A Minute Si­lence for the Fixer

Known to al­ways shoot from be­hind the scene, he be­strode Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal ter­rain with panache and un­ri­valled ca­pac­ity. Is a minute’s si­lence for Chief An­thony Anenih, the late for­mer chair­man, Board of Trustees of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party, ask­ing

THISDAY - - CICERO / TRIBUTE -

When one of the most prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in Nige­ria, Edo State-born Chief An­thony Anenih – ‘Mr. Fix It’ – was pro­nounced dead at age 85 on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 28, 2018, it was ob­vi­ous that his fam­ily, friends, state, coun­try and politi­cians across the po­lit­i­cal di­vides would have so much to say about his life and time. Anenih was a man of many parts. He was Com­man­der of the Fed­eral Re­pub­lic (CFR), the Iyasele (Prime Min­is­ter) of Esan­land, Chair­man of the Board of Directors of Nige­rian Ports Author­ity (NPA) and Chair­man of the Board of Trustees of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), and in 2014, the Board and Man­age­ment of The Sun Pub­lish­ing Lim­ited con­ferred him with the Life­time Achieve­ment Award.

A pa­triot and na­tion­al­ist, Anenih smartly sus­tained his good­will and po­lit­i­cal rel­e­vance among friends and po­lit­i­cal as­so­ci­ates with his po­lit­i­cal wit­ti­ness, which he por­trayed through his calm mien and as such, cul­ti­vated re­la­tion­ships across the na­tion.

Un­like many ar­che­typal politi­cians, he stayed put in the PDP and con­trib­uted his quota to the de­vel­op­ment of the party even in the thick of a bad storm. Born on Au­gust 4, 1933 in Uzen­ema-Arue in Uromi, Anenih joined the Nige­ria Po­lice Force in 1951 in Benin City, Edo State and at­tended the Po­lice Col­lege in Ikeja, La­gos, where he was se­lected for fur­ther train­ing at the Bramshill Po­lice Col­lege, Bas­ingstoke, Eng­land in 1966 and the In­ter­na­tional Po­lice Academy, Washington DC in 1970. He served as a po­lice or­derly to the first Gover­nor Gen­eral of Nige­ria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

He an in­struc­tor in var­i­ous Po­lice Col­leges and in 1975, he was as­signed to the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Staff Col­lege, La­gos. He re­tired from the Po­lice as a Com­mis­sioner, af­ter which he ven­tured into pol­i­tics. He was state chair­man of the Na­tional Party of Nige­ria (NPN) be­tween 1981 and 1983 and was elected civil­ian gover­nor of old Ben­del State (now Edo and Delta States). His gov­er­nor­ship was how­ever cut short by the mil­i­tary takeover of De­cem­ber 1983. He was sub­se­quently the Na­tional Chair­man of the So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) be­tween 1992 and 1993, and was also a mem­ber of the Con­sti­tu­tional Con­fer­ence in 1994. He was a mem­ber of the then un­reg­is­tered Peo­ples Demo­cratic Move­ment (PDM) founded by the late for­mer Chief of Gen­eral Staff, the late Gen­eral Musa Yar’Adua. He later joined the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party, and was a Min­is­ter of Works un­der the regime of for­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo.

While the Edo State chap­ter of the PDP called him ‘Na­tional Leader,’ he sud­denly got the ap­pel­la­tion of ‘Mr. Fix it. But not many peo­ple knew he didn’t re­ally like the name. Whereas he got the name, be­cause of his close­ness to the cor­ri­dors of power and his po­lit­i­cal dex­ter­ity at re­solv­ing knotty po­lit­i­cal prob­lems, which won him the chair­man­ship of the PDP Board of Trustees, the op­po­si­tion am­pli­fied the name to mean that he was an ex­pert in ma­nip­u­lat­ing elec­tions.

Some of the low points in his life were when he was in­volved in the con­tro­ver­sial N300­bil­lion fraud in the transportation sec­tor dur­ing the Obasanjo ad­min­is­tra­tion. He had been thrown into jail for 18 months be­tween March 1984 and Au­gust 1985 by the mil­i­tary regime of Muham­madu Buhari for al­legedly be­ing rich.

In 2016, the late Anenih sur­vived an eight-hour heart surgery which was car­ried out in the UK. But on Sun­day, April 16, 2017 his wife, Pa­tri­cia Anenih died, and about a month later, on May 14, his son Eu­gene Anenih, died.

Con­se­quently, he opted out of ac­tive pol­i­tics in 2016 in the af­ter­math of the party’s loss to the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) in the 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and prayed that God granted Pres­i­dent Buhari the wis­dom to lead Nige­ria. Noth­ing would bet­ter de­pict the val­ues he added to the Nige­rian po­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment than the com­ments of em­i­nent lead­ers and opin­ion mold­ers, who echoed his many names at death.

In a con­do­lence mes­sage to the Anenih fam­ily and the peo­ple of Edo State, Pres­i­dent Buhari af­firmed that he was a front­line fig­ure in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal his­tory and at­tested to it that Anenih lived a life of ser­vice, held strong views on is­sues per­tain­ing to the unity and sta­bil­ity of the na­tion.

Obasanjo, on his part de­scribed Anenih’s death as the end of one of the most in­spir­ing chap­ters of Nige­ria’s his­tory.

“Chief Tony Anenih’s life was an ar­che­typal les­son in pub­lic ser­vice and lead­er­ship at its best,” the for­mer pres­i­dent said in the one-page let­ter made avail­able by his Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Me­dia, Ke­hinde Akinyemi.

“He had to him­self a life full of ac­com­plish­ments and mer­i­to­ri­ous ser­vices to the lo­cal and na­tional com­mu­ni­ties. He served the na­tion with de­vo­tion and dili­gence in his cho­sen pro­fes­sion. His ser­vice in the Nige­ria Po­lice Force was distin­guished by high pro­fes­sional stan­dard.

“He was an epit­ome of hu­mil­ity and quiet dig­nity both in ser­vice and re­tire­ment, even though he rose to the rank of Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice be­fore re­tire­ment,” Obasanjo stated.

For­mer pres­i­dent, Dr. Good­luck Jonathan also com­mented on his qual­ity of life when he said the late “Chief Anenih was a great as­set to our dear na­tion. For a long time, he re­mained a lead­ing light in our party and in Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal fir­ma­ment, chart­ing the course for peace, unity and the en­trench­ment of true democ­racy in our na­tion.

“Even in old age and in re­tire­ment, Anenih con­tin­ued to in­spire and men­tor younger politi­cians as a demon­stra­tion of his deep com­mit­ment to Nige­ria’s growth and progress. He was in­deed a leader with an ex­cep­tional knack for ini­ti­at­ing well-con­sid­ered strate­gies for po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in the na­tion.”

In de­scrib­ing Anenih, for­mer Min­is­ter of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs and mem­ber, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Chief Tom Ikimi, said the name: “Mr. fix it” given to him was a be­fit­ting one, be­cause among other things, he con­sis­tently presided over in­tri­cate and del­i­cate mat­ters with firm­ness, ut­most dex­ter­ity and fi­nesse.

“It will in­deed be a long time to come be­fore many of us will come to terms with the re­al­ity of the pass­ing of On­walen Chief An­thony Aka­hon Anenih (CFR), the Iyasere of Esan land, one-time Fed­eral Min­is­ter of Works and, un­til re­cently, the Chair­man of the Board of Trustees of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party – PDP,” Ikimi said.

Gover­nor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State Tues­day de­clared a three-day mourn­ing pe­riod in hon­our of the late el­der states­man, af­ter his visit to the fam­ily home of the late po­lit­i­cal icon in Abuja.

Like many oth­ers who eu­lo­gised the good virtues of the late leader, Obaseki, who ex­pressed deep sadness over the late politi­cian, said the mourn­ing pe­riod was a mark of hon­our for Anenih.

He noted that the el­der states­man de­voted a bet­ter part of his life to the de­vel­op­ment of the state and coun­try as he con­trib­uted to na­tional de­vel­op­ment in the var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties he served in his life­time.

His Delta State coun­ter­part, Sen­a­tor Ifeanyi Okowa also com­mis­er­ated with the Anenih fam­ily, say­ing the late PDP stal­wart was a com­mit­ted pa­triot, who served the na­tion at the high­est lev­els with an un­com­mon sense of pa­tri­o­tism and un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion.

Na­tional Chair­man of PDP, Uche Se­con­dus, said Anenih was “A na­tion­al­ist, who wanted the best for the coun­try,” adding that the “PDP would im­mor­talise him.”

Front­line lawyer and ed­u­ca­tion­ist-turned politi­cian, who has as­pired to Edo State gov­er­nor­ship on three oc­ca­sions and who re­cently re­turned to the PDP, Mr. Ken­neth Im­man­suang­bon, said Anenih’s death was “A big loss to the coun­try, be­cause he was a bridge builder.” The ac­co­lades and sym­pa­thies are still pour­ing in as fam­ily, friends, po­lit­i­cal as­so­ci­ates and well-wish­ers have turned the Abuja home of the de­ceased to a Mecca of sorts, where they go to com­mis­er­ate with his wife, Hon. Jus­tice Maryann Anenih and his chil­dren.

Al­though the el­der states­man might be dead, his con­tri­bu­tions to Nige­ria’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape would re­main in­deli­ble in the sand of time. Shall we there­fore ob­serve a minute si­lence for the dead now?

Anenih

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