In his capacity as President General of SOBA, Professor Ephraim Ngwafor is expected in Washington DC in the days ahead for the SOBA America Convention slated for 24-26 May 2019.
Professor Ephraim Ngwafor was elected President General of SOBA on August 10, 2013 for a three-year mandate, which mandate was due to expire in August 2016. An elective SOBA General Assembly tarried for close to two years with the Anglophone crisis to blame.
Apparently because members of the various chapters of the association were not well informed as to why the elective general assembly was taking too long to be convened called for a revival general assembly.
While an elective General Assembly was called for March 10, 2018 in Douala, a Revival General Assembly was planned for March 4, 2018 at the Anthony of Padua Parish Hall Buea Town. Prof. Ngwafor backed the Douala meeting but his vice, Prof. Ernest Molua sided with the revivalists.
A group of Sobans have since put to question the legitimacy of Prof. Ngwafor, claiming that he enjoys divided support only amongst the Yaoundé Sobans. In April 2018, this group created a Caretaker Committee headed by Dr Ngongi Namanga that is bent on countering any move made by Prof. Ngwafor at home and abroad in the name of SOBA.
It is said that the struggle for power between the Prof. Ngwafor led SOBA executive and the Caretaker Committee has dealt a heavy blow on the life of the association. The Secretary General of SOBA General, Mfoataw Ebot is said to have signed dismissal and suspension decisions for some Sobans in Cameroon and the United Kingdom who have links with the caretaker committee.
This move is alleged to have ignited anger amongst Sobans as they say the association has membership only at Chapter levels and from the Soba constitution, the Chapters are the only body to sanction their member and inform the national executive. The infighting is said to be the result of the Ngwafor led exco to render accounts even after requests from some Sobans in Buea, Limbe, Tiko, Muyuka, Bangem and Bambili.
Proponents of the Caretaker Committee claim that the sanctions meted out on some Sobans by the Prof. Ngwafor led team have been ignored by all Soba chapters as those purportedly sanctioned are still bona fide members in their various chapters. “It is worthwhile noting the no chapter is paying national dues to the Prof. Ngwafor faction. This has therefore shifted legitimacy in favour of the CTC,” they say.
After UK where the mandate of Ayuk Ako Arrey as president of SOBA UK has long been put to question by pro-Ngwafor Sobans, we learnt attention is now focused towards the United States where Prof. Ngwafor is expected to address Sobans in his capacity as President General of the Association.
“This unique platform prepared for Professor Ngwafor to showcase him as President has met with some resistance from Sobans in the U.S. who insist on the presence of the Caretaker Committee. These Sobans believe strongly that Soba America doesn’t have the locus standi to decide on the problem in which both Dr Ngongi and Professor Ngwafor have decided to talk and come to common ground for the interest of a United Soba. Presenting Ngwafor as President will be creating further cracks in an already fragmenting Soba. If Prof Ngwafor has to address Soba America, it will therefore be fair for the Caretaker Committee to do same. This is presently shaking Soba America as they wait to see what happens at the DC convention. It is also worth mentioning that President of Soba UK, Mr Ayuk Ako Arrey shall also be present in the US convention and will definitely have to address the convention as a visiting President,” critics say.
Despite the problems, Prof. Ngwafor picked up a fresh mandate at the helm of SOBA. For the first time, Prof. Ephraim Ngwafor, President General of the Sasse Old Boys Association, SOBA accepted to talk to The SUN Newspaper on the crisis rocking the well-regarded ex-student association. In the Saturday, July 14, 2018 telephone interview, the celebrated Professor of Law said he had the blessings of the Bishop who is the owner of St. Joseph’s College Sasse. He says that a good account of the 75th anniversary of Sasse College was presented few weeks after the occasion. At the time, the two-term SOBA President General was reacting following a July 12, 2018 SOBA UK press release that indicted him of clinging to power.
What Prof. Ngwafor said on July 14, 2018
It is not even me who is supposed to give this statement. It is the bishop. The Bishop of Buea is the owner of Sasse College. These fellows in England don’t know that. They are arrogating unto themselves what they don’t own. You cannot give what you do not own.
The Bishop will make a pronouncement very soon as to who are the leaders of SOBA UK. SOBA America and SOBA Germany have endorsed what we do in Cameroon. We have legitimacy. Because of the crisis in the South West Region, we decided to hold the General Assembly in Douala. The Bishop took us to his house in Soppo and our general assembly took place under his supervision. We now have a new constitution endorsed by the bishop. The General Council was also renewed during the same General Assembly. It is not Ephraim Ngwafor, it is the Bishop who wants it that way. The SOBA General Council has expelled John Kameni from SOBA for life. The General Council has asked us to write to the former executive in England questioning their misrepresentation and rebellion and if the answer is not satisfied, the council will also punish them. There are about seven of them. They will be punished. The secretary general will write to them.
For me, it is not a question of who is doing what. It is the Bishop’s will that things go on well. And it is the Bishop who will tell us those to govern SOBA UK by endorsing our actions. SOBA General has handled the situation in the UK chapter.
Ayuk Akoh-Arrey is the former president of SOBA UK. He did a couple of things that did not please a lot of members. They wrote a petition to the bishop and copied SOBA General. So, the Bishop, the SOBA General Executive and me sat and said the only way out was to do fresh elections. So, all of them were told to go to election. Ako-Arrey was afraid of defeat and did not go for the elections. If you ask me to go to elections now, I will. I am confident of myself. Those who won have the support of SOBA General and that of the Bishop who is the owner of Sasse College. Anybody who goes against the proprietor cannot be accepted as a SOBA.
The Bishop is preparing an announcement that will solve this problem once and for all. It will dictate to SOBA General which side we should support after the results of the SOBA UK elections.
Elderly SOBAns are those now managing the UK chapter. The playground is level for everybody. Why did Ako-Arrey and his clique fear to go for elections if they had 80 people behind them? The voting was done through the internet and everyone had the opportunity to vote.
We are waiting for the Bishop’s official statement, but SOBA General supports those who won the elections in SOBA UK – we accept the results.
You are also accused to clinging to power long after the end of your mandate. Are you a sit-tight leader?
We took power in 2013. In 2016, we arranged to hold the general assembly in October. The date was moved from August to October 2016. Hell broke loose in Buea. You remember the strikes in 2016? Everybody we called said the atmosphere was not the best to have a General Assembly. It was terrible. This went on until 2017. I looked at the constitution and said it is not only in Buea or in Bamenda that we can hold this meeting. We agreed to look for a place close to Buea. We looked for Douala which is close to Buea. The other people rather called for a Revival General Assembly. I encouraged everybody to come to Douala and vote. When we got to Douala, Kameni had gone to court and stopped us. That same day, the Bishop called all of us to his house in Small Soppo. That is where the General Assembly took place. Kumba, Tiko, Limbe, Yaoundé, Douala and Bamenda chapters attended the elective General Assembly. How come that a few people from Buea did not come? Is that proper? The people in Buea, in the last meeting, gave us evidence that some people in Buea were sponsored by others in the UK to destabilise SOBA General. You can imagine how terrible that is. They brought two cases in the high court of Fako and lost all. SOBA General is doing well. Serving SOBA General is for me a passion. At the end of my term, I will step down for some other person to take over. But I will be leaving a peaceful, united and prosperous SOBA.
What has since happened to the accounts of the 75 anniversary of Sasse College?
It is Dr. Agbor in Tiko who was the president of the organising committee. A few months after that event, we met in Buea in an evaluation meeting. Only members of the Buea Chapter did not attend.
You’ll be surprised to learn that Buea was to organise the anniversary gala that took place at Mountain Hotel and we have since not had an account from them. We don’t know how much they made from the gala because they have since not given us any account.
No account was rendered by Buea. Now, they turn round to attack instead of defending themselves. When we met for the evaluation of the 75 th anniversary in Buea, Dr. Agbor gave us a decent report. They claim that government gave us FCFA 120 million.
Which government will do that when there are so many ex-student associations? The government gave FCFA 2 million and we left it with the Bishop. For solidarity calls, we don’t want to talk about the financial accounts that Buea has been unable to present.
The people in the UK collected about FCFA 15 million to build the sickbay at Sasse College. They have not yet handed the money to the bishop or to the school. The money is still with them there in the UK. Is that proper? You now see why they are fighting? This is money contributed by individuals and corporations.
The Bishop told me that the last constitution was done in 1947. The Bishop said such a constitution is archaic, reason why we had to amend the constitution during the last General Assembly. We had to make the SOBA constitution more modern. We made sure that what the founding fathers did remains untouched.
Are there any prospects of reconciling the warring SOBA factions?
We have already taken decisions on certain issues. Take somebody like Prof Ernest Molua who was so much on the side of Kameni. We would have dismissed him. But we all agreed that we should instead warn him not to do what he did again. He can only not hold a position in the executive for some few years but he remains a SOBAN. Dr. Namanga Ngongi was making all that noise but we said he should not be dismissed because he is an elderly SOBAN. We only sent him a warning letter.
This is just to show you that we are interested in a united SOBA. It is only people like Kameni who go the extreme that are expelled. We are following the constitution to the latter. SOBA General will decide the fate of those recalcitrant members in the UK.
We are also planning for the 80th anniversary of Sasse College.