By Tony Momoh
We lost our national guinea pig, Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, to the cruel hands of death last week, at age 87. He did not die in America or England or India. He died in a hospital in Benin City, a lover of his ungrateful country unto death. In the Sunday Vanguard of June 11, 2000, I wrote a piece on The National Guinea Pig.
That guinea pig was Enahoro. Let me revisit that piece published on pages 91 – 94 of Volume 1 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary. It was one Orewere who was my teacher in the primary school at Okpe, Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of Edo State, who got me interested in Chief Enahoro. He always spoke of nationalists. He would tell of Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe and one young man from near-by Esanland whose name was Anthony Enahoro.
That man had been a young journalist. He always came out of prison to go back in there again because he was one of those who swore that the sun of the British Empire had to set on the West Coast of Africa. He had even moved a motion in the House of Representatives that Nigeria should be granted independence but the North had said that they were not ready.
I was later to know more about this man of a dream, of my dream, when my elder brother, Kessington Momoh, became very active in the Action Group. How could I be like this man? One way I thought I could be like him was to follow the path he had taken. First was the name.
I started calling myself Tony. That I became a journalist like Tony, an editor like Tony and a Minister of Information like Tony bespeaks of how far my push to fulfill a dream took me. If I did not get to getting elected, that would be because of circumstances beyond my control.
When Tony was growing up, the military was not in power. And, if he fought to get the British out of our way, I fought to get the military back into the Barracks as editor of Daily Times between 1976 and 1980. When, therefore, I met Tony Enahoro at his residence in Benin City, in late April 2000, what I have just told you floated back to me in living pictures.
He had announced that he was making consultations on what steps to take to help grow the country. PDP had been reaching out to him with lots of carrots to join them, and I had gone to Benin to warn him never to join any of the political parties, to remain as the port of call in looking our problems in the face and pronouncing judgments on them. I told him that I had watched over the years the guinea pig role he had played in our national life and that he should never let anyone mess him up in the last years of his sojourn on earth.
When in the late 40s Chief Osita Agwuna delivered a lecture entitled, A Call to Revolution at Tom Jones Hall in Lagos, it was Tony Enahoro as a young editor just out of prison who hopped onto a chair that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to mount. The chairman, the lecturer and all the Zikists who organised and attended the lecture were arrested and tried and jailed for sedition. Six months before the incident, the members of the Zikist Movement had been learning how to live under prison conditions because they knew what they were bargaining for. Not Enahoro who may not have suspected what awaited him!
When Chief Obafemi Awolowo left the premiership of the Western Region and moved to the Centre, the man everyone thought would have been the next premier was Tony Enahoro. Some people then remembered that he was not one of the members of the majority group in the Western Region.
He was side-lined, sacrificed, more because of where he came from than that he had not been loyal to the party and the leadership or that he was not competent enough to lead. If he had been premier of Western Region, Nigeria would perhaps have taken another road that would not have witnessed the Action Group crisis that sent Awolowo to jail, and that saw Enahoro as the guinea-pig of extradition proceedings in England.
Having been hand-cuffed and brought home to Nigeria because Britain did not want to offend the new emerging giant in the African sun, Enahoro faced stoically the treasonable felony trial in Lagos and was sent to jail.
When the military struck in 1966 and they themselves were thrown out about six months later, Enahoro was one of those in jail that Yakubu Gowon set free. Many things happened, including the bloody Civil War from 1967 – 1970 during which Enahoro fought the diplomatic war for Nigeria, with the ever-present threat to his life by a Biafran machine that was mobile and efficient. Need we mention the dirty tricks that emerged to undermine Enahoro when people thought that he was going to form a political party with Yakubu Gowon after the war?
Need we recall how after the Murtala Muhammed enquiry into the actions of public officers, Enahoro’s house in Uromi, built in the early fifties, was taken from him to ensure that he had no foothold of any consideration! It is no use revisiting his experiences in a stable he did not ever vibrate in between 1979 and 1983.
But for those who are more interested in current history, there sat the man of principle who perhaps would have been sentenced to the beyond by a regime that did not shy away from killing women!
The four years he spent abroad as leader of NADECO-in-Exile must be the climax and grand finale of a guinea-pig role Chief Anthony Enahoro played all his life.
Thenceforth, I told him at his residence in Benin, he must remain the reference point for a vision of the new time, the new Nigeria where there is a programmed choice of unity, justice and democracy. Enahoro should, therefore, not be the chairman of AD or a member of APP in whatever capacity, or be lured into PDP under any guise.
His role should be that of a statesman, the one the President and any other person or group of persons should be happy to call on for advice. If he chose to be anything else, I told him I would have lost a dream, because the fate of Ojukwu after exile would have befallen my hero. But, it would be too late to change my name.
Too late in the day. Enahoro was lured into joining PDP, but when he discovered that he was being led into a trap where those who come into a room are abandoned there in search of the proverbial lost sheep at the expense of the 99, he deftly removed himself from the ditch. All he did in PRONACO and other forms of getting Nigerians to come together and opt for that form of government that will leave our resources for growing the country rather than lapping it all up in salaries and allowances, led us nowhere.
Now that he is gone, we are pretending that he was worth much. But he has the last laugh, believe it or not. He came, he saw the debris we were in, worked for us to rise above trivial preoccupations of the greedy, died almost heartbroken.
Looking at his report card over there, where we came from and must return to, he should be happy that he played his role in history, and that with others who left before him, who lived a life of sacrifice, they can cast their gaze in the direction of infamy and feel sorrow that those who did not prepare the soil are those reaping the fruits of the seeds they sowed, even eating up the future in the present. We thank God Almighty that Anthony Enahoro passed through here, in the journey through Creation.