WHAT ENAHORO TAUGHT US
'We were on the bed together and we were still holding each other. Suddenly, he just switched off. He looked at me and he closed his eyes. That was all. I was calling him, he did not answer and I knew he was gone. I looked at my time, it was 6 a.m.' That was Helen, widow of the recently deceased elder statesman, Pa Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, recounting her husband's final moments to TELL magazine. On the dot of six, in the morning of Wednesday, December 15, 2010, the man who moved the motion for Nigeria's independence from Britain on March 31, 1953, went the way of all flesh. He shuffled off this mortal coil to meet his Maker and join the saints triumphant in a land where no earthly sorrow or anguish can touch you. He was the last of the titans. He was the last of a generation of leaders who taught us to use our positions as tools for finding the greatest good for the greatest number of people. He taught us selfless service. He taught us godly service.
Like our other heroes past (Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello) exemplified, and like General Colin Powell espoused, Enahoro taught us, in practical terms, that leadership requires 'moral, physical, mental, and spiritual courage'. Oren Harari expatiated on that in the book, Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, saying, 'courage is not about self-aggrandizement, bravado or suicidal initiatives. It's about the willingness to respectfully, relentlessly, and unapologetically challenge people-including the smartest, toughest people around you-in the pursuit of unit goals and performance excellence.'
The late nationalist was true to that. Even more. Whether in the nationalist struggles for independence, or whether he was free or serving time in the slammer, or was soaked in stench in the trenches against dreaded military dictatorship (as in Sani Abacha versus NADECO), Pa Anthony Enahoro demonstrated uncommon courage. Even when the colonialists hunted nationalists like game, and threw him and others to jail, he never slacked. He remained resolute and focused. He fought on the side of the people. Like the late Yoruba and fellow NADECO leader, Senator Abraham Adesanya, he was ready to pay the supreme price if that would aid the emancipation of the people and engender the emergence of an egalitarian society for which he and other nationalists worked so hard.
In plunging his whole life into the struggle, he taught us that no sacrifice is too big to make for a cause you believe in. Through his action packed life, he also taught us that a leader must not be slothful. In fact, he believed that for leaders to be successful, and for them to etch their names in gold in the mind of their people, they must be ready to work their fingers to the bones. They must spend more time at their desks than some others waste on cavorting and carousing. They must engage in honest hard work. The departed legend taught that lesson practically. With his life. He believed in leadership by example. He believed that leaders, our leaders, must be pragmatic.
They must provide dependable and trustworthy leadership to command faithful and loyal followership.
To imagine how hard Enahoro worked, even at the twilight of age, consider this: the elder statesman had a running battle with diabetes. He fell into coma last November 1, and was admitted to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital. But rather than apply the brakes upon his release from hospital, the ailing old man went back to work. According to Helen, his wife of 57 years, he returned to work almost immediately, reading, writing and making consultations. 'Evidently, you can't tell him not to read his newspapers or write,' the widow said in the TELL interview.
For most of his 87 years, Pa Enahoro was true to his billing as a nationalist and a pro-democracy activist without compare. But despite his activism, and very busy schedule as a politician, he was also an avid reader, and a great writer.
His widow said he read anything in print-books, journals, newspapers and magazines, no matter how thrash some of them might seem. He read widely. An attribute that is very rare among Nigerian leaders. They don't read. That's why it's usually difficult to find quotable sentences in their speeches. That is why their speeches are so dry and drab. That is why their words don't inspire. By reading constantly, the late Adolor of Uromi demonstrated the need for leaders to read and illuminate their minds and intellect to stay atop their beats. Yes, the world is a global village and you could get any information at the touch of your computer's keyboard, yet, nothing can displace the pre-eminence of the written word. Consequently, the late icon taught us, practically, that leaders must read widely to be relevant on both local and global stages.
In life, Enahoro was a quintessential journalist, astute administrator and untainted politician. He achieved his string of successes through hard work.
Which is why he crossed the Styx with a smile of satisfaction. But, though he may have hopped the twig with a gentle smile of contentment, pleased that he came, saw and conquered his world, he had an unfulfilled dream. According to his widow, he never stopped talking or writing about till he breathed his last.
Despite his achievements, the engaging public speaker, motivator and reformer went home feeling disappointed that his primary objective of moving that historic motion in 1953 (though some folks have started contesting that) was not achieved in his lifetime.
He regretted that at 50, Nigeria still totters with a parody of democracy. He regretted that at 50, the country still reeks with the putrefying smell of corruption, and cruel and insensitive leadership. And as long as the country was in that dire strait, he refused to shed his toga of activism, even at 87. And he never regretted being labeled a rebel for his pro-democracy activism and continuous struggle for an egalitarian society. 'I will always be described as a rebel,' he said in one of his recent outings. 'I accept it. But what I'm rebellious about is why another country should come and rule my own country, and immediately after the British left, it cost us quite a lot. Why must I address my fellow countrymen in foreign language? Why should I be speaking English as my lingua franca? It does not make sense to me.
We must ensure that all the abnormalities are corrected so that the upcoming generations would not share from the implications.'
Profound. And by fighting to the last, the old man taught us to be resilient and never say 'over' until it's truly over.
This tribute will be incomplete if I fail to say something about the humility of the late iconoclast. And I will use my personal encounter with him. It was one Saturday morning in 2008, in the early days of The Spectator newspaper. He had agreed to grant me an exclusive interview at his guesthouse on Joel Odunaike Street in Ikeja GRA., Lagos. He had fixed the time for 11.a.m. because he wanted to travel to Benin immediately after the interview to join his wife for a wedding..
I entered the compound about 10 minutes to the time, feeling that a man of his age would be taking things so easy he won't get out of bed early. I had primed my mind that I may have to wait for another hour for the old man to be ready. But there he was, at the end of a dinning table, in a simple light yellow T-shirt over a pair of black trousers, waiting for me! He welcomed my photojournalist and I with a broad smile and called for food. He insisted we must eat before work. My feeble decline couldn't sway him. He not only stood his ground. He even insisted we take our ration from his plate. As we devoured the food, he chatted with us as if we were colleagues. There were no airs around the legend. He taught us a lesson in humility. He taught us to treat every human with respect no matter how highly placed you might be.
Here now is the irony of Enahoro's life of struggle: contrary to what he envisioned while moving the historic motion for Nigeria's independence, he died, 57 years later, in the middle of another struggle.. The struggle to enthrone popular democracy, true reign of the rule of law, responsible and responsive governance, and ensuring that the people get tangible dividends of democracy in his lifetime. Sadly, he will never see that again.
Despite that, and if it were possible for the dead to dance and rejoice, he should, by now, be having a ball on the other side of the great divide. He should be celebrating that he came and he impacted positively on his country, and humanity. And I'm sure he would get a golden crown of glory when he meets his Maker, if he hasn't done so already. For all he did for this country, for shinning ever so brilliantly in a continent plagued with desperate power mongers, a continent cursed with people who would stop at nothing to grab power and die in power, Nigeria and Nigerians must celebrate this worthy son of Africa. Nigeria must give him a grand and historic good bye.
We can't thank him enough.