In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa fears for the legacy of one of Nigeria’s great statesmen.
He had joined in the struggle for the democratic emancipation of colonial Nigeria as a nation. In the next 60 years he was harassed, jailed and detained without trial innumerable times. Last week at age 87 he died still with his boots on.
Enahoro was a newspaper editor before turning to politics and went to prison several times
I am talking about Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, the most respected, most tortured and most ridiculed Nigerian politician ever.
The medical cause of his death was said to be diabetes but he could have died from the utter frustration of devoting nearly 70 years of his life exclusively to fighting the cause of Nigeria and Nigerians and yet seeing nothing but darkness in the horizon.
The same people who pooh-poohed his nationalistic propositions and scorned his yeoman efforts at getting them to spare a thought for the directionless ship of state are today scrambling to eulogise him in superlative phrases on newspaper front pages and television news headlines.
You can be sure, from the press coverage, that his funeral will be a state affair. Public treasuries will be flung open to accord him a “befitting burial”.
I am past being bothered by the widely-held belief that half of the money disbursed will end in the pockets of the organising officials.
At least Papa Enahoro died peacefully in his bed, he will not witness the predicted collapse of the nation that he loved passionately and his memory will be celebrated long after those of his erstwhile adversaries would have been flung into the trash can of history.
It was an army commander who said, after observing how the war chest was being plundered during the Nigerian civil war: “Nigeria is not worth dying for.”
While his contemporaries and others were (and still are) amassing fortunes from the common wealth, Papa Enahoro was researching, thinking and addressing seminars and conferences across Nigeria to persuade other political leaders to see beyond the day.
Think of it – was his life choice a wise one?
That brings me to the poser a politician threw at me during a news interview three months ago in Ibadan, 120km (75 miles) north of Lagos.
I can proudly claim that profoundly analytical politician, Dr Omololu Olunloyo, as a friend.
We met in the 1960s when he was dating a pretty woman of about his age whose brother lived with me in the same house.
Dr Olunloyo was then a young university lecturer and he had just bought a brand new Citroen car – no respectable Nigerian at that time would even think of buying a second-hand car.
His car excited me and my friends with its hydraulic system.
When the car engine was started, the body would rise slowly about a foot before the car moved. I delighted in taking ride in that marvel!
As it turned out the relationship between the two did not work out.
Dr Olunloyo was a mathematics graduate and lecturer. At that time anyone known to be a mathematician was assumed to be an eccentric.
Don’t ask me why – perhaps because the reputation of Chike Obi, Nigeria’s first famous mathematician, preceded him to my neighbourhood in Ibadan.
I am not saying that that was why wedding bells did not ring for the assumed eccentric suitor and our lovely sister, but it can’t be far from it.
Sorry for that digression. What did Dr Olunloyo ask of me?
He said I should investigate how a person who spent his entire working life in either the military or civil service became a dollar millionaire immediately on retirement when it was public knowledge that their parents were ordinary and poor folks.
Such are the people who are lording it over Nigerians and who frustrated the life efforts of Papa Enahor and other nationalists like Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Mallam Aminu Kano.
They and their children are spending this Christmas season in opulence although they need fleets of armoured vehicles to venture out of their fortress residences.
Folks like me plan to have a truly merry Christmas out on the town; it’s the luxury they can only dream of.