Foremost nationalist, Enahoro, dies at 87

Journalist, politician, and democracy agitator, Anthony Enahoro, finally gave up the ghost on Wednesday after 87 years of fruitful national service, several decades of which he fought in the trenches.

At 21, he was the youngest Nigerian ever to edit a national newspaper, The Southern Nigerian Defender (based in Ibadan), owned by Nnamdi Azikiwe.

And at 87, he was the last man standing among the foot soldiers who did battle for Nigeria’s independence 50 years ago.

Anxiety had mounted on November 1 over Enahoro’s health, after he was rushed to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), where he was treated for diabetes and discharged after two weeks.

He died on Wednesday in his Government Reservation Area (GRA) residence in the city, the news of which shook Edo State like a hurricane, coming after the death on December 8 of Clara, the wife of Governor Adams Oshiomhole.

Enahoro’s second son, Eugene, confirmed that the old man died at about 6 a.m.

His eldest son, Kenneth, visited the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Erediuwa, at 12. 40 p.m. to inform him of the death and to find out what to do with the beads given to Enahoro by  Akenzua II.

President Goodluck Jonathan remarked that the country will always remember with appreciation Enahoro’s immense contributions to the struggle for independence and freedom from colonialism, and thereafter, his notable inputs to national development and the growth of democracy.

He said he received the news with great sadness and expressed condolences to the Enahoro family and the government and people of Edo State.

“Enahoro will also be remembered for remaining at the forefront of the struggle for freedom from dictatorship and protection of the civil rights of Nigerians long after most of his peers had left the national stage,” Jonathan added.

Senate President David Mark described the death as a loss to the continent and the black race, recounting that “It took wisdom, courage, and determination of a visionary leader like Enahoro to first move a motion for independence for our dear country in 1953 when he was a member of the House of Representatives.

“We have lost a great African, a foremost parliamentarian, father of modern Nigeria and a man of many positive parts.”

He recounted how Enahoro distinguished himself as a journalist, politician, administrator and the pro-democracy activist,  who “stood up to save our people. He rose up to the challenge and dared British imperialists. He restored the dignity of African man and gave hope where there was none.”

House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, extolled the virtues of Enahoro as the last of the heroes of Nigeria’s independence struggle, someone who will be remembered for his selfless struggle for freedom and social justice.

He described him as a patriot who remained consistent in the pursuit of egalitarian society throughout his life time.

House member Abike Dabiri-Erewa said: “It is a sad news, Papa was old but I am convinced that he died a sad man. Nigeria of today is not the kind of dream he, like his peers, dreamt when they went into the trenches to battle colonialism.

“He moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence with a view that Nigeria would harness her potentials and reached her zenith, but what we have today is nothing near such dreams, so I believe that he has joined other patriots a sad man.”

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo described Enahoro  as one of the leaders Nigerians will remember for a long time as a result of his contributions to the independence struggle.

His words: “It is a great loss to the nation. If you remember, Enahoro moved the motion for the independence of Nigeria in the fifties, and the likes of Enahoro will be very difficult to find in Nigeria.

“He was committed, dedicated and a nationalist and patriotic leader for the kind of politics played in his time It may be difficult to still find the likes of Enahoro in this generation.

“In any generation, you could find people who are selfless and dedicated to the cause. Such people need be given the opportunity and the space to show what they can do, but when the space is closed for them, then they can do nothing.

“I believe that the best way to immortalise a patriot and a nationalist is to make sure that what he has done is not in vain. May the gentle soul of Enahoro rest in peace.”

Former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, called on Abuja to immortalise Enahoro, stressing that no one can fill the “vacuum created by the exit of this great son of Africa.”

Babangida said the struggle for Nigeria’s independence will not be complete without a full chapter on Enahoro, “Who stood to be counted among other nationalists in the battle to rescue the country from the claws of colonial domination.”

He argued that given Enahoro’s contributions to the growth, development and sustenance of Nigeria, “I wish to call on the Federal Government to immortalise this great icon, elder statesman, a wonderful patriot. and a superb public officer who gave his all in the interest of the country.”

Babangida prayed for God to give the family, friends, associates, and relatives the fortitude to bear the painful loss.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar described the death as the eclipse of one of the brightest stars in Nigeria’s political firmament.

He called Enahoro a patriot and a true democrat, whose demise marks the  end of an era.

Atiku prayed for God to grant him eternal peace and strength to the family  to bear the loss.

Former Information Minister, Tony Momoh, who was once Editor/General Manager of Daily Times, lamented that Enahoro’s death “is not only a loss to Edo and Nigeria, it is a loss to journalism, a loss to principled politicking, and a personal loss to me.

“He was personally my hero and it was because of him I took to journalism.”

James Otobo, former Deputy Premier of the old Mid West Region, noted that Enahoro was the only person left among those who took part in independence talks with Britain in 1960.

Former Edo State Governor, John Oyegun, described his death as a monumental loss to the family and the nation.

“My condolence goes to the wife, children and family.

May God give them the fortitude to bear the loss and to fill the vacuum that his death has created,” Oyegun prayed.

Former Senator Francis Okpozor, noted that despite Enahoro’s old age, “he stood firmly for democratic principles and norms.

“As one of the leaders of the Mid West Region, he was a good counsel, a good leader, a wise and erudite politician. His death has created a vacuum which cannot be filled.

“However, God knows best. Those of us he left behind will continue to cherish his good ideas. May he find eternal rest in the bosom of the Lord.”

Former Deputy Senate President, Albert Legogie, said the death ended an era of positive political activism, and “Surely, Nigeria has missed a giant.”

Enahoro participated in the struggle for independence in 1960 and also played a major role during the Sani Abacha junta in 1993 when he led democracy activists  to oppose the military regime.

Born on July 22, 1923, he had a long and distinguished career in the press, politics, the civil service, and the pro-democracy movement, after his education at the Government School Uromi; Government School, Owo; and King’s College, Lagos.

He became the editor of The Southern Nigerian Defender in Ibadan in 1944 at the age of 21; and later became the editor of Zik’s Comet in Kano, 1945-1949, also associate editor; West African Pilot, Lagos; editor-in-chief Morning Star, 1950-1953.

Enahoro became a foundation member of Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) party; Secretary and Chairman, Ishan Division Council; member, Western House of Assembly; and later member, Federal House of Representatives in 1951.

He later became Minister of Home Affairs in the old Western Region.

He was the opposition Spokesman on Foreign policy and Legislative Affairs in the Federal House of Representatives, 1959-1963.

Despite claims to the contrary and though his role was commendable in the struggle for independence the fact remains that  Enahoro did not successfully move the motion for independence as has been suggested in various quarters.

What he did was to attempt to move the motion for independence in the Parliament in 1953. By that motion he argued that Nigeria should be granted independence in 1956 but this was met by stiff opposition and it failed.

The motion for independence was not successfully moved in the Parliament until 1958 and this was done by Remi Fani-Kayode, who moved that Nigeria should be granted independence on April 2, 1960.

This was accepted by Parliament and the British authorities agreed to it.

However, in 1959, another motion was moved by Tafawa Balewa and seconded by Raymond Njoku to shift the month of independence from April 2nd 1960 to October 1, 1960.

Enahoro was a delegate to most of the constitutional conferences leading to the independence in 1960.

During the 1962 crisis in the old Western Region, he was detained along with other AG members.

Accused of treason during the Awolowo alleged coup trial, Enahoro escaped to the United Kingdom in 1963, but was extradited and imprisoned for treason.

In 1966, he was released by the military government.

During the crisis that followed the 1966 coups, Enahoro was the leader of the then Mid-West delegation to the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference in Lagos.

He later became Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Information and Labour under the Yakubu Gowon military government, 1967-1974; and Federal Commissioner for Special Duties, 1975.

Enahoro was a  member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) from 1978 to 1983, after being World Festival of Negro Arts and Culture President from 1972 to 1975.

He  was the Chairman of the National Democratic Coalition, (NADECO) which fought military rule until Abacha’s death in 1998.

He was conferred with the Commander, Order of the Federal Republic, (CFR) in 1982, and was Movement for National Reformation (MNR) Chairman as well as the Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO).

His publications include The Fugitive Offender.

Source: Daily Independent – 15 Dec 2010

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