You remain one of Nigeria’s most highly respected political icons- Jonathan
It was intended to be low-key: no ceremony, no fanfare. After all, what was to be quietly marked was 81st birthday. It was not particularly unique, so he thought.
It was not a landmark age like 80, which he celebrated last year with pomp. And, again, the euphoria of last year’s celebration was yet to wane. Thus, it seemed unnecessary to roll out the drums in festivity. Nevertheless, he knew friends, associates and loyalists would visit to wish him well on his birthday, which exactly was what happened on Monday, August 4, 2014.
The celebrant, Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR), Iyasele of Esanland and grand master of Nigerian politics, had briefly remarked, about two weeks to his 81st birthday that he was actually looking towards another big celebration comparable to his 80th birthday when, by the grace of God, he turns 85 and 90. With his mindset made known to his family members and aides, there was relaxation in the air: no pressure, no apprehension. .
It was settled that the Iyasele of Esanland and Chair of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would just allow the day to dictate the pace of unstructured activities and not him dictating it (pace). But right from the eve of his birthday, goodwill messages had begun to trickle in.
By Monday, August 4, which was the D-day, the expansive sitting room had been taken over by birthday cards of different forms and dimensions, just as the messages in them were diverse. It was clear that the messages were motivated by different muses about and relationships with the High Chief.
To some, Anenih is an inimitable “Leader’ and compassionate giver. To others, he is a consummate politician, master tactician and strategist. Significantly, he is many things to many people depending on the side from which he is being viewed by them.
There were messages that dwelled on his business acumen; some on his staying power: humility, generosity, loyalty and patriotism; and others on his steadfastness to noble political causes while some more others focused on his fatherly love.
Like the real political boss, that he is, the ‘Leader’ as he is fondly called, donned a cream colour caftan with a cap to match and sat quietly in his usual sofa in the expansive sitting room (partitioned into two by a beautifully designed wooden and glass furniture) where he received well-wishers from as early as 9:00 am till 7:00 pm when he moved to the outer part of the sitting room and sat in another sofa close to the large Television set surrounded by an avalanche of beautifully designed birthday cards to exchange banters with his guests.
The number and calibre of people that strolled into his expansive sitting room in his architecturally-simple Asokoro residence to felicitate with him was incredibly staggering despite that the day was intended to be quietly observed. Touched by this show of affection, the “Leader” had quietly, earlier in the day, requested as many of his well wishers who would be able to make it back to his house at 7:00 pm to do so for some eating.
Some of those who visited the Leader during the day were the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Abdullahi Inde Dikko, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri, PDP National Woman Leader, Dr Kema Chikwe, National Youth Leader of the PDP, Abdullahi Maibasira, former members of the House of Representatives, Johnson Abolagba and Anthony Aiziegbemi, former PDP National Woman Leader, Herbertta Okonofua and governorship aspirant in Edo State, Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon in company with his wife, Kate.
Among those who came for the 7:00 pm get-together which lasted till about 10:30 pm were: Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan, Brigadier General Jones Oladehinde Arogbofa (retd), former Lagos State Military Administrator, Brigadier General Buba Marwa (retd), National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, Minister of Works, Architect Mike Onolenmenme, member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Mr Elias Mba, former National Chairman of the PDP, Ahmadu Ali, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Engineer Mohammed Abba-Gana, Wife of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator (Lady) Eme Uffot-Ekaette, member of the PDP BoT, Senator Stella Omu, former members of Senate, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, Senator Lee Ledogo Maeba, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Investment, Senator Odion Ugbesia, member of the House of Representatives, Friday Itulah, former Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Zakawanu Garuba, PDP governorship candidate in Anambra, Mr Tony Nwoye and the Executive Secretary of the Christian Pilgrims Welfare Board, Mr Kennedy Opara.
The Leader, assisted by some guests, including Dr Kema Chikwe, cut the birthday cake at the night get-together. The highpoint of the night was when Opara led General Arogbofa, Senator Ugbesia and two others in prayer for Anenih. That was after many of the guests had left. August 4 had come and gone, the goodwill messages, which spiced Anenih’s quiet 81st birthday, have continued to pour in for the Iyasele of Esanland.
The one that must have touched his sensibilities the most was by President Goodluck Jonathan who said in his birthday felicitations thus: “On behalf of my family, the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and on my own behalf, I extend very warm felicitations to you as you turn 81 on Monday, the 4th of August, 2014.
Your uncommon leadership qualities, courage, forthrightness, and evident faith in the peace, unity, progress, and prosperity of our dear nation have seen you remain one of Nigeria’s most highly respected political icons over the years. You have constantly given of yourself unstintingly in support of our Administration and in patriotic service to the Fatherland. For this, we remain eternally thankful.
As we pray that Almighty God continues to bless you with many more years of fulfillment, please accept my very warm congratulations and best wishes for your continued good health and enduring well-being”
For the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who greeted Chief Anenih on behalf of her non-governmental organisation, Women for Change Initiative, she described him as a great leader and mobiliser who has done a lot to improve the lots of Nigerians.
Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo said in his message to him on behalf of his family: “…As an elder statesman, distinguished politician and a patriot, I wish to acknowledge your great contributions to the development of our country which will remain indelible.
On this special day, we salute you for your selfless service in entrenching the ideal of democracy in Nigeria and express our immense prayers for more years. We also wish you good health and the Almighty God’s blessings.”
Former National Chairman of the PDP and Ambassador-at-Large, Dr Bamanga Tukur said: “…As you celebrate 81 years of qualitative service to God and Humanity including the down-trodden, the fetchers of water and hewers of wood, Nigerians born and yet unborn will certainly place premium on the good name and monumental achievements you have recorded and bequeathed to posterity for the good of our dear Nation.
You have through hard work, dedicated and selfless service to the Nation portrayed yourself as a patriotic Nigerian, elder statesman and nationalist, whose vision is to make Nigeria one united and indivisible entity. We give thanks to God Almighty and wish you many more years of fruitful service to our great country and the PDP where you are the Chairman of our Party’s Board of Trustees of the largest political movement in black world.”
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice S.M.A. Belgore in his message to Anenih said: “Please accept my sincere best wishes to you on your eighty first birthday. May Almighty God reward you with many more years in life with good health and happiness.”
A member of the PDP BoT, Ambassador (Dr) Hassan Adamu also prayed for Anenih and assured him of his loyalty, support and highest regards, among others.
Goodwill messages also went to him through newspaper advertisements from the Senate President, Senator David Mark, Speaker, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, Governors Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), David Jang (Plateau), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Garba Umar (Taraba), Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (Kaduna), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Steve Oru, Transport Minister, Idris Umar, Labour and Productivity Minister, Emeka Worgu, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) and Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, among others. As of Thursday, last week, the flow of goodwill messages and visits by well wishers to him had continued unabated.