Originally Published in The Post Newspaper on Monday October 16 2017.
It is now official. SOBA UK has split into two warring factions. Trouble has been simmering in the Sasse Old boys Association SOBA UK branch since the outgoing President Ayuk Akoh Arrey failed to call elections when his two years’ mandate ended in March 2016. Ayuk Akoh Arrey eventually stood alone for elections in August 2017 that were largely boycotted by a large number of Sobans.
There have been allegations of financial misappropriation, breakdown in the relationship between SOBA UK and the mother branch in Cameroon and accusations Ayuk Akoh Arrey and Shupo Francis before him want to cling to power indefinitely.
On October 7 2017, some dis-enfranchised Sobans met in Leicester during an extraordinary Assembly Meeting and elected Cly Elimbi Mensah Kofi to lead a one year transitional team that will usher in badly needed reforms in the association before elections.
The Post’s Bouddih Adams put Cly Kofi on the hot seat for this Interview. Read on.
The POST: On October 7 2017, you were voted interim President of a transitional executive. Why was this necessary?
This happened as a result of the failure of the former president Mr Ayuk Akoh Arrey to call elections when his team’s mandate expired in March 2016. Despite calls from members, senior Sobans and patrons , they continued to cling to power exceeding their constitutionally allowed mandate by almost two years.
When elections were finally announced in July 2017, the president with complete disregard to due process, took an unprecedented decision to stop members from registering so they could qualify to vote. This was unconstitutional and viewed by most Sobans as an attempt to stop people who did not support the outgoing president from voting. Following the suspension of the registration, a group of Sobans wrote a grievance letter to the patrons of SOBA UK-elderly Sobans who sit in the electoral committee, demanding electoral /constitutional reforms before any elections. Rt Colonel Dr Aloysius Mbako and Mr Sako Burnley, founding father of SOBA Uk publicly showed their discontent with the president’s decision and called on the executive to organize an extra ordinary meeting to resolve the issue. The president’s response was to unilaterally discharge the two patrons from their roles as elections organizers. He simply replaced them with people who supported his vision including one patron who was not even registered with the association at the time. This violated the spirit of the constitution. When Ayuk Akoh Arrey was proclaimed winner in an elections largely boycotted by a large number of Sobans, most Sobans declared the results null and void. Attempts to still give the outgoing president a chance to call an extraordinary assembly meeting (XGM) failed. Seniour Soban Dr Aloysius Mbako convened one and a transitional team which I now head was voted. Over 30 Sobans attended the XGM in Leicester.
Bobdinga, Titus Edjua and Uncle Saks relax after XGM
The POST: I assume there are two SOBA UK now since I know Ayuk Akoh Arrey is heading another executive?
Ayuk Akoh Arrey and his friend Shupo Francis who was president before him have been running SOBA Uk for over 15 years. The recent elections results recorded 21 confirmed votes. If you exclude the 7 members of the executive who were “voted”, it means just 14 people in an association of sixty registered members voted for the executive. Even if you disregard the unconstitutionality and the illegality of the elections, it is clear they do not have a mandate to run the association. Right now they are viewed as a group of individuals holding our association hostage.
The POST: Sasse ex students are known to be gentlemen since that is one of the most prestigious colleges in Cameroon. How do you and your team intend to resolve this logjam?
Sasse ex students will always be gentlemen. It is unfortunate what is happening in SOBA UK today but things will hopefully improve as time goes on. We want an all inclusive SOBA UK that welcomes everyone irrespective of their divergent views. We are blessed that among the elderly Sobans who attended the XGM in Leicester was Dr Sako Burnley who initially started SOBA UK more than 20 years ago. Let me add here he was kicked out in a palace coup organized by Shupo Francis and Ayuk Akoh Arrey who have run SOBA UK since then. Other elder Sobans Including Dr Mbako Aloysius, seniors Titus Edjua and Richard Dohnji were also in Leicester to show their support.
Our long term goals is to make sure there is only one SOBA UK moving forward. We have extended a hand of friendship and are open to receiving the other side and their supporters anytime they want to join us. This is a difficult but not an impossible task I and my interim management team intend to accomplish.
The POST: In the meantime, I understand the other faction is organizing a convention on November 11th. Will you and your supporters be attending that convention.
That is a no brainer. We will not be attending and might I use this opportunity to remind guests and others buying tickets for the occasion some priced for as much as one hundred and twenty five pounds that we will not be attending. We want to make them understand SOBA UK is in crisis now. The least they can do is to wait and when we get to resolve our problems eventually, we will make a whole lot of changes to the way the association has been run so far.
Cly Elimbi Mensah Kofi. Has a big task to accomplish
The POST: What are the reforms you intend to make to bring SOBA UK a more United Association
The greatest functional problem we have had in SOBA UK and which is responsible for the present crisis is our governing document or our constitution. It is not fit for purpose. Electoral bylaws designed by the former executive were designed to reduce the number of candidates who could stand against them. You will not believe but for more than 15 years now, SOBA UK has had just two presidents, Shupo Francis and Ayuk Akoh Arrey. One of the resolutions we adopted during the XGM was that executive terms will run for two years, renewable once. Also, we have created a Council of Advisers who will advice the association and they will double as an electoral commission with full powers to run elections without interference from the executive. When we pleaded with the former executive to call for an XGM so that we could carry out some meaningful changes before any elections, they simply ignored us. Sixty Sobans endorsed our grievance letter. When some elder Sobans tried to advise them, they simply dismissed them with an arrogance that that is very un-Sobanly. During the Leicester XGM, a team was tasked with working on extensive constitutional and electoral changes that will be adopted during a general assembly that we intend to eventually call.
The POST: What are your initial plans for SOBA UK?
I assume by that you mean what the transitional team has as top priorities. We are carrying out a membership drive to begin with. We will be contacting stakeholders and supporters to notify them on the changes that have taken place in SOBA UK. We have a long list of different things we will be engaging but as I said before, our ultimate aim is getting one big, united fraternity of former ex-students of Sasse college in the UK. None of us or our egos are bigger that a college that was created in 1939 and has educated some of the best brains in and out of the country.
The POST: Why is it so important to protect the SOBA brand? Ex students of Sasse appear to be very passionate about their alma mata. Why is this the case?
I am who I am today primarily because I went to school in Sasse. I am very proud of that. So too are thousands of students who have graduated from that college. SOBA is the brand name of ex-students of the school and it was created to have an umbrella association that could bring us together so that we commune, reminiscent about our time in the college and when possible, help the college out with some development projects. The mother branch is in Cameroon and SOBA UK is just one of many branches in the diaspora. Every Soban is therefore proud of our alma mata and will do anything to defend the ideals we learnt during our time in the college. Part of the reason for the crisis we now have is that the former executive had disagreements with the mother branch and is now operating like an independent branch. We cannot allow that to happen. The UK brand is now being run like a business with guests asked to buy tickets valued at up to one hundred and twenty five pounds apiece. We have no idea what happens to the profit that is made from these ventures. SOBA UK accounts have never been audited. They receive money ostensibly to send for a sick bay project in Sasse even though they no longer do so. There is no accountability for the thousands of pounds raised for that purpose while there has been no project delivered in Sasse for nearly 4 years. We need answers, Mr Ayuk Akoh-Arrey and his team are not giving following right in the footsteps of his predecessor and close friend, Francis Shupo.
It is important to note that Mr Akoh-Arrey was Treasurer of SOBA UK when Francis Shupo abruptly resigned during the 2014 election campaign. Ayuk Akoh-Arrey then stepped up to run for president and won, leaving the post of treasurer vacant throughout his entire presidency. It was a simple problem that could have been solved by calling a by-election to fill that post. He chose not to – so he was effectively president and treasurer of SOBA UK.
SOBA is a brand and we will do anything to protect the brand.
The POST: Who is Cly Elimbi Mensah Kofi? Your names sound Ghanaian.
I am 100% Cameroonian. I have been a UK resident for over 10 years. I did my masters in International Business at the University of Wolverhampton. Today, I am a professionally qualified IT Business Analyst consultant providing services to various clients through my own private Ltd company. I have worked in various industries including Insurance, Health Care, Telecoms, Utilities and Automotive. I have delivered multimillion pound projects for the National Health Service (NHS), Jaguar and Land Rover.
I am no stranger to SOBA UK leadership. I was Vice President of SOBA UB from 2001-2003 and president of SOBA class 93 Association Cameroon from 2004-2006
I’ve been married for almost 10 years; my lovely wife and I have a son who is just over a year .About the names. ‘Kofi’ is a rare name of the Bakweri tribe. I know only one other family with that name in Cameroon. ‘Mensah’ comes from my paternal Togolese lineage which I am also very proud of.
What happened to this Cheque from Lycamobile and was the payment recurrent?