ANOTHER critical chapter closed in the chequered history of the country yesterday, when foremost nationalist, First Republic Minister of Information, pro-democracy activist and elder statesman, Pa Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, died. He was 87.
Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora were jolted by the sudden news of his death.
Enahoro’s passage came after months of heightened speculations about his exit, following his failing health that took him to several hospitals, both at home and abroad.
The nationalist died in the early hours of the day in Benin, the Edo State capital.
On November 1, this year, the late Pro-National Conference (PRONACO) chieftain was taken to the intensive care unit of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) and was discharged about two weeks ago.
The eldest son of the late protagonist of true federalism, Dr. Eugene Enahoro, confirmed to newsmen yesterday that his father died “in the early hours of yesterday (Wednesday) peacefully in his sleep”.
He added: “We are happy that he lived up to this age, considering what he went through in various detentions during the nationalist struggle, in the early years of independence and during the military era.”
He stated that an official statement on the passage of the nation’s vocal politician would be made available at the appropriate time.
Meanwhile, many Nigerians, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, groups and institutions have been reacting to the incident, describing it as shocking.
Jonathan yesterday commiserated with the family of the late Enahoro through a statement issued by his media aide, Ima Niboro.
According to him, the deceased will be remembered for his immense contributions to the struggle for independence and freedom from the colonial masters.
He, therefore, urged his family to take solace in the knowledge that he lived a fulfilled life of patriotic service to the nation, praying that God should grant his soul peaceful and eternal rest.
The statement reads in part: “President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan received with great sadness today the news of the passing away in Benin of one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists and elder statesmen, Chief Anthony Enahoro.
“On behalf of himself, his family, the government and people of Nigeria, President Jonathan extends heartfelt condolences to Chief Enahoro’s family and the government and people of Edo State.
“The President noted 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.
“President Jonathan said that Chief 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.”
While also reacting yesterday, Senate President David Mark described the death as a loss to the continent and the black race.
Mark also noted that the late Enahoro was a dogged, irrepressible and courageous parliamentarian who fought to liberate the country from the apron string of the colonial imperialists.
In a condolence message to the government and people of Edo State on the death of Enahoro, the Senate President recalled 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 at the time when he was a member of the (Federal) House of Representatives”.
Mark who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, added: “We have lost a great African, a foremost parliamentarian, father of modern Nigeria and a man of many positive parts.
“He 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.”
Mark also described the deceased as a man who distinguished himself in his career as a journalist, politician, administrator and pro-democracy activism, adding that until his death, he was an apostle of true federalism where every citizen has a right to pursue his or her God-given potential without ethnic or religious inhibitions.
Mark stressed that Nigerians and generations yet unborn would miss the late Enahoro, “especially now that patriotism and commitment to nationhood is most desirable,” urging the Federal and the Edo State governments to immortalise him for his selfless services to the nation.
The Senate President further recalled that the late Enahoro, until his death, was the father of golf in the country, as the late nationalist was the first person to introduce the game to the country.
He said: “As a fellow golfer, I will personally miss him. Enahoro introduced the game of golf in Nigeria. The game is making positive impact in the sports arena. We owe him a lot of gratitude.
“We can show respect and immortalise Enahoro as a way to sustain his attributes and beliefs in one indivisible Nigeria, uphold the sanctity of the rule of law, entrench democratic ideals and ethos, respect for human rights and freedom of the press.”
The Senate President, however, prayed God to grant the immediate family of the deceased and the Edo State Government the fortitude to bear the loss.
Also, former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) yesterday described the late Enahoro as a wonderful patriot and an icon, urging the Federal Government to immortalise him without any delay.
Babangida who stated this in his tribute to the the foremost nationalist pointed out that the struggle for the nation’s independence would be incomplete without writing a full chapter on the late Enahoro.
The former military president, in the tribute issued on his behalf by his spokesperson, Kassim Afegbua, in Abuja said: “The struggle for the independence of Nigeria will not be complete without writing a full chapter on Pa Anthony Enahoro, who stood to be counted amongst other nationalists in the battle to rescue the country from the claws of colonial domination.
“At a time when it was almost trite to rise up against colonial rule and domination, Pa Enahoro, as a young man, displayed rare courage, activism, selflessness, patriotism, doggedness and good spiritedness to ask for independence for the country.
“The struggle of those years were articulately captured in the ability of the nationalists to advance the cause of the nation, exposing the dubiety of the colonial masters and insisting that the country must follow the path of other sister African nations in enjoying the freedom of self-government.
“Pa Anthony Enahoro was until his death a reservoir of knowledge of the Nigerian independence struggles, a reference point in understanding the events and currents that shaped the politics of that era and a shinning example of rare leadership moulded in undiluted patriotism, loyalty and commitment to his fatherland.
“He was like other contemporaries of his, an epitome of hard work, perseverance, resilience, and total devotion to the indices of unity and cohesion of our great country.
“He was, more than anyone, a wordsmith, a man of letters, whose brilliance saw him through all his struggles in life without bowing to pressures from within and without in the line of duty. He served his country with merit, distinction and class, that was only identifiable as the ‘Enahoro Cutting Edge’.
“Given his contributions to the growth, development and sustenance of the entity called 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.
“The nation will surely miss his roles. There is no one that can fill the vacuum created by the exit of this great son of Africa, the pride of Nigeria and a dependable ally from across the Niger.
“May the Almighty Allah grant him eternal rest. May Allah give the family, friends, associates and relatives the fortitude to bear with this painful loss,” he said.
Former Vice President and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, described the death of Enahoro as the eclipse of one of the brightest stars in the country’s political firmament.
Atiku, in a statement by his Presidential Campaign Organisation in Abuja yesterday, said the late nationalist was a “patriot and a true democrat”, adding that his death marks the end of an era.
According to the Turaki of Adamawa, “as the first statesman to raise the motion for independence in 1952, Nigerians will forever remain grateful to the sacrifices made by Pa Enahoro to free the country from the shackles of colonial domination and imperialism”.
The ex-Vice President recalled that the late PRONACO put the interest of the country above personal comfort, adding: “Until his death, he remained actively involved in the search for a stable and democratic order in Nigeria.”
He said that the best tribute to this trail blazer and fountain of inspiration is for all Nigerian leaders to emulate his virtues of activism and patriotism.
He prayed to God to grant the deceased eternal peace and strengthen the family to bear the loss.
Abia State Governor Theodore Orji described Enahoro’s death as unfortunate, even though it was a natural price to pay.
Orji who was in Edo State on a condolence visit Governor Adams Oshimhole on the death of his wife, Clara, said “there are two things in life: to be born and to die”.
Also the first civilian governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, in his reaction described Enahoro as an icon, whose death was a national tragedy.
His words: “His death is tragedy to all of us, we are truly very sad because he was an unwavering person, he was so selfless. He never did anything because of himself but because of the people; he was an icon.
“Some of us did what we did because of him. The only sad thing is that he did not live to see the Promised Land because Nigeria has not even started the journey to the Promised Land to become the greatest black nation in the world and to be counted among the best in the world too.”
Oyegun urged Nigerians to “continue the struggle so that we will present a testament that those who took after him eventually took us to the Promised Land.
The former governor lamented that even at 87, “the nationalist was still summoning Nigerians to come and disturb Nigeria. It was still in his heart that this country should meet, that this country should be a country of our dream. But at 87, he didn’t have the strength anymore to mount the rostrum, as he did in those days but he galvanised some progressives to see his thinking, which of course, they did not see.
“Look at the mess going in the National Assembly, can you compare what is happening in the National Assembly today with those senators at that time?”
While also reacting, Chief Francis Okpozo, a First Republican Senator, said “the demise of Enahoro is not only sad, he left a vacuum that will not be easily filled in the political arena.
“As a former political leader in this country, the leader who moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence and defended it until this era, dying at this period that the nation needs more of his political capability is a disaster to the nation.
“We lost him as a leader of the old Midwest now Edo and Delta states. We lost a detribalised politician in the old Midwest Nigeria”.
The Esogwan of Benin, Chief David Edebiri, said that the late Enahoro was a nationalist that would be sorely missed by all.
“The last of the fathers of Nigerian nationalism has finally bowed to the will of God. The passing away of the Adolor of Uromi is a monumental loss to Nigeria and, indeed, the black race. He was my mentor and through his nationalist activities, I joined the nationalist movement.
“Enahoro must be remembered for his strong will and desire for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference where the citizens would douse the myriads of problems confronting the polity.”
The PRONACO, in a statement signed by its spokesman, Olawale Okunniyi, said: “It is worthy of note that Tony Enahoro, the indisputable leader of the Nigerian progressives, the Adolor of Uromi land and Okakwo of Edo land, recently slowed down his public activities, owing to old age and fatigue-related illness.
“A major relapse of his condition forced his family to rush him to the intensive care unit of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital last month. Enahoro afterward regained stability, was discharged and taken back home two weeks ago.
“Chief Enahoro, during his life time, fought so many battles for the people of Nigeria among which was the struggle and motion for the independence in 1953, the formation of NADECO, the ousting of the military from governance in 1999, the the establishment of PRONACO and the presentation of alternative peoples’ constitution for Nigeria in 2007.
“Our movement in consultation with his immediate family, eminent progressive leaders, key stakeholders, government and the international community shall be discussing, in succeeding days, ways of immortalising Anthony Enahoro, the icon of the Nigeria’s current democracy.
“Finally, we wish to express our profound and heartfelt commiseration to his jewel and ever ebullient wife, Mama Helen Enahoro, Kenneth, his eldest child and a strong member of the movement, as well as all the children, grand and great grand children of Chief Anthony Enahoro. We pray, just as for ourselves, that God will grant all the fortitude to bear the monumental loss.
“The demise of Enahoro has no doubt created the biggest vacuum ever in the history of Nigerian democratic movement.
“All PRONACO affiliations and progressive political parties and platforms are expected to open condolence registers for the general public
“Details of burial arrangements will be released shortly by the family.”
The Edo State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Philip Ugbodaga, in a text message to the Nigerian Compass, described the late Enahoro’s exit as the falling of an “iroko” tree and the last of Nigeria’s “cherished nationalists” who “fought for justice, equity and responsible leadership”.
According to the NMA boss, “an iroko has fallen, Edo has lost an illustrious, dogged and committed first-class statesman. He is, indeed, the last of our cherished nationalists. He was the last man standing among those who truly loved this country. He fought for justice, equity and responsible leadership. It is saddening that the
Nigeria of his dream was not realised in his lifetime.”
He stated that the late nationalist “spent the last days of his life fighting for the same things he spent his youth fighting for. He would be remembered for moving the historic motion for the independence of Nigeria at a very young age. He gave meaning to nationalism and parliamentary representation.”
Also, one of the egg heads of the Movement for National Reformation (MNR) to which the late Enahoro was a founding father and former state chairman of the NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, said the death of the octogenarian was a great loss to the black race and a monumental tragedy.
Source: Nigerian Compass – 16 Dec 2010