Pro-democracy activists at a day of tribute organised in honour of the late statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro, agreed on the need for true federalism, MUDIAGA AFFE reports
Onikan Stadium in Lagos on Tuesday played host to prominent Nigerians. However, unlike the common political activities which the stadium had become known for lately, the venue wore the colourful green and white outlook of the Nigerian flag in honour of the late nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro, who died on December 15, 2010 at 87.
From all walks of life, statesmen, leaders from diverse backgrounds and government officials, who gathered at the event, were all singing one tune. The words, ‘true federalism’ became commonly echoed.
A brief look at the achievements of the man for whom the day belonged showed that apart from being Africa’s youngest newspaper editor (Southern Nigeria Defender) in 1944 at the age of 21, Enahoro moved the motion for self-government in 1953.
He did not end struggle even at old age. He fought for the cause of justice, rule of law and true federalism and became the leader of popular movements such as the defunct National Democratic Coalition, the Movement for National Reformation set up to fashion a Nigeria that will be truly federal and Pro-National Conference Organisation which consistently drafted a peoples’ constitution.
It was on account of Enahoro’s struggle for true federalism and the provision of people’s constitution that dignitaries gathered at Onikan Stadium in Lagos. They noted that the course for which the late icon fought should not be allowed to die.
The lengthy list of dignitaries at the ceremony, which was sponsored by the Lagos State Government, in conjunction with the governments of the five other South-West states, includes Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, his counterparts in Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun states, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Dr. OLusegun Mimiko and Otunba Gbenga Daniel respectively.
Also in attendance were pro-democracy activists and members of National Democratic Coalition, Chief Olu Falae, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Chief Supo Shonibare, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (retd.), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Chief Amitolu Shittu and Mr. Femi Falana.
Others were a former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, an erstwhile deputy governor, Mrs. Kofo Akerele-Bucknor, Chief Segun Osoba, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, Chief Dele Momodu, among others.
The host, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, wondered if Enahoro would have been happy with the amended constitution which was recently endorsed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Fashola said if the late icon were alive there would have been some questions he would have asked.
Fashola said, “As we face the hiccups of voter registration, bombings in different parts of the country, constitution amendment that does not recognise the states to control the resources from their land, I wonder what Papa would have said. These are questions I want us to consider as we mourn the exit of Papa.”
He stressed also that the entire Western Region was Enahoro’s domain, recalling that Enahoro’s courage in 1953 eventually led to self governance.
Fashola noted that Enahoro’s commitment and dedication earned him a place as the youngest among the great titans and founding fathers of the country, namely: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Ahmadu Bello.
The Lagos State helmsman, therefore, urged Nigerians to speak up with courage the way Enahoro would have done in the pursuit of the actualisation of a truly federal Nigeria that will prosper on the competitive energies of its diverse people.
In his opening remark, Opadokun, who was the general secretary of NADECO, said Enahoro played a pioneering and pivotal leadership role towards the establishment of a truly federal union that is equitable and democratic.
He said, “There is no doubt in our minds that Chief Enahoro deserves to be honoured nationally because for over six decades, he bestrode the Nigerian political firmament as an authentic colossus with an active single-minded devotion, along with his colleagues, to the recreation of a Nigeria of their dream at independence.
“In fact, the chief deserves a state burial, having regard to his pioneering, pivotal and unceasing leadership role towards the establishment of a truly federal union that is just, equitable and democratic.”
“Let me place this fundamental challenge to Nigerians and current political office holders that we must appreciate the fact that self determination is the main anthem of this century.”
In his contribution, Kanu, also a pro-democracy activist said it was imperative to reflect on the struggle of Enahoro’s for the enthronement of a truly federal state, since the country still gropes in underdevelopment and instability.
He said those who celebrate Enahoro today must seek ways to actualise his dream of a stable and prosperous Nigeria by helping to return to the federal foundation upon which the country was originally built.
But, Fasehun, who is the founder of the Oodua People’s Congress, said Enahoro’s last 42 years on earth were filled with agony because of the decay in the nation.
He said, “Enahoro was agonised in the last 42 years because he watched the decay in the nation, which was not his dream. Most of us celebrating him today must ask ourselves what role we have played to actualise his dream.”
Fasehun therefore called for the immortalisation of Enahoro. His proposal was the airport in Benin should be renamed Anthony Enahoro Airport.
However, Fayemi said, “The greatest challenge I think we have now is not really how to reproduce Enahoro, the last of the titans in the vanishing tribe of freedom fighters with Beko Ransome-Kuti, Bola Ige, Gani Fawehinmi, Yusuf Bala Usman, Alfred Rewane, Adekunle Ajasin and Abraham Adesanya, now departed. Our greatest challenge is for the rest of us to continue to light more candles for a genuinely democratic, free and just Nigeria.”
However, Jakande, who spoke on behalf of Enahoro’s generation, said “Tony was great in every sense of the word. He was brave to move a motion for self government when the British were still in control. The courage and service that he lived and died for was for the nation. Tony has immortalised himself and can never be forgotten.”
As Enahoro, who was traditionally known as the Adolor of Uromi in Edo State, continues his final journey to the grave, it is imperative that the Nigeria of his dream should be nurtured by those who are still alive and believe in his cause. One way to achieve this as stated by various leaders who spoke at the ceremony, is to ensure that credible leaders are voted into elective positions in the April general elections.