ANENIH @ 82 AND THE LONGING FOR MORE ODYSSEYS
“Mr Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.” Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, to his Portrait Painter, Sir Peter Lely.
Once again, I take the liberty offered by the opportune occasion of the 82ndbirthday of Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which comes up on Tuesday, August 4, to paint his portrait in the hope that I will be able to remark the “warts and all” as I see him, but not necessarily for a recompense.
It is apposite to remark that the Iyasele (Prime Minister) of Esanland has not come to the terminus of his odysseys yet, even with his graceful exit from the Chair of the Conscience Department of the PDP in the aftermath of the party's loss to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in this year's presidential election. He is still making himself available for resolution of critical issues in the party, albeit behind the scene.
Consider his reported advisory role in the negotiation of the PDP into the senate leadership with Ike Ekweremadu emerging as Deputy Senate President. That explicates his longing for more actions in his political odyssey that has spanned well over three decades. Anenih's longing fits in well into the architecture on which he has built a life and time of robust politics and politicking. Thus, his belonging in the political circles is quite understandable.
Regardless of his panache and accomplishments in politics, one must not fail to trace his trajectory in life, especially his starting point, which was hitherto not highlighted until his 80th birthday in 2013 when, through publications in the print media, Nigerians were apprised of his grass-to-grace narrative, the nitty-gritty of which touched the sensibilities of readers and provided a new perspective of his individuality. It was chronicled that after his successful sojourn at Government School, Uromi, he could not proceed to Saint Thomas' Teacher Training College, Ibusa, subsequent to passing the qualifying examination due to the inability of his parents to afford the six pounds required for scholarship; and, he had to, among other things, take to rubber tapping to raise fund for his education.
That narrative had shattered the mindset in some quarters that Anenih came from an aristocratic background. Truth is, he had endured the vicissitudes of life: he headed for Benin City to stay with and serve, for one year, Lance Corporal Omeben, the father of retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Christopher Omeben, who was then in Edo College. It was the late older Omeben who advised and encouraged Anenih to enlist in the Nigeria Police Force in 1951 (from where he voluntarily retired in 1976 as Commissioner of Police to venture into private business, which he later combined with politics.)
The occasion of Anenih's birthday always affords him obligatory introspection on the journey of life and the vagaries of socio-economic and political tempers that he had to deal with. The consequences of this annual introspection must have informed his devotion to the service of God and humanity, which adverts attention to the silent chapter of his life: his philanthropy that is hardly celebrated. Among countless individuals and institutions, both academic and religious that have benefitted from his eleemosynary are: Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma; the University of Benin; Igbinedion University, Okada; and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. In 2012, he endowed a multi-million naira Geriatric Centre at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, the first in Africa, to support the care of the aged and senior citizens.
I will like to recap part of what I wrote last year concerning Anenih: “Without doubt, it is all about Anenih's humanity: here is a leader with a heart to help; a principal who is always touched by the feelings of the infirmity of his associates and followers; and, tries as much as it is possible to provide them succor. Yet, this inimitable benefactor does not make noise about his good deeds whether in the political or private lives of the beneficiaries…. It is curious that in a society where politicians clamour for recognition, and advantageously position themselves in the media to gain mileages, Anenih would rather restrain himself and choose, instead, to dance to the quiet rhythm of his soul. This is a disposition that has helped to define his persona as a taciturn and decorous politician, whose maturity, experience and fidelity cannot be faulted.
Anenih is a purposeful and quintessential politician, a politician who has earned his place in the nation's politics as a Leader of his people and his numerous followers within and outside his political sphere of influence. But his tenacity of purpose and legerdemain had actually crystallized in the defunct Second Republic when, as Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the old Bendel State, he plotted and led the political/electoral onslaught that saw his party's candidate, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, defeat the then sitting governor, the late Professor Ambrose Alli of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
The strategist had replicated similar feat in the ill-fated Third Republic as Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and in the current Fourth Republic when, during Obasanjo's re-election gambit in 2002/2003, he had taken charge of the machinery that fashioned out strategies that ensured the defeat of opposition to Obasanjo within and outside the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 2007 and 2011 general elections, he played a frontline strategic role in the electoral success of the PDP.
Anenih's ability to consistently, at every turn, resolve knotty political puzzles would later earn him the sobriquet- “Mr. Fix It”, which the opposition elements had tried to twist negatively to demonise him. The deprecating aura that the 'Mr Fix It' tag exudes in the nation's political arena does not aptly convey the essential content of the Anenih persona. Yet, the other camps have always played it up in their deliberate schema to demonize him within and outside the cosmos of political affairs where he hit the limelight. It is, indeed, paradoxical that politics, which brought him fame, has also earned him scorn in the camps of the opposition elements.
But then, he has chosen to bear the cross philosophically: politics is in his blood and he plays it with the passion and devotion of a religious aficionado. He accepts the compliments that come with it as well as the bashings. He relishes the victories, the accomplishments and the bravura performances of his party and candidates during electoral contests. He has also learned to live with the pains of defeat whenever he suffers any….”
He is presently living with the defeat of the PDP by the APC in the 2015 presidential election. He is not hysterical about the development. He had congratulated General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the election, on his victory. His April 6 2015 press statement on the Buhari victory was clear: “I congratulate the President-Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari,GCFR, on his victory. Nigerians are expecting great things from him; it is my hope that he will take this great country to greater heights in the journey towards our manifest destiny.”
To be sure, the Iyasele of Esanland is taking a well-deserved rest having survived the dangerous intrigues, tempest and ballyhoo that characterised the dark alleys of our cloak and dagger politics. This is not a declaration that he has opted out of politics. Politics is in his blood. He is quietly pondering ways to assist the PDP regain its lost prize. He would calmly admonish his associates and loyalists to remain steadfast and not to despair as there would be dispensations and eras. This is his inspirational disposition to politics, which is far flung from the myth of invincibility that has been created around him by his traducers who have tried to create the erroneous impression in the minds of those who do not know him (Anenih) that he behaves as a god in human flesh as far as politics and electoral contestations are concerned.
Permit me to surmise in much bolder but apt reliefs the correct portrait of Anenih: a grand and archetypal politician who is consistently and persistently loyal to his leadership and followership; an ardent mobiliser of human resources; a political strategist with the can-do spirit, who believes in positive thinking as well as the force of great and reasonable expectations. All these represent the sum of his inspirational life as he longs for more political odysseys (of course, with restrained intensity due to age factor) at 82.
Written by Sufuyan Ojeifo.