Tributes, fond memories of Enahoro at burial rites

  • How Enahoro influenced Awolowo’s success
  • His role in Jonathan’s emergence as president

IN a blaze of tributes, the body of frontline  nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, yesterday began the  journey to  its  final resting  place in  Edo State. He will be  laid to rest  on Friday at Uromi .

Tributes came from Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, his Delta State counterpart, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, the Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Funmilayo Olayinka who represented Governor Kayode Fayemi  and representative of Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Umar Muhammed.
Other personalities who extolled the virtues of the man who first moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1953  were  former civilian governor of Edo State, Chief John Oyegun, Chief Ayo Adebanjo of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and other political and human rights activists.


Personalities at the well-attended ceremony also included Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, Edo State Deputy Governor, Pius Odubu, Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Bright Omokhodion, former Deputy Governor, Peter Obadan, Domingo Obende, former Lagos State Deputy Governor Kofowora Bucknor-Akerele, Leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF) Asari Dokubo, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Chief Ayo Opadokun and  Chief Frank Kokori  .

Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon who chaired  the  occasion , relived his working with the late Enahoro as his Commissioner (Minister) for Information. He said that   Enahoro  was an “exceptionally gifted Nigerian democrat who doggedly defended Nigerian unity and fought for her true democracy and left her with only one regret; that he was not able to see Nigeria of his dream as enunciated in his NADECO and PRONACO philosophy. I call on all Nigerians to continue to give his vision a look and try to arrive at his dream, a full-fledged Nigerian democracy.”

The host governor, Oshiomhole who had to suspend all official engagements for the event in his tributes described as ironic the fact that Enahoro was eventually jailed by the self-government he tried to entrench in the country. He  described him as a leader of “prowess, commitment, tenacity and courage in the struggle for a better Nigeria. He was passionate about a just, democratic and united Nigeria…No Nigerian has occupied the centre stage of popular struggle as long as Enahoro.”

Oshiomhole likened him to great African leaders like  the  late Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Fidel Castro of Cuba.

He said Enahoro had achieved the most any man could achieve in life . “From what we’ve heard, it is clear that the lessons of Enahoro are not to lament but to confront the injustice that confront us. Just like he moved the motion for independence, may we rise today and say no to those who have continued to oppose us and deny us the benefits of Nigeria’s independence.”
On his part, Mimiko described Enahoro as a “legendary activist” while  Uduaghan of Delta State said he was a leading voice “of the minorities of contemporary Nigeria.” He said the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan, a minority person , could be traced to Enahoro’s struggles.

He said Enahoro’s belief in justice and fairness for all was what had catapulted the South-South region to attain equal status with other major regions of the  country , adding that “He believed in true federalism and national rebirth.”

To Fayemi, it was Enahoro’s strong belief that Nigeria was not moving towards true federalism that motivated him to form the National Reformation Movement (NRM) even in old age. He said Enahoro displayed his leadership qualities as NADECO leader abroad where he (Fayemi) became his unofficial personal assistant.

Babangida Aliyu described him as one of the last men standing among the likes of  the late Obafemi  Awolowo,  the late Nnamdi Azikiwe,  the late Ahmadu Bello and  the late Tafawa Balewa . He called on the existing  crop of leaders in the country to emulate his leadership qualities. “His life is worthy of celebration…The history of Nigeria’s journey  to self-rule will not be complete without mentioning Anthony Enahoro,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of NADECO, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said the developmental strides achieved by the late Awolowo could not have been completed without the support of Enahoro. “He was one of the pillars of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s success in the old Western Region. From his youth till he breathed his last, he was fighting for the common man. He died not as a wealthy politician but as a selfless one who fought for true federalism,” he said.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister and a kinsman of Enahoro, Chief Tom Ikimi said Enahoro’s  life was a personality “That stood for almost nine decades.” He said Enahoro was a man of distinguished  birth  with his mother coming from a royal family.

He said as a sportsman, Enahoro was the only blackman in the golf club where he played golf in Lagos then with the governor general of the Western Region.

The Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by its Director of Publicity Okharedia Ihimekpen eulogised Enahoro’s  fight for Nigeria’s indepndence and his struggle to enthrone democratic rule. Oyegun described Enahoro as a man of tremendous vision “who can sit down and see the future, a man of undisputed courage. One of the truly de-tribalised Nigerians.”

He called on Nigerian legislators to revive the robustness that greeted the country’s legislature  in the First Republic when Enahoro was the Foreign Affairs Minister in the shadow cabinet as expected in the parliamentary system of government practised by the time. He said he used to leave Ibadan as a student without knowing where to sleep to go and watch Enahoro in the House of Representatives in Lagos. “Whatsoever democracy we enjoy in the country today if history must be told correctly emanated from the sacrifices, the leadership of this great man, Anthony Enahoro,’’ he said.

The colourful ceremony was spiced with traditional music display by the Bini cultural troupe. The venue of the ceremony was packed full even before the official commencement of the programme at about 2 p.m. Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu led members of NADECO into the arena at about 2. 30 p.m. Men of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps  were available  to control traffic.

In his tribute to the late Enahoro ,  Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko described him  “as a frontline nationalist, a pro-democracy activist and a cerebral tactician with a highly organized thought process. “

Mimiko who regretted the demise of Enahoro even at a ripe age recalled that he was a dogged fighter for the enthronement of true federalism and an advocate of an egalitarian society founded upon justice and fair play as well as a firm believer in the sovereignty of the people as the organic basis for their contributions.

His words: “Pa Enahoro’s contributions to political strategy, his documented expressions on extant political issues, his famed boldness and the intellectual vigour underscoring the clarity of his positions, have all ensured a body of work which generations of political historians must find significant in the democratic evolution of the country.

“His death, which sadly completes the total depletion of the rank of Nigeria’s first generation of nationalists, is an irreparable loss to Edo State where he hailed from and a most painful one particularly to the people of Owo, where he spent his formative years and to Ondo State people in general where he fitted into the culture of activism and progressive politics characteristic of the people.”

On a different occasion  ,the national leader and founder of the Yoruba self-determination group, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) Dr. Frederick Fasehun, has    called for the  immortalisation of Enahoro, stating  that the late nationalist deserved a monument named after him. “We should immortalize this political icon. I hereby recommend that Benin Airport in his home Edo State should be renamed ‘Anthony Enahoro Airport’. This legend, who first moved the motion for our country’s independence, deserves no less a monument.”

Decrying Enahoro’s homeward journey for burial in a private grave in his village,  Fasehun said it would have been more appropriate if buried in a national cemetery. “A collective resting place for our national heroes, something in the mode of the Arlington National Cemetery in the USA. This way, the labours of our heroes past shall truly not have been in vain.”

Fasehun stressed that the country should remember that her heroes were getting  fewer. “And the cherished voices of our contemporary prophets are rapidly shrinking with the death of the Gani Fawehinmis, Alao Aka-Bashoruns, Beko Ransome-Kutis, Tai Solarins, Chima Ubanis, Bala Usmans and the Anthony Enahoros. All these statesmen and activists have passed into glory. But we pray that the echoes of their prophecies will soon produce a worthy leader for our currently leaderless 140 million people”, he said.

Speaking with journalists  yesterday in Lagos, the medical practitioner recalled how the country went through  a harrowing experience occasioned by the prolonged ill-health of  the late  President Umaru Yar’Adua. He said following the death May last year, “Nigerians nursed apprehensions that the nation might succumb to disorder, lawlessness, chaos and confusion, judging by the stiff posture of the buccaneering cabal that had selfish interests to protect, but pretended to be defending the sick President. God, in His mercy, spared the country a major explosion from that political crisis.

“With the amicable settlement of the 2010 political impasse, we nursed great hope that our democracy was about to enter a new phase that would bring peace, harmony and development to the country.

Unfortunately, our hope appears misplaced. For, today, Nigeria has invested a colossal amount of resources towards the 2011 polls, but, lo and behold, events show that we are preparing for a nightmare instead. Moreover, the upsurge of violence by Boko Haram elements in the North and the ethnic cleansing in Plateau State have become major headaches.”

He described as nauseating last Friday’s wanton slaying of seven worshippers, including the governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) in Borno State, inside mosque. He demanded an immediate halt to  this “brethren-on-brethren violence”, and called on security agents to bring the perpetrators to justice, noting  that these violent crises were casting serious doubts on  the nation’s survival.

His words: “In 2014, just three years ahead, Nigeria will celebrate her centenary. Should it take a hundred years for Nigeria to attain democracy? The United States has issued us a warning about Nigeria’s possible disintegration in 2015. But we must also warn ourselves of the ominous 2014. Year 2014 marks the centenary of Nigeria’s amalgamation, an amalgamation underscored by negative indices of disunity, mutual hostility, selfishness, political immaturity, sinful accumulation of wealth by unpatriotic leaders, political godfatherism, ethnicity and primordial nationalism. All these negatives have acted as heavy stones tied to our heels. Tell me any country that has expended 100 years preparing a Nation-State but which has failed to achieve anything near it?”

SOURCE: The Guardian

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