By Francis Ngwa in London
There have been renewed calls for fresh elections in SOBA UK, a year after the mandate of outgoing “one term” president Ayuk Akoh Arrey expired more than a year ago. Though he had promised to call elections after the last SOBA UK convention, and repeated the same promise in March this year, there are still no indications there will be any elections soon leading to critics claiming Akoh-Arrey and his team are clinging to power. After years running the organization as a two man band with close friend and classmate Shupo Francis, there were only forced to call elections in February 2014 in one of the most dynamic branches of the Soban family, a community of ex-students of St Joseph’s college Sasse, the oldest and one of the most prestigious colleges in Anglophone Cameroon. The 2014 SOBA Uk elections were the most contentious and democratic elections the association has ever held more than 20 years after it was created.
Why the delays?
During the last elections organized and run independently by senior Sobans Mola Mbako, Uncle Sako and Joe Foncha, team “agility and steel” led by Akoh -Arrey beat Bobdinga Francis Ngwes team “change” to the presidency. However, in his major campaign speech delivered on 22 February 2014, the “growth” candidate Akoh -Arrey had promised to rule for one term (two years) only and leave at the end of his mandate. Hear him; “I come into this role with a simple message, to provide stability in the running of the organization, galvanize our Soban brethren and move forward the vision agenda to grow SOBA UK to the next level. I intend to do this for one term only and set the framework to inspire our next generation of leaders to emerge”
Following the above declaration, outgoing president Akoh-Arrey inadvertedly disqualified himself from standing for the position of president again. It however looks like he wants to renege on that promise. Multiple concurrent sources told me he limited himself to one term because he was nervous change candidate Bobdinga Francis will beat him in the elections.
He might have run SOBA UK affairs for just two years as president but outgoing president Akoh-Arrey has been at the centre of stewardship for more than twelve years now. He was treasurer for former president. During this period, he has managed to get supporters as well as virulent critics.
“The chickens have come home to roast and Akoh Arrey does not see how he can call elections without being a candidate himself. He is now caught in his own trap” a critic of the outgoing president who did not want to be named told me.
His last challenger during the 2014 elections Bobdinga Francis Ngwe has described Akoh-Arrey as someone who did not like the free flow of debate. All SOBA discussion forums are regularly controlled and only those who think and believe in his style of leadership are allowed on any forums including a whatsapp group. Most members I contacted were critical of Akoh-Arreys leadership style. Their main point of displeasure is that he does not allow free debate in the association and should step down for the new breed of leaders he had promised during his last campaign for the position of president.
Crisis resolution role of Patrons & the SOBA UK family
With a lock jam in calling elections, most SOBA UK members now want senior Sobans Dr Mbako, Uncle Sako, and Joe Foncha to assume their responsibilities, step in and call the president to order. Other senior Sobans and all registered members will also want some kind of order and free flow of ideas and discussions in SOBA UK that has been stifled Since Akoh arrey took over as president.
It is not clear how soon Akoh-Arrey intends to call elections but it is now an urgent internal SOBA UK matter that requires resolution before the association implodes.