, how true is that?
That’s true. I am contesting for Chairman in Apapa.
Going by the fact that you were once the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agent in Apapa and now you are going for the same position in NAGAFF, do you think that the number of months you have spent as a member of NAGAFF would have been enough for you to know the ideals of NAGAFF as to wanting to contest for the position of Chairman of the association?
Let me start by saying that unionism is one no matter the name. If you look at it, we were all formerly ANLCA members including the founder of NAGAFF. Why I resigned from the National Council of Managing Directors was because the leadership of the Council of Managing Directors is divided. Fight here, fight tomorrow, court today, court tomorrow, it couldn’t allow us to be able to focus and achieve what we wanted to achieve.
I am somebody that likes to fight for the agents and when agents are complaining and the platform I am operating that time is the National Council of Managing Directors and the leadership is divided, I no longer have confidence to continue the fight and that was why I decided to resign. They refused to accept my resignation letter actually, at a point in time, I had to write to the Commissioner of Police because I resigned, they refused and still went back there and reported that I cannot resign and join a rival association. The Commissioner invited me and I asked them a question, is this do or die or is it a club that once you enter, you have entered? Or the time that I filled my membership form, was there anywhere it was written that once I join, I won’t be able to leave? And the Commissioner agreed with me and asked them the same question and eventually received my resignation letter.
However, NAGAFF said you must have been a member for a period of three months for you to be able to contest and I resigned five months before the election. I have my resignation letter. So, I am qualified to contest.
Talking about you resignation from National Council, I recalled that there was a time either last year or late last two years when the leadership of National Council gave a notice to the public to the effect that it had sacked you and warned the public not to do any business with you in the name of the association. How do you explain that?
We are all human now, anybody can say air his opinion but the fact remain that I have a document backing up my claim. If somebody says he sacked me, let him provide the sack letter. But I said I resigned and I served them letter, go to the BOT Chairman because he later signed my resignation letter, that is Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, after the Commissioner of Police endorsed my resignation.
In your choice of an association to join after you would have resigned from the National Council, we have AREFFN, ANLCA and NAFFAC, what informed your choice of NAGAFF?
I have been following NAGAFF activities and I found out that the founder of NAGAFF is a man that is focused, he is a man that loves the interest of the agents, he is a man who has contributed a lot into this industry and that is what I want, I want somebody like that. I was trained by a former president of ANLCA, Alhaji Kamba, I served him and we worked together with the same founder. So, I have passion about him, that was why I decided to join him.
But sir, there are insinuations that your friend and colleague who is the former NAGAFF Chairman, Apapa chapter, Dr. Fred Ajuzie wooed you into joining NAGAFF and subsequently contesting the Chairmanship position. How true is that?
Let me make it clear to people. When I decided to join NAGAFF, Fred didn’t know. Fred had been talking to me about NAGAFF but I did not answer him, Obums Anene, the Deputy National President had been talking to me about joining NAGAFF, I did not answer him equally. I was communicating with the founder himself. I was in the village to celebrate Salah last year, I have been communicating with him. Even when he dissolved the national officers of NAGAFF, he called me and I gave in to him. I will tell you, I have been following NAGAFF for a long time even when I was in the Council.
Now, I made up my mind to join NAGAFF. Before then, Fred had already accepted drink from Ndubuisi because I have not declared my intention to run for Chairman. When I came back, I told him that I resigned from the national Council, he was surprised. I showed him a letter from the Commissioner of Police and he was shocked. He said but I have accepted drink from Ndubuisi but you know he is my friend, he is now happy for me to join NAGAFF, we now continue pushing it together. He told Ndubuisi in my presence that he had to support me his friend. So, you see, the idea of people saying Fred brought Tanko, I don’t think that they are right.
Now that you are here in NAGAFF and you are contesting for Apapa chapter Chairman, what do you have going for you?
For now, the only opponent I see is Ndubuisi but you and I know that many people don’t even know who Ndubuisi is in the first place. I have more experience than him, I have been in this industry since 1989, I have my license since 1996, where is Ndubuisi? When we talk of Apapa, I was a Chairman under National Council for seven years, let them go and look at my record, my track record will speak for me.
I asked Ndubuisi three questions, what do you think you want to come and do as a Chairman, if you give a concrete reason, I will withdraw from the race. What do you think you can offer to agents? Already, we are having alerts from Customs, SON, Police, shipping companies, what do you think you can do for us? He said no, I want you to be my Vice because you are on ground. And I asked him, how can I who will do all the work be your Vice? You are the Chairman, what do you think you can do so that I can join you and I know that you have more experience or more packages than me? He couldn’t be able to say a word. He is only campaigning because he has money but money is not the issue here.
You just talked about Ndubuisi’s lack of a clear vision on why he wants to be NAGAFF Chairman for Apapa chapter. What do you think you can do differently for NAGAFF members in Apapa if elected Chairman?
First and foremost, I want to lift that name NAGAFF in Apapa. If you look at it now, NAGAFF and ANLCA are almost dead in Apapa. Can you compare NAGAFF when you talk of Airport and Apapa? Apapa supposed to be number one because this is a premier port. Ordinary secretariat, we don’t have in Apapa, agents have no place that when issues come up, they will run into. If you can remember very well, before now, you will see ANLCA and NAGAFF, if they are going to anywhere, they will enter their association’s buses, where is NAGAFF bus? Where is ANLCA’s bus? They are dead.
If anything happens to agents today, nobody will come and speak on behalf of that agent. Do you know what is happening, they will now run to the founder, must founder be doing this? So, when there is nobody, that means that NAGAFF is dead. We need to have a leader, if you are in Apapa, if something happens to you, you run to that particular person, that person should solve that problem. If you are in Tincan, you run to that person, to somebody who is on ground, anything that will come to the founder should be a national issue not chapter issue.
I know that Fred, sorry to use this word, didn’t do well and he is my friend. But I know that I will make that name to be silent, that Fred, Fred, Fred and my intention is to get a secretariat for NAGAFF members in Apapa and where I want to get that secretariat is where the population of agents are, Nnewi building. I have already made a move to that effect. I bet you, before one year, you will know that there is a leader in Apapa.
Do you know why they call me that name Panadol? It is not that I am a drug, no! But I take your pain and give you a relief anywhere in this Apapa. So, that is me, I don’t change. And let me tell you one thing, if you are doing the wrong thing, you cannot say a word to the Customs otherwise customs will send you to jail, if not, this thing that you hear Tanko, Tanko, customs would have finished me. If our founder is doing the wrong thing that is against the law, do you think that he will have mouth to be saying all the things he is saying? A core union person supposed to be clean.
Many believed that you are being assured at the National Headquarters of NAGAFF that you will take over the position because of your background as a Fulani man and most of your kinsmen are found as Customs Area Controllers in various commands and that you will be more of an asset to NAGAFF than a liability in this regard. What is your take on this?
I could have even said it is the other way round. You know, I have been hearing people say Ibo man, Ibo man, go and vote for Ibo man, why will you leave your brother and vote for a Hausa man? I don’t think there is anything like that the way you are saying it that maybe NAGAFF wants to give it Hausa man, no! They are even against me but the founder did not found NAGAFF for Ibo people. If you look at the Airport chapter, it was a Yoruba man that was there. So, if a Yoruba man can be Chairman for eight years, I don’t think it is for the Ibos. Although I am the first Hausa man to contest for Chairman in Apapa and I am facing a lot of challenges because of my tribe because Ibos are the dominated tribe here. But I believe that based on my experience, I will overcome it.
So, how do you want to go about getting people to vote for you en mass so as to secure victory?
You know our election here, you supposed to register and before you register, you must make a payment. As I am talking to you now, I have never gone outside begging for people, people come to register here daily. As you stay here now, you will see them trooping in. what am trying to say here is that I am very much sure, I have a lot of confidence about people voting me in.
Do you have any intention of going outside NAGAFF to hire members to vote for you?
As I am talking to you now, almost all the members of National Council of managing Directors in Apapa have converted to NAGAFF, that is one. AREFFN, they are coming back to NAGAFF because of Ibrahim Tanko, some of ANLCA people are also registering. As am talking to you now, there is a problem in ANLCA because of this election you are seeing because most of them registered fully and are ready to come and vote. But I promised not to register somebody who is not an agent just as a lot people whose names I won’t mention are doing.
What is your advice to your members at Apapa?
My advice to them is; don’t sell your votes because the more you do that, it will come back to you, I bet you. When you have an issue and you are looking for your leader to come and help you, your leader will tell you am in my office, that time you will remember Tanko.
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