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Late Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro

CHARACTER is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Could the late Abraham Lincoln, the 16th United States’ president have had the irrepressible Pa Anthony Enahoro in mind when he made those comments? Those words best depict and describe the life, times and achievements of the 87-year-old political titan, who passed on, on 15-12-2010 in his home in Benin City.
Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, the Adolo of Uromi, was born July 22, 1923 in Uromi, Esan-land, in present-day Edo State.was educated at Government College, Owo and King’s College Lagos. At age 19, he was rusticated from high school at King's College Lagos for anti-war, anti-colonialistagitation.

Chief Enahoro became a newspaper editor in his 20s and established a reputation for militant commentaries which regularly led to his harassment by the colonial authorities.

He later became a member of the stridently anti-colonial Zikist Movement (formed in 1946), and held several editorial positions in Zik's stable of newspapers (Nigeria Defender, Daily Comet, West African Pilot, Morning Star).  He later parted ways with Zik to join the Yoruba politician and rising political star Chief  Obafemi Awolowo, co-founding the Action Group in March 1951, a prominent political party in the Western Region that was to play a significant part in that region's economic and social development.  Enahoro later rose to become AG's acting General Secretary and National vice president, and held a number of ministerial positions in Western Region.  At the age of 30 years, as a member of the Nigerian Federal legislature, Enahoro moved on March 31, 1953  the first motion demanding Nigeria's independence from England in 1957,  a motion that was then not carried.  

On  March 26, 1957,  triggered by Ghana becoming independent three weeks earlier on March 6, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, then opposition leader of the Action Group  in Lagos parliament,  re-introduced this "Independence in 1957" motion with an eye to quickly catching up with Ghana – this time it was unanimously carried, but only  after the year was amended by Jaja Nwachukwu of the NCNC from "1957" to "1959".  Enahoro attended all constitutional talks within and outside Nigeria preceding Nigerian's independence, including the Lancaster House Conferences in London which were to follow immediately after the Akintola motion, from May 23 to June 26, 1957, as well as others.

No other Nigerian alive can lay such a claim.

October 1, 1960 finally saw Nigeria become an independent country with a flag and an Independence Constitution.  But before Nigeria became a Federal Republic in October 1, 1963 with a new Republican Constitution, Enahoro had fled Nigeria to England in September 1962 after being accused, along with Awolowo of planning a civilian coup against the Nigerian government.  Arrested in London on November 27, 1962, the "fugitive offender" was returned to Nigeria on May 16, 1963 to face the treason trial, jailed on September 7, 1963, with Chief Obafemi Awolowo being jailed four days later.  Both of them were not  released until August 1966 by then military head of state General Gowon (the military had seized power in January 1966, and a bloody counter-coup brought Gowon to power), whereupon Enahoro became Federal Minister of Information in May 1967, while Awo became Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Federal Minister of Finance.  Enahoro remained in Gowon's administration  till 1974, and therefore  throughout the Biafra-Nigeria war years of July 1967- January 1970. [Awo left the administration in 1971.]

In 1979, he re-emerged briefly and surprisingly as an National Party of Nigeria (NPN) politician, disappearing for a while when that civilian regime of President Shehu Shagari was cut short by military coup in December 1983.

In 1992, during the Babangida regime,  Enahoro became an apostle of the Sovereign National Conference as a way to fundamentally restructure Nigeria, as head of his Movement for National Reformation (MNR).

On June 12, 1993, Nigeria's reputedly freest and free presidential election saw MKO Abiola emerge victorious, but his presidential victory was inexplicably annulled by Babangida.  Babangida stepped aside from power under pressure in August 1993, after appointing civilian Sonekan as head of an Interim National Government (ING).  Unable to secure popular acceptance,and after a court declared the ING illegal, Sonekan was pushed aside by  General Abacha  on November 17, 1993.  Abiola's attempt to help himself to his own presidency in June 1994 saw Abacha detain and jail him without trial for four years, ultimately dying mysteriously in prison (on July 7, 1998) one month after Abacha himself died mysteriously (on June 8, 1998).

But before all of these mysterious deaths, in  that year 1994, Enahoro was on the move again, this time as head of the pro-democracy NADECO (National Democratic Coalition; formed in May 1994), which was leading the June 12, pro-Abiola-for-president movement.  Enahoro fled to the United States ahead of General Abacha and his military goons / killing machine after being incarcerated for four months. He continued to lead the June 12 movement abroad. His exile-home in suburban Alexandria, Virginia was a pilgrim site of sorts for Nigerians of all generations, with his gracious, protective and stately Bini wife Helen as ever-willing hostess.   Living in the Washington Metropolitan area myself,

With Abacha permanently out of the way in June 1998, Enahoro did not return to Nigeria until April 10, 2000 - to a heroic welcome – to pick up the MNR mantle once again on Nigerian soil.

In 2000, at Obasanjo's urging, Enahoro's MNR had a short political dalliance with the ruling PDP, which ended on the rocks.  In a talk to the Yoruba Tennis Club in July 2002, Enahoro laid out MNR's vision for a new constitutional order in Nigeria. In 2003, Enahoro registered the National Reformation Party (NRP) in time for the 2003 elections. His MNR/NRP have now joined with similar organizations to form PRONACO – the Pro-National Conference Coalition - to continue to push for a Sovereign National Conference and organize, if necessary, a parallel conference to Obasanjo's NPRC.

Enahoro is a delight to talk to about Nigeria's history, but you invariably hear a tinge of regret that there were mistakes made (eg premiers Zik and Awo leaving their respective regions East and West and going to the Center in Lagos in 1960) and things left undone by his generation.  Not known to me to be a deeply religious man, but he believes God has spared his life up until this time to complete a certain mission in Nigeria

His exit to the great beyond poses a challenge to the political class: that there is a need for proper re-engineering so that things can work in the country. In reinventing the political system, the core issues should be how to tame the canker of corruption and other pervert values.

Chief Enahoro was conferred with the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic [CFR] in 1982, and was awarded honorary DSC by the University of Benin in 1972. Among his publications include the treatise Fugitive Offender.

He is survived by his wife Helen (née Ediae) and their five children - Kenneth, Eugene, Bella, Victor and Gabriel.

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