• Igbo leader canvasses support for Ambode, APC
By Christine Onwuachumba
The leaders of the Fancy and Furniture Dealers Association (FFDA) of Alaba International market, Ojo, Lagos, were sworn in recently. It was a colourful event during which the Igbo were charged to support the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of Lagos State.
The occasion, which began at 10am, was attended by hundreds of members of the association, including members of the board of trustees, past executives, Alaba market Amalgamated Council of elders and chairmen. Igbo leaders in Lagos were also in attendance, including the Anya Igbo, Chief Chris Ekwilo, who used the opportunity to make a clarion call for a more profound Igbo coalition in solidarity with the APC government of Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State.
The inauguration was symbolic: it put a lasting end to the turbulence of the past few weeks during which the association was rocked by a leadership tussle. It was a fight that pitted the previous administration of the Elvis Okoroafor-led executive and the Ndubuisi Chukwuezi caretaker committee that was mandated by the members to take charge of the affairs of the market. The deadlock degenerated into a full-blown battle.
For four days in September, the market was forcefully shut down by thugs allegedly working on the orders of a market leader in the state. About 50 shops belonging to the associations were vandalized and plundered by the hired goons who stormed the market in the dead of the night to carry out their nefarious activities.
Putting the ugly incident behind it, the association subsequently went ahead to elect new executives to take charge of its affairs. The turnout for the inauguration of the 12-man executive was impressive, as members dutifully kept their shops closed till the end of the ceremony by noon.
In his inaugural speech, the new executive chairman, Mr. Emeka Mozoba, who referred to his incoming administration as the Unity Executive, considered the reconciliation of the various factions within the association his top priority. He said: “Because we were conceived and delivered under unforeseen circumstances, we, the executives, had resolved to pursue unity, peace and reconciliation as our working tools to move our association forward.”
He was also emphatic about his administration’s zero tolerance for what he called sectionalism in the association. He then issued a stern warning: “There has been disunity among the Igbos in the market. Some sycophants have been benefiting from creating divisions among us, using the divisive trick that ‘this person is from Anambra, that one is from Abia, the other one is from Imo.’ That kind of sectionalism is what my administration will not tolerate. Anybody that tries to play that kind of politics will be regarded as an enemy.”
He reinforced the executives’ resolve to hit the ground running. Top among lined-up projects was the planned sanitisation of the entrance to the market. He said all the shops would be painted in uniform colours just as he said umbrella stands and other such items along the entrance would be moved to a designated area inside the market. The place, he said, would be renamed Accessories Village. The effort, aimed at decongesting the traffic, also includes creating a loading bay in the market for easy accessibility for members and their customers.
The executives, Mozoba said, also planned some innovations, including erecting electronic billboards along the entrance to welcome customers and thereby give prominence to their section of the market. He said there would also be the introduction of uniforms as a means of identification for members with the aim of eliminating touts from the market.
The chairman pledged an unwavering commitment to the construction of standard toilets for usage of members and customers, the first of its kind in the entire Alaba International market. He also confirmed the plan by his administration to construct an access road along the Ubakason Plaza to Ilufe Road for articulated vehicles to offload their goods.
Speaking with Daily Sun after the ceremony, Mozoba underscored the fact that his speech was no mere rhetoric. “We have commenced the job. We have started repainting the entrance of the market and the interlocking stones have been supplied. In two weeks, that job will be completed,” he said.
The ceremony, which witnessed the breaking of kolanuts according to Igbo tradition and prayers in Igbo language, was followed by speeches by various speakers. Many of the speakers called for stronger unity among the Igbo traders in the market and Ndigbo generally in Lagos State. Chief Chris Ekwilo, who is also the chairman of Coalition of Igbos in APC, enjoined the Igbo community in Lagos to give unwavering support to the new administration in Lagos State.
He debunked what he called the popular misconception that there was a friction between the Igbos living in Lagos and the state government, resulting from the politics of the last general election. He said his compatriots should synergise with Igbo Coalition for the betterment and sustenance of the government of Lagos State.
He noted that contrary to the popular belief out there, Ndigbo were not badly treated by the government of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, even though he admitted that some people believed that some of the policies implemented by Fashola appeared to be targeted against Nídigbo. But in reality it wasn’t so, he stated.
He explained further that the former governor only implemented policies aimed at making Lagos work. According to him, Fashola, who is now Minister of Works, Power and Housing, remains the best governor in the past regime.
“He couldn’t have made that record targeting Igbos. There was no anti-Igbo policy. It was just unfortunate that in the process of implementation of policies to make Lagos work, Igbo businessmen and women were affected. So we shouldn’t hold on to that erroneous belief that the policies of the last regime in Lagos state were anti-Igbo,” he said.
Chief Ekwilo then listed what he believed were the expectations of Ndigbo in Lagos State. “We are anticipating that the government of Governor Akinwumi Ambode shall be a government of continuity,” he said.
He urged the Igbo to keep supporting Governor Ambode because of the high standard raised by his predecessor. “I am calling on the entire Igbo to join forces and pray for Governor Ambode to sustain the government of continuity,” Chief Ekwilo said.