On 10th May 2019, the President of SOBA America published an interview conducted by Brian N. Njotsa in the 2019 SOBA America newsletter. President Mafany Itoe raised issues which misrepresent SOBA UK, the SOBA Constitution and the mediation efforts in the dispute in SOBA UK.
President Itoe was aware of the stage of the dispute now at the UK Company Names Tribunal adjudicator whilst giving his interview. His narrative was a dubious attempt to influence SOBA UK matters in favour of the splinter group which he supports. His account, albeit second hand, only goes to fuel animosity amongst members of our UK community and beyond.
Mindful of the good relationship between SOBA UK and SOBA America, and the need for continuous collaboration, we have found it necessary to respond to these unprecedented utterances by President Itoe regarding the UK association.
We denounce the following falsehoods perpetrated by President Itoe as follows;
1) That going by the Constitution (2018) the president of the splinter group is the recognised president of SOBA UK President Itoe should be well aware that there are two groups in the UK. President Akoh-Arrey is the elected president of 112 registered members of the original SOBA UK, which has been in existence for the last 48 years, a group that owns UK trademarks, “SASSE OLD BOYS ASSOCIATION UNITED KINGDOM”, and has built up and sustained significant goodwill both in its membership and the UK Cameroonian community. The second SOBA group in the UK referred to as the splinter group was constituted on 7th Oct 2017 and has a separate membership and executive. This splinter group is much smaller and has yet to publish any official registration list of its members, assumed to be circa 20.
President Itoe’s comments show his arrogance and lack of respect for over 85% of Sobans in the UK who are registered and affiliated with the original group, and whose activities are a role model for Sobans around the world. Furthermore, he asserts his personal acceptance of the unratified 2018 SOBA Constitution and on those grounds declares that the president of the splinter group is the president of SOBA UK recognised by SOBA America. We note that President Itoe also calls himself the president of Sobans in the free world but he is yet to take the 2018 Constitution signed by Prof Ephraim Ndeh Ngwafor dated 10th March 2018 to the General Assembly (GA) of SOBA America. In a recent publication he underscored the importance of the GA but he has only personally ratified the 2018 Constitution which will be incongruent with the values of SOBA America if his own GA is bypassed.
2) That SOBA Chapters are like KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) franchises It is most disconcerting to read such a weak comparison and notice misleading conclusions about the structure of SOBA by President Itoe. KFC’s franchises enter into a commercial agreement at inception to offer a well-defined product for which goodwill has already been created and royalties may be charged. SOBA on the other hand consists of members who are ex-students of Sasse College and who have a fundamental right to set up chapters, class groups or other parochial groups in the jurisdictions where they settle. The 1991 SOBA Constitution recognises this fundamental structure of SOBA and devolves powers to the members to run their affairs as they see fit, and through the operations of an assembly of members, both in spirit and in practice.
President Itoe shows a lack of insight on the practical realities when he compares SOBA chapters to KFC franchises;
- Beginning with his own chapter, SOBA America, as an example, Ernest N. Tate, Esq, a legal expert in the US wrote that – “from a legal vantage point, neither SOBA America Inc nor Sasse Alumni Association, Inc have any direct legal affiliation with SOBA General or Sasse Old Boys Association in Cameroon and therefore, no constitutional amendments, resolutions, or corporate actions taken by Sasse Old Boys Association in Cameroon can affect SOBA America Inc or Sasse Alumni Association Inc, regardless of who participated in the adoption of such amendments or resolutions”.
- Another example is SOBA Foundation, Germany. This chapter was set up as an NGO that receives funding from the German Government to undertake benevolent activities and operate under the terms of its set up. For many years SOBA Foundation has had no contact or affiliation to the national branch in Cameroon.
- Finally, SOBA UK and SOBA Ireland are set up as unincorporated associations, and have only ever had a loose collaborative connection with the national branch, and like all other diaspora chapters, do not pay any registration fee to SOBA in Cameroon.
To this end, we categorically reject President Itoe’s comparison of SOBA to KFC.
3) Apportioning blame of mediation failure attempts to the Akoh-Arrey team Conflict resolution often requires careful consideration of the feuding parties before prescribing the engagement method. It is regrettable that mediation attempts from both the Itoe-backed team and Prof Ngwafor lacked the capability, neutrality or good faith to deliver a successful outcome. Prof Ngwafor has a history of animosity with the Akoh-Arrey team since the 2015 Sickbay MOU debacle, and therefore his intervention was biased.
The Itoe-backed mediation lacked patience with the Akoh-Arrey team who asked to get the SOBA UK GA’s opinion. These supposed mediators then called off the process prematurely to give green light to the high-handed approach of their superiors in the national branch to ban UK Sobans for life, a decision which has since been dismissed by the SOBA UK General Assembly.
In conclusion, we denounce all misrepresentations made by President Itoe of SOBA America in his interview. His intervention, whilst also taking sides, has made matters worse, not better. Our fervent wish is that he can take some responsibility and help to sort out the perilous state of affairs that his final days as president of SOBA America are turning out to be, before his departure.
Mr. John Bawak
On behalf of the 112 Registered Members of SOBA UK