Mr. Kenneth Okoro-Obi Chidozie is the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Globe Gate West Africa Limited. In this interview with our correspondent in Lagos, he speaks on his aspiration to become the Chairman of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), his manifestoes for the election and his opponent in the election. Excerpt;
It was said that you are contesting for the position of Chairman of NAGAFF Tincan Island Port chapter, what could you say is pushing you to contest for this position?
I believe you were present during my flag off day and you heard my address. So, many things prompted my coming out because when we started this industry, it wasn’t like this. Many things have gone wrong and those things that have gone wrong were what prompted me to come out to contest. My help is needed for the freight forwarders are no longer realizing the benefits of the work they do. With the wealth of experience and knowledge that I have, having stayed here for about twenty-eight years, I think I know what the problems are and the best way to tackle them because he who wears the shoes, knows where it pinches.
Sir, when you say many things had gone wrong, could you itemize those things that had gone wrong that you want to fix?
Number one, the former ethics of the job is no longer observed, the new entrants, they don’t have the knowledge of the job as I have; they just parade themselves as freight forwarders. The good relationship or the work ethics we used to have with the customs and other stakeholders, as I said before, we are no longer practicing them. What we see now are apologists, they don’t know the job, they will only take documents to customs and begin to beg them without defending the documents. They don’t even have the knowledge of the documents that they are parading. So, these are the things we want to correct.
Talking about having more of apologists than professionals in the freight forwarding practice today, what do you intend to bring on board to repackage these apologists into professional freight forwarders as it is?
My team, if mandate is given to us, we have made arrangements to put trainings in place to train and retrain freight forwarders that they will be able to know the jobs that they are doing because most of them are not trained. They don’t know tariff, they don’t know CEMA, they don’t have explanatory notes, they cannot even interpret tariff talk more of defending it before the customs officers and other stakeholders. So, these are the things, we are going to train them.
How do you want to go about the training? I mean who anchors the proposed training for them? Is it going to be anchored by you personally or do you plan to engage a consultant?
We have freight forwarders’ academy but most of them don’t have money to go there, they don’t know what it is all about, they don’t even have any knowledge of it but we are going to put logistics in place and send them to the freight forwarders’ academy so that they are going to have proficiency certificates, some to Degree level, some to OND and HND levels. So, these are the things we are going to introduce so that we don’t parade half-baked freight forwarders, we are to train them.
Now, if you look at other bodies like the Nigerian Medical Association, the Nigerian Bar Association, there are yardsticks, there are some measures, some qualifications that you needed before you are admitted to be a member of the associations and by his grace, we are going to do that.
For more than four years now, the former Chairman has been piloting the affairs of the chapter and it was believed that he was doing well as a chairman. Now, what is it that you think he was not doing well that prompted you to challenge him this time even though it is believed that he is an anointed candidate and that he is from the same town with the founder?
I don’t believe in that anointed issue, I believe in knowledge and experience and that will speak voluminously for us. So, I came out because if he had been doing well, he would have helped the stakeholders to put certain machineries in motion to do things right. But I cannot say that he failed virtually in everything, as I rightly said that day, I said that I have not come to compete with anyone, I have come for replacement. I don’t want to indict anyone but I have come as a person with a divine mandate to put things in order so that we will bring laughter back to freight forwarders and bring them back to status quo so that they know what they are here to do.
Some group of persons in the associations has been clamoring for younger persons to take over at all chapters so as to meet up with the challenges of the time. Do you think you fit into this definition of younger persons?
I am in my early 50s and very energetic in heart and in body to do everything. I am ICT compliant, I am still training and retraining, I am still writing my PhD. I have what it takes and world of experience. If you go to court, the lawyers of ten years and thirty years are respected. Experience does not count when you are energetic. So, you have the youthful exuberance does not mean that you are energetic and that it will amount to good governance. What you need is a lot of experience and wisdom and which an average man of 50 and ICT compliant, with all the academic qualifications like me have. I think I have all it takes more than a younger person who have not had any experience, who wants to lead us. With the youthful exuberance, he may crush us on the way.
The founder of NAGAFF, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam during his speech on your flag off regretted that he had not discovered you before that day otherwise you would have been useful for him at the NAGAFF headquarters. Tell us, does it mean that you had been an anonymous member of NAGAFF before now for the helmsman of the association not to have noticed you?
Well, if you had listened to me that day, I made a statement and I said that I have been following the founder since 1998 when he went out of our mother association, ANLCA and I followed him up till the day NAGAFF was born. I have been a member but not a political member. I have been following the trends of events but politically, I am invisible. So now that I have a reason, I have to come and correct the ills in this chapter, that is why I came out.
NAGAFF at Tincan sometimes is at loggerhead with some sister associations especially ANLCA. How do you want to foster a cordial relationship between NAGAFF Tincan and other sister associations in the chapter per adventure you are elected chairman?
I have always said this that a bad workman quarrels with his tools. So, bad leadership has led to the quarrel. We have somebody who have experience and who have abided by NAGAFF slogan, ‘one family’ which is love because all what it will take is love and I believe, if mandate is given to me, with the love and experience that I have, I don’t need to quarrel with any sister association but only to bring them together and with wisdom, we will have a common goal to achieve.
These sister associations were not in enmity, they were pursuing the same goal but in different ways but it takes somebody who has experience, intelligence and knowledge to bring them together, which I will. I am going to bring all the leaders of sister associations together, then we share a common position on an issue, issue a communiqué on how we are going to get that issue tackled. That is what it takes. The ones that were there before failed because they lacked the wisdom and knowledge to gather together among ourselves.
Do you see Chief Azubuike Ekweozor as a threat to your ambition?
Well, he is the incumbent. It is not easy to unseat an incumbent but we have all it takes to persuade people because I am a man of the people. If the people don’t like you, they will vote you out but if they like you, they will vote you in. I am not the one to dictate, I don’t fear him because I have the people on my side, it is the electorates that will determine.
What is your message to the members of NAGAFF in Tincan as the election draws closer?
I have always promised them and I will still stand by that promise that I will make sure that I bring love back to the secretariat of NAGAFF in Tincan and that all the members of NAGAFF who ran away, I promised I am going to bring them back and revisit them with the same love which we preach according to the gospel of our founder, one family with one love.
So, to every NAGAFF member in Tincan, I have made arrangements with AIICO insurance to cover them on certain policies that will help us so that our welfare will be taken care of. Our elders that have been working here without getting the benefit of their work, we are going to always visit them, we are always going to help them as far as welfare is concern and every member of NAGAFF in Tincan, I give them the assurance that we will no longer be union apologists, that we shall operate according to our mandate.
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