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THAT PA ANTHONY ENAHORO MAY REST IN PEACE

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The other day, our rugged, ebullient, no nonsense elder statesman Chief Anthony Enahoro was laid to rest. As usual, the man's final exit left no one in doubt that he has actually began his rest because the whole process went on so peaceful that it was almost unnoticed, against the usual Nigerian perks like noise, mind bugging advertisements etc. Thank God again that, but for the pockets of killings in the North Eastern axis of the country, nothing happened within the North West , South South or South West. He was honoured with registration of voters, a process he championed, lived and died for –a peaceful, genuine electoral process. Thanks again to Prof Attahiru Jega whose wobbly start of the registration exercise picked only after collecting additional Six Billion (N6Bln) Naira was approved for the process. In Nigeria , money talks and it talks volumes. Prof, please don't let us ever see placard carrying unpaid Youth corpers! I will join them to stone you because you got more than your fill nairaly.

So Papa is now at rest, gone not to join in the fight for freedom of Nigeria from the colonial masters again, but from us Nigerians – his kid and grand children. I do not know of any Nigeria living or dead who had put up such a fight as he. Not even Awo who though was involved, but from the comfort of his “Didie Olu Estate” or his still flourishing Newspaper publishing “The Tribune” or Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who had Flats in University of Nigeria Nsukka named after him where he earned huge sum of money before donating some of them to the University. Chief Enahoros' major business was politics of integrity- the most difficult sell in this part of the world. A preacher man who for many years tore politicians to shreds – Pastor Tunde Bakare once said that politicians are surprised that people believe them, because they do not believe themselves. Shockingly, and most embarrassing too, the same Bakare is now the Vice Presidential candidate to Buhari in a political marriage that to date has defiled all political arithmetic. Is somebody shouting? These were not the lot of the man Chief Enahoro. He was always known to be a man of his words come rain or shine.

We cannot claim to over flog the issue because his exit is only the beginning of real issues in Nigerian politics. Beginning with questions, where are all those who stood with him in the opposition camp? How long did last? Where are those taking over from our rested integrous leadership? Almost everyone who had anything to say about the man were short of words because being junior or children in the active days of the late chief, only privileged few had the opportunity of being granted an interview by him. At the last count, only Chief James Ekpre Otobo gave an insight into the workings of the mans' heart in his last few days. He said “… the only person left who took part in Nigerians' independence talk was l and Shehu Shagari… l tried to reach him so we could discuss 2011 elections with the politicians and about the proper thing to do…” So, at 87, the grand old man was still thinking Nigeria ! How many of our National Assembly members do today? A man who at 21 was an editor to a national Newspaper; at 33, he gave us what we are all doing everything to destroy – Nigeria - by virtue of his motion in 1953 for our independence. How else can we describe a man who l prefer to call the only Laptop Computer Nigeria ever had. In the Western House of representatives in the 60's, when someone dared to refer to the area which was called Midwest as an extension of old Western Region, he, it was, who joined forces with the likes of Late Chief Dennis Osadebey, late Chief S.J.Mariere and late Chief O.I. Dafe among others to cause the creation of Mid West Region which later became Bendel and is now Edo and Delta States. Then it was sweet to fight for our father land. It was sweet to tell the truth without looking behind your shoulder for police in their quest for your arrest. Do we have such truthful fellows today? If yes count them among a population of 150 million Nigerians, how many are they? Where are they?

The chief is gone, but how do we describe a man who most of us got to know at his already fragile age? I likened him to the latest incursion in the automobile industry – the Tundra Toyota, the Titan Nissan or Rashidi Yekini of Nigeria in his footballing days. The presentation of any of the former is usually a delightful assurance that the journey is half done, while the latter's inclusion in the Super Eagles squad is as sure as winning the game. Their foes are never lucky to tell their tales of woe. Pa Tony Enahoro was such a man, never caught off guard. He was an enigma, a recalling decimal in the camp of the opposition yet stood like a colossus on every side of his views. He never lost any argument for as long as it was for the interest of the nation irrespective of the fact that his views are in minority. He never changed his stands on issues and policies. Now the man has gone to rest and he needed that rest really. Why not? His usefulness would have been done with were he to have been a civil servant at 65 years of age. But he moved on, not only as a relevant fellow, but was always at the center of issues.

Nigeria does not respect her heroes and that is very true. If you are in doubt l challenge anyone to tell me what has become of Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe and the beautification of their place of rest called Mausoleum? Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose Unity Party of Nigeria held sway in the South west of Nigeria in his days. Where are the hench men of that party now? Was the same party not what was turned to Alliance for Democracy and due to indifference among the parties leadership buried it only to resurrect as Action Congress with Atiku as its leader astutely supported by senator Bola Tinubu? Where is Atiku in the scheme of things in the now Action Congress of Nigeria – a party he financed and brought to life? How many of the old brigades ever think of marking the Awo's memorial lectures these days? Chief Ebenezer Babatope is a classical example of betrayal in this politics without principle. Here is a man who climbed to the limelight through Awo. From his student days it was easy to identify him with the Iron cotton of the South west. But on sooner than Awo left, Babatope shifted base to the power that be. Now he has thrown himself into irrelevance. What has he been telling his children? That Nigeria never gave him the opportunity to express himself? Chief Akin Omoboriowo didn't know what hit him like a thunder bolt when he broke camp with the progressives to join the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the 80's to fight against late Chief Michael Ajasin for the governorship slot in old Ondo state. He lost almost all he had. The late chief was older by far to late Chief Awolowo, but he believed in the principles shared among those in opposition. Shame! Baba Kekere – Alhaji Lateef Jakande was one of the most popular governors in his days in the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). He had all things going for him, established many schools and banished the then shifts, built estates which we still have to date as reference and many more. But when he jumped ship and dined with the establishment, he could not remember what hit him like tornados. In split seconds, he lost all his good will almost his name like a park of cards. Few years ago when he was to celebrate his 75th birthday, he was cap in hand begging everyone in the Awo and by extension Enahoro's camp of opposition for forgiveness.

At 70 years of age, it was Chief Enahoro who rallied like minded politicians and professionals to form The National Democratic Coalitions (NADECO). As its chairman, the body worked for the installation of MKO Abiola as President, and when that did not succeed due to the death of the later, held the Abachas head long and drove them out of office ushering in the 1999 election through which Chief Obasanjo became President from prison. But by the last count where is the last man standing now? In their time, we had the like of Zik of Africa, Awo, and Aminu Kano all that have gone. Only Bello Maitama Sule is left. Who are those willing to tap from his wealth of knowledge now when he is not a money bag? At the regional level who are our rallying fellows? Where are the true representatives? The people we celebrate in the likes of our dear Papa suffered beating, teargas, detention and some of the time jail of various terms. Yet they were not deterred. Effective student unionism the type that produced “Ali Must Go” are all dead. But that is the breading ground for nationalist's movement.

Pa Anthony Enahoro lived, worked and died for the sovrenghty of Nigeria . In material terms what were his gains aside from an old building in the GRA in Benin City and may be Lagos , his village and all by dint of hard work? He never enjoyed government perks of office, and as a consummate opposition leader, if he had shoddy deals all would have been exposed now. He never disappointed.

Our leaders today do not feel that they owe us any obligation. Where they ought to act in public interest, they feel they owe us nothing. Talk Power; they tell you that they have their private power generating plant not minding the cost. Mention water, they are the first to inform you that they own Bore holes. When we discuss health care delivery they are the first to give you the list of better hospitals everywhere in the world where they visit regularly for check ups. What about good roads – its excuse, excuse and excuse all the way. Year in and out they fix nothing other than their pockets.

An attempt to review the character of the elderly statesman confirmed that he lived by the rules. Read the old and the current national Anthem and you will be convinced that he met and surpassed the nation's prerequisite for the highest honour of the land. “Arise oh compatriot Nigeria's call obey; to serve our father land; with love and strength and faith; the labour of our heroes past; shall never be in vain; to serve with heart and might, one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity”. Where did our Papa falter here? Based on the qualities exhibited by Papa, can any of our current law makers convince anyone that they are really and truly our representatives? It is painful that the chief can only receive his awards like the teachers – in heaven. He deserved the best yet got none. But if anything is even being considered, can some one tell those in the national assembly to hasten and throw the honour on his wife and children while it can still be of value? I am yet to be informed if late Sam Okwaraji's Naira price has been received by the family years after the olive branch was waved at the family. I am not sure if Enyimba boys have received their promised houses in Abuja for their successful exploit in Football some years back. Please do not let this be one of those long promises never honoured. After all no one has begged for it all the years of Papa's life.

Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Port Harcourt

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Mike O. Akpati
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Articles by Mike O. Akpati