By Itote Damisa
Yours truly woke up two days ago and it dawned on me that by today, it would have been three years since the demise of the iconic political leader and elderstatesman, Chief (Dr.)Tony Anenih. The Fixer of problems, both political and otherwise took his ultimate breath on the 28 of October 2018 at the ripe old age of 85 years.
In remembrance, this writer thought about a short tribute. The dilemma was its caption. Then I concluded on a caption that suits and may appeal to the prevailing circumstances in the country and of course, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and its gravely unsettled Edo State chapter, chiefly orchestrated by a lack of adroitness in negotiations and jejune political compromises. This is a story for another day.
Clearly, the missing link in today’s political entrapment and morass in Nigeria and the PDP is Anenih, the famed Mr Fix It.
Take for instance his celebrated roles in the Niger-Delta crisis during the era of late President Umaru Ya’adua.
He initiated and facilitated the peace-building process leading to the grant of amnesty to the militants from that oil-rich region of Nigeria. He and a few others ensured stoppage of the blowing off of oil assets and the abduction of oil workers, thereby restoring Nigeria’s economic advancement through the exploration and exportation of crude oil.
He once narrated his roles to this writer and yours truly was particularly fascinated by one of the events leading to the grant of amnesty to the militants.
Chief Anenih had brokered peace between the militants and the Federal Government and there was the need to meet with the then President as facilitated by the Anenih’s team. The leaders of the freedom fighters were initially hesitant in meeting with the President for fear of being arrested and detained should they come to Abuja. Chief was then mandated to reach out and assure them of their safety and the government’s sincerity of purpose in the negotiations.
Anenih led a delegation to the creeks and the initially hesitant and ambivalent militants became interested on account of the assurances from the delegation.
It was agreed that a presidential aircraft be sent to convey the Freedom fighters by 7:00 a.m on the day of the first meeting with the President. To the astonishment of Chief, the militants, led by the very popular one from Delta State arrived at Chief’s Asokoro residence at about 1:00 a.m.
The militants got to Abuja on their own. More shockingly, Chief never furnished them with his house address, since the agreement was that a plane would be sent to pick them up. They apparently rode on a speed boat and berthed in Lokoja and from Lokoja by road to Abuja at midnight. They arrived at the National Leader’s house unannounced and accommodation was promptly provided for them so they could refresh in preparation for the meeting with Mr President.
While a plane was being arranged to depart Abuja for the freedom fighters, Chief walked into the Villa with them. The Villa staff became alarmed on seeing Anenih with the very people they were mobilising to go pick by plane. I laughed my lungs out on being told this story.
And so it was that in late 2015 during the resurgence of the Niger-Delta Avengers on account of the alleged Federal Government witch-hunt of a certain former militant leader, Chief through a top security officer and a confidante of President Buhari intervened once again and got the Federal Government to back down ostensibly because of the dire economic consequences and the sophistication of the militants should the government continue to chase the former leader of militants.
It was no use pursuing them. He advocated dialogue and peaceful resolution. His philosophy is that to war is never the answer as to Jaw-Jaw is far better than to War-War.
At the end of his intervention, the top Buhari’s buddy on two occasions invited Chief Anenih for a meeting with Mr Buhari, but the former Minister of Works and Chairman of the BoT of the PDP declined.
He noted that Nigerians and PDP faithful would certainly read meanings to such a meeting with the President no matter how discreet. Chief was a loyal party man to the core despite taking backstage in partisan politics at that time.
This writer verily believes that if Anenih were to be alive, there would have been some sort of intervention in the Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho’s travails.
In the characteristic nature of Mr Fix It, he would have reached out to the opinion leaders of the concerned region to steer the needed political solution to these deliriums for the sake of the unity, progress and peace of the entity called Nigeria.
Chief Anenih was an advocate of peaceful coexistence. He lived and died championing tranquillity and peaceful resolution of issues.
Of course, like all mortals, he got angry occasionally, but he never stayed bittered and bothered for too long.
On a certain occasion, he wanted to have his haircut ahead of a trip and the Barber was called. For more than two hours, the Barber kept ‘coming’ (the usual Nigerian way of coming). At some point, he lied that he was at the gate waiting for the instruction to allow him entry. When he eventually arrived, he told further lies. The old man got angry and told him to leave his premises immediately. He requested for a driver to take him to any of the Barber’s shops in Asokoro. He was resolute in dismissing his Barber.
Being a smart Yoruba Man, the Barber promptly apologized. Chief reluctantly followed him to the Barbing section of his residence. A few minutes into the exercise, I heard the National leader asking about the well being of the Barber’s wife and children. The discussion went deeper into advising him about life. You could never tell that this was the man who was visibly angry a few minutes ago. At the end of the Barber’s assignment, some wads of the Nigerian currency, way beyond what the Barber was entitled to exchanged hands. Chief entered his bathroom for a shower, while the Barber smiled to the bank.
Yours truly has personal copious experiences about the peaceful disposition of the iconic leader. However, we want to keep this tribute as brief as possible. So permit this writer to spare you of his personal encounters.
Even on his bed during the brief illness that eventually led to his demise, he demonstrated this attribute of his -peacefulness and kindness.
A certain former protege of his from Delta State suddenly started behaving very rudely to the elderstatesman. This protege peddled fake rumours and made uncomplimentary remarks against Chief. To make matters worse, he didn’t hide his attitude. He went as far as transmitting text messages with foul languages to the old man. This was a Protege he had assisted into the National Assembly as a legislator. But somehow, this former Protege felt that Chief could have done more for him politically and so he fell out with the political veteran. Chief engaged him in several dialogues, explaining certain issues to this former Protege, but he kept on vilifying the political legend. Anenih was unbothered. Though he drew the attention of Governor Ifeanyin Okowa to the strange attitude of the man, he nonetheless kept his cool all through the heinous provocation. To the greatest shock of this writer, this Protege was one of the few people he called on the phone shortly before he passed on. I believe that he forgave him. That was how peaceful Chief was.
In death, Chief Anenih’s family is in peace and symmetry. With Chief’s status in the Nigerian State coupled with his large family, one would think that the family will be torn apart as witnessed in some prominent Nigerian families as soon as the death of their patriarch is announced. In some cases, the corpse of the patriarch could only be interred by an order of court owing to family feuds. In some families, Court Orders restraining certain individuals from participating in the funeral exercise of the patriarch would be floating around. The Anenih’s family is an exceptional one. To date, no single litigation or counter litigation among his children. If any, it’s not in the public domain and none is known to this writer. No public entanglement over one property or the other. Court orders are not flying about. There is absolute peace in line with the wishes and aspirations of the legendary leader while he was alive.
The scion of the Anenih’s dynasty, Mr Tony Anenih Jr. has been able to pilot the affairs of the family with the admiration and satisfaction of a majority of the people. More interestingly, Tony Jr. has maintained the candour, mannerisms, panache, aura, the reticence of his late dad, thereby depicting a son who has drunk from the father’s cup.
He has also been able to step into the big shoes of his father in philanthropic gestures, even with lean resources. Indeed, giving is from the heart and one must not have more than enough before one can give.
As a political juggernaut, yours truly need not bore you with his skillfulness in proffering political solutions to political problems and making political leaders including Presidents of the nation, Governors of States, National and State legislators, Ministers and Commissioners, grade A board chairman and others too numerous to mention. His proficiency in using his political thermometer in accurately reading the political temperature and events months and years before they happen is unrivalled.
If he were to be alive, Anenih would have through his political microscope correctly predicted the movement of Governor Godwin Obaseki to the PDP at least six months before his eventual arrival into the Party from the All Progressive Congress (APC). As a man of peace and foresight, he would have prepared the template way ahead of abaseki’s contemplated defection and arrival. This template would have solved most if not all the current travails of the Edo PDP. He would have saved every one of the current debacles.
His skill is not some magic or necromancy, it is political dexterity mastered over the years. Chief was a political ambidextrous. He knew the game of politics and he played it to the fullest. He saw far ahead of his peers. He was a genuine visionary leader. Sadly, not many of his proteges learnt from him, hence the embarrassment we now find ourselves in his native Local Government Area of Esan North-East, where there are harmonisations and counter harmonisations by Anenih political sons and daughters. I pray that good reason should prevail and peace returns to the PDP in Uromi, nay Edo State soon in memory of Chief Tony Anenih.
All the political actors must give peace and joy a chance if they must collectively achieve political successes in the nearest future.
Hear the man of peace on the last page of his autobiographical literature, *”My Life and Nigerian Politics”.*
At page 221of the book, Anenih submitted as follows:
*”Thus, through the changing scenes of my life and Nigerian politics, I have believed very much in peace and harmony which often lead to joy. I have believed in the keywords: peace, joy, harmony and peaceful coexistence for, as always, dialogue is preferable to conflict while peace is preferable to war. I have promoted harmony and peace all my life and I have been an unrelenting advocate of peace. I have spent a great deal of my life promoting concord and agreements among people and within organisations because harmony leads to peace which is a pre-condition for happiness and progress. I can clearly assert that essentially, I am a man of peace”.*
Does this writer need to add more?
I can only conclude by saying that indeed, Anenih was a man of peace and master strategist.
May Chief’s soul continue to rest in peace and joy.
*Damisa, a lawyer was a former aide to Chief Tony Anenih of blessed memory.*
You can mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org