Engineer Cletus Alozie Dike, Chairman of the Electoral Committee for the Computers and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN) General Elections has defended the transparency of polls held recently to elect new executives for the umbrella body of Ikeja Computer Village, Nigeria’s biggest technology market cluster.
Mrs Adenike Shittu, MD of Mojoy Computers, one of the aspirant of the CAPDAN presidency in an exclusive interview with Technology Times alleged irregularities and manipulations of the electoral process that saw Mr Ahmed Ojikutu emerge new President of CAPDAN.
But the chairman of the electoral committee tells Kolade Akinola of Technology Times that the elections were free, fair and transparent. Excerpts of the interview below:
Technology Times: One of the presidential aspirants, Mojoy (Mrs Nike Shittu) to be precise has alleged that the CAPDAN presidency elections were marred by irregularities and manipulations. What is your assessment of the whole process?
Engineer Cletus: It is unfair for Mojoy to say there are electoral irregularities. The CAPDAN election has been something everybody has been agitating for many years. For the past 10 years, people have been agitating for a fresh election because the former executives were selected to handle the affairs of the market for two years, after which there will be an election and now after two years they started dragging and dragging. Whenever it is time to call for an election, something comes up and this thing has dragged to 10 or 12 years now.
[quote font_size=”0″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” bgcolor=”#” color=”#” bcolor=”#” arrow=”yes”]I believe the reason why Mojoy withdrew or decided not to pick form is that she saw the handwriting on the wall knowing that even if she contested she was not going to win because everybody became against the BOT. Everybody became against their group who have been agitating for selection if I should use the word, they are asking for selection instead of an election. So that was the issue.[/quote]So on the issue of irregularities, let me just say this, the initiation of this particular last election was just like a tussle between two parties in the market or two stakeholders in the market. One is the Board Of Trustees (BOT) and the other is the Plaza Heads in the market.
Yes, everybody wanted the election but the system of the election is what divides these stakeholders. BOT wanted this election to come in the form of selection. I should put it “selection” in some form because what their idea were was since the respective posts are zoned to different ethnic nationalities in the market, the ethnic minorities should go and select who will represent them and they would come up to be in the election.
Now, the other party feels that it is good to have democratically elected people. If you want to contest, you come out and buy form. By this time, there became factions. In fact, what I will say is that Ojikutu and Mojoy were just a pawn in a chessboard. The Plaza Heads thought Ojikutu is connected, he could take them to the government, he could lead them to places of power. Now, Mojoy is with the BOT, then the issue of these ethnic nationalities comes in or eventually it becomes that the Plaza Heads decided that if the BOT cannot set up an electoral committee, they can set up electoral committee on their own and conduct election even without the aid of the BOT.
When the BOT saw what was going on that the market was backing the Plaza Heads to conduct the election because as you can see the Plaza Heads sort of own the market. So what the BOT did was to hurriedly set up an electoral committee. They set up that electoral committee which fortunately I am a member.
We started in agreement with every other thing. The Plaza Heads said okay since you want to come up to do this thing, let it be done and the electoral committee was formed. But in the course of conducting this election, the BOT continued to frustrate the work of this electoral committee which eventually ended up in dissolving or suspending that electoral committee because the ethnic nationalities were now debating who wants to be president. This person said they want to be president. The Igbos want to be president. This one says I have to be chairman of the BOT. You know all these agitations were going on and because of it they now said okay, since we cannot agree, let us suspend the electoral committee. They used it as a ploy to stop that election.
Now when this thing happened, the Plaza Heads with Ojikutu approached the state government (Lagos State Government) to say no this market cannot continue to run without a union or an association and ethnic crises is trying to destroy the market. And they want their help to see that these matters are resolved. The Office of the State Government Civic Engagement got involved and invited some stakeholders including myself. At that meeting, there was an agreement. An MOU was agreed on how things will be resolved. Ethnic nationalities and everybody agreed and signed the MOU and now the new electoral committee was formed.
The representative of the BOT walked out of that meeting. Mojoy herself even though she signed the MOU but when she came back and discussed with her colleagues, she did not agree with that any longer and in fact at that meeting, Mojoy who is alleging irregularities said she cannot agree to that MOU until she consults her people.
The people at this meeting are the stakeholders who comprise the Plaza Heads, the representatives from the ethnic groups, even the BOT Rep that walked out and many other stakeholders in the market, that is, the big business owners. So with that, the electoral committee was formed and the government said okay, we have to back off for you to conduct an election within 30 days having agreed how the executive offices will be distributed or zoned. And we formed another electoral committee and fortunately, I was selected as a member of that committee which conducted an election and made me the Chairman.
TT: Sorry before you go on what did you discussed in Alausa (at the meeting with Lagos State Government), what was the content of the form you signed?
Cletus: They just told us that we should allow peace to reign. And it was decided that CAPDAN elections should be zoned (Igbos, Yoruba and the minority group).
Now, we started sensitising the market about this thing and the BOT brought up so many issues. They even went to threaten to take the State Government to court saying that the procedure they have taken is not legal. All these things did not deter us. But our main concern there was that we don’t want to conduct an election without getting all the stakeholders involved. So we will endeavour to see that we bring the stakeholders on board.
We started going to them, having discussions with them to say there is no point having division, please conduct this election. We presented some of the things we have done to them, why the election should hold and they agreed with us and gave us certain conditions. One is that they said we have to shift the election from the date already assigned to do the election to accommodate their people who are agitating: that is the Mojoy’s group. That we have to appoint at least five members of the former electoral committee they formed to be in this present electoral committee and then that we have to continue registration to a certain date because we have ended registration at that point. We said no problem. We will have to postpone the election. Fortunately enough, we have four members of the previous electoral committee in the present electoral committee and we told them we already have four members of the former committee among us and we equally have two of the members coming from the Mojoy’s group, which is their own camp.
So they agreed that okay that being the case we can continue with the four members of the former electoral committee instead of five we agreed and then we shifted the date of the registration to accommodate the Mojoy group. Now another thing again is myself personally reaching out to Mojoy to tell her, “look, we know you have been campaigning for this election for quite a long time we have discussed with BOT and we have spoken to some people in your camp and all of them agreed that we should do this thing. We implore you to come and join” and she never replied that communication I sent her by SMS. I had to do that to see that everybody was carried along but based on that she never responded but most of her members started coming in to pick form and register to contest or other things. So it was of late that I started to hear from some sources that Mojoy is complaining that we have done the election to favour Ojikutu and I said there is no way.
The truth in it is that Ojikutu has been campaigning for over two years now for this election since the Plaza Heads called him and said, “look, we want to conduct election and we know you have people at seat of power, assist us to persuade the former executives to contest this thing”, and since then, he started to campaign in the sense that he wants to be the president.
So it gave him an advantage or leverage. So he has that leverage because he has been campaigning and has identified himself with the youth who have been asking for the elections. I believe the reason why Mojoy withdrew or decided not to pick form is that she saw the handwriting on the wall knowing that even if she contested she was not going to win because everybody became against the BOT. Everybody became against their group who have been agitating for selection if I should use the word, they are asking for selection instead of an election. So that was the issue.
For her to come out to say there were irregularities. The irregularities she was talking about is that the BOT is supposed to by our constitution to form the electoral committee which they did. But they did frustrate us and they suspended it and now they don’t want to continue coupled with the fact that all the members of the BOT are no longer stationed inside the Computer Village. Some of them have built their houses and moved. Some of them are in VI; some of them are there in Lekki; some of them are at Anifowose, you know. So there is not even a member of the BOT that still resides inside the Computer Village. So how would they be staying outside and dictate what goes on inside the Computer Village? So these were the view of the people not me because my own is as the chairman of the electoral committee was to conduct election and see that everybody is carried along. We don’t want to be involved in the division. But what I have just told you now is just the picture of what was going on.
Technology Times: Mojoy, also alleged that the N250,000 price tag for the CAPDAN presidency form was too ‘ridiculous’ also no member of the electoral committee called the contestants together to sensitise them on the electoral process.
Cletus: Let me answer the first question which is about the nomination fee. When the electoral committee was inaugurated, we were inaugurated without fund. The first executive did not leave N10. There was no money even when the first electoral committee was formed. Now we started to do this and decided that we have to use even the membership register, there was no adequate membership register. The membership register we could lay hands upon which we sought ourselves through certain people in the market were once compiled sometime about 2003 or 2004. So most of the people on that list have left the market. New people have come in and other things. So we decided that we will create a new membership list and said that we want to incorporate it to fundraising because we cannot conduct the election without money and at the same time with the people who want to contest. They have to pay nomination fee. Outside the President and the Vice President, I think the President is N200,000, we started with N300,000 and they were agitations. We called all the stakeholders even with the Sole Administrator. In fact all these fees was agreed by both those that want to contest, the stakeholders in the market, ethnic minorities chaired by the sole administrator of Ikeja Local Government. There we agreed that members who want to participate in the elections should pay N1,000 each whether old or new member, then minus the President which is N200,000 and Vice President which is N150,000, then the rest all principal post is N100,000 and assistants N50,000. So that is the way we did it and it was agreed.
Now the second question that the contestants were never invited. We had series of meetings. In fact, if I should count, we had more than five or six meetings with the contestants seeking their views and input and she was equally invited but never attended any of them. So if she says that there was no meeting or anything, she is being economical with the truth. Everybody was invited anytime we call a meeting. In fact, even before the election proper, we had to call all the contestants to come to assist us in the modalities and all of them came. Another thing again, on the verification exercise, every contestant was one-on-one with the electoral committee to discuss and assess, “what do you want to do?” How do you want to do it? So we carried everybody along. But if she says she was not carried along, I told you here that I personally sent her a text.
Technology Times: She was saying N250,000 and now you are saying N200,000, is there a mix up somewhere?
Cletus: I think I will check properly to be sure. I will check our documents but I know we started with N300,000 to N250,000 and after several agitations and meetings came down to N200,000.
TT: Now that new President has emerged what are your expectations from him?
Cletus: All I can say is that first and foremost you must understand that I am a neutral umpire. I never supported anybody but having said that I had opportunity to listen to the President-Elect, Ojikutu, during the verification exercise and I was equally opportune to go through his manifesto. I want to think that now he is a young and vibrant man. He knows the problems of this market and I expect him to do better and unify all the divisions because there have been divisions between ethnic groups, in terms of association and in terms of business. We all do business together but in terms of struggling for posts and other things, I want to think that will be able to do it. Even during his campaign, he tried to form a group among the contestants and other things and he didn’t discriminate among the people. There were Igbos there, there were Yorubas and there were minorities as well. So, to me, I expect that he will do well. I cannot stand here now and say he must do well but I in my view I expect him to do well.