Nigeria mourns Enahoro

A foremost nationalist and leader of the National Democratic Coalition, Chief Anthony Enahoro, on Wednesday succumbed to death after a running battle with illness.

Enahoro, 87, died around 6am, in his Government Reservation Area residence in Benin, Edo State, with his wife, Helen, by his bedside.

Enahoro’s state of health had raised public concern lately, after he was admitted into the University of Benin Teaching Hospital on November 1.

When one of our correspondents contacted his first son, Kenneth, he said he needed to inform the elders of Uromi, his father’s hometown, before the death would be made public.

“I cannot tell you anything now. Already, two elders have come from Uromi, saying they heard something. I have to go to them and report what is on the ground first,” he explained.

Eugene, Enahoro’s second son, also parried questions on the passage of the activist, saying that the family would issue a statement in due course.

Our correspondent, however, saw an ambulance from the Stella Obasanjo Hospital, Benin, marked ED60A08, packed close to the main entrance door of the Enahoros’ residence, presumably to evacuate the corpse to the mortuary.

No one gave an idea of the nature of the eminent politician’s ailment. But when he was admitted into the UBTH in November, family sources said he had difficulty with his breathing.

His death attracted reactions from prominent Nigerians and groups, who recalled his historical role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence and the mass movement against military dictatorship in the country.

Among them were President Goodluck Jonathan, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Matthew Mbu, and the Oba of Benin, Omo n’oba Erediauwa.

Governors who also lamented the nationalist’s passage were Adams Ohiomhole(Edo); Bukola Saraki(Kwara), Segun Mimiko(Ondo); Jonah Jang(Plateau); Peter Obi(Anambra); Theodore Orji(Abia); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); and Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo).

The groups included Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Arewa Consultative Forum the Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Campaign for Democracy.

In his condolence message to the Enahoro family and the entire people of Edo State, Jonathan, said Nigeria would always remeber Enahoro for living “a fulfilled life of patriotic service to the nation.”

He added in the message signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ima Niboro, that “the entire nation will always remember with appreciation, Chief 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.”

Enahoro, according to him, also played crucial role in 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.”

The Edo State government said that the nationalist’s death was not only a loss to the Enahoro family, but also to the people of the state and the nation as a whole.

The government added in a statement by Oshiomhole, that Enahoro was a leader of proven commitment, tenacity and courage in the struggle for a better Nigeria.

The government said, “Even while we mourn the loss of this outstanding icon, we are also inspired to celebrate his remarkable life and accomplishments.

“His passion about a just, democratic and united Nigeria was a common thread that ran through his sterling career in journalism, public service, politics and pro-democracy activism.

“Nigeria was the centrepiece of Chief Enahoro’s thoughts and actions throughout his eventful life as a foremost nationalist, pro-democracy fighter and elder statesman.

“It is fitting to recall his outstanding contributions towards the attainment of the country’s independence. Although relatively much younger, he stood shoulder to shoulder with nationalist icons like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mr. Herbert Macaulay, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Comrade Michael Imoudu, who provided leadership for the struggle against a vicious colonial order.

“Today, the story of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence is incomplete without his bold motion for independence in 1953. His motion for independence, entitled “Let my People Go”, was laced with a resounding denunciation of oppression and injustice, which reminds of the weighty thoughts of such revolutionary icons as Fidel Castro(Cuba), Kwame Nkrumah(Ghana) and Nelson Mandela(South Africa).”

Also, the Oba of Benin recalled that the last time he heard from Enahoro was the first week of November and enjoined the bereaved family to take heart.

The monarch, who received the deceased’s eldest son, who was in his palace to intimate him about a bead given to his father by the late Oba Akenzua II, directed some of his chiefs to direct him on what to do.

Enahoro was a foundation member of the Action Group, secretary and chairman, Ishan Division Council; and member Western House of Assembly.

He later became Minister of Home Affairs in the old Western Region and also the opposition spokesman on Foreign Policy and Legislative Affairs in the House of Representatives (1959 – 1963).

Enahoro, also had a distinguished career as a journalist. He was the Editor of the Southern Nigerian Defender at the age of 21; Editor, Comet; Associate Editor, West African Pilot; and Editor-in-hief, Morning Star.

He was a delegate to most of the constitutional conferences that culminated in Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

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

He was also accused of treason during the trial of the former premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, but he escaped to the United Kingdom in 1963.

He was extradited from the UK and imprisoned. He was, however, released in 1966 by the military government.

Enahoro served in Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s government as Federal Commissioner for Information, Labour and Special Duties.

In the Second Republic, he joined the National Party of Nigeria.

As a pro-democracy activist, Enahoro was the chairman of the National Democratic Coalition, a body that opposed the despotic regime of Gen. Sani Abacha between 1993 and 1998.

He was marked for assassination by the regime but he later fled the country.

With the return of civil rule in Nigeria in 1999, Enahoro floated the Movement for National Reformation and later became the chairman of the Pro-National Conference Organisation

Source: The Punch – 16 Dec 2010

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