By Clifford Ndujihe, Bashir Adefaka
The rank of Nigeria’s founding fathers was further depleted this morning with the passing on of frontline nationalist and elder statesman, Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro.
Enahoro, 87, died in the early hours of today after a protracted illness.
He had been ill since late September when he fell into coma and had been a regular occupant of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, where he died.
The death of foremost journalist, anti-colonial and pro-democracy activist, threw the pro-democracy community into mourning Wednesday because of the octogenarian’s his evergreen usefulness, resourcefulness and relevance in nation-building.
Among those who paid glowing tributes to the mover of the first motion for Nigeria’s independence were Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP leader, Alh. Balarabe Musa, Afenifere stalwart, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Amb. Segun Olusola and Presidential aspirant of the Enahoro-led National Reformation Party, NRP, Dr Sam Nwanti. Others are Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and the Edo State Government.
Meanwhile, eminent Nigerian citizens have started pouring in their tributes as they react to the late politician’s death.
In his own reaction, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, felt extremely sorry.
“I am so sorry,” the former military leader, whose regime late Chief Enahoro served as Federal Commissioner for Information, regretted. He went on: “It is very sad indeed that we have to lose such a great man, who was very active in the struggle for actualising independent Nigeria. He was also a very active politician who did a lot for Nigeria.” General Gowon said.
He recalled Chief Enahoro’s role in the successes that his government recorded in those days.
“I recall him as my Federal Commissioner for Information and through that position he occupied in my government, he ensured excellence and displayed understanding in bringing Nigeria to the fore.
“He had to survive a lot of prisons with Awolowo and when Awolowo joined me in holding Nigeria together, Anthony Enahoro always showed cooperation and made relentless effort at making Nigeria truly strong.
“I am very sad at his death. May his soul rest in peace.” Gowon said, adding that he was going to personally visit his Benin home to pay his respect to the fallen hero when he goes to attend the funeral of the late wife of Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, Clara, on Friday.
Nigerian Guild of Editors celebrates Enahoro at death
In a release signed by Mr. Gbenga Adfaye, President, the guild said:
“The Nigerian Guild of Editors has received the news of the death of Pa Anthony Enahoro today with gratitude to God for a life spent in the service of humanity. Although a star had indeed fallen, the testimonial of the life he lived does not warrant sorrows. Pa Enahoro left a legacy of what is good for the people.
“Pa Enahoro was not just a great Nigerian and nationalist who moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence. He was first of all a great journalist and editor of repute – having edited The Comet, a member of the Zik’s chain of newspapers. He was a fighter for justice, a crusader for the the emancipation of the oppressed. He dared the British colonialists.
“He confronted the internal colonialists of the First Republic even when it meant he had to face treason trial. He confronted the evil of disintegration as Information Minister. And in the old age when he should have retired to a life of rest, he dared the bullets of the military dictators.
“As he breathed his last, he remained in the struggle to have a fair, just and equitable federation, where no tribe is oppressed. He was for all his life in the quest for a truly democratic Nigeria run on a Constitution owned by the people. He did all of this at great personal cost, digging in into the trenches of liberation war for Nigeria.
“Nigeria has indeed lost a great hero. Africa has lost a great son. And journalism has lost a great, glittering reference point.
“May his soul rest in perfect peace and his dream for Nigeria come true.”
Former Press Secretary to the Head of State in the General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military regime and Uthopo Na Achalla, Igwe Ezeoba Alex Nwokedi, also reacted to Chief Enahoro’s death describing him as a wonderful freedom fighter.
“Chief Anthony Enahoro, a pioneer nationalist, was a doughty political fighter. His lecture in the late 40s entitled, ‘A call for a revolution’, which he delivered at Thom Jude’s Hall, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Lagos, ignited the spirit of nationalism in Nigeria.
“Nigerians will live to cherish his progressive contributions to our growth.” Igwe Nwokedi said.
The 84-year-old first generation Nigerian journalist, who was speaking on phone from his palace at Achalla in Anambra State, recalled the late’s Enahoro as a journalist with difference.
“As a journalist, his editorial comments in West African Pilot in those days were very inspiring to Nigerians”. He said, calling on the Federal Government to name one of Nigeria’s airports after the fallen co-founding father of Nigeria to immortalise him.
Prominent Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, was not left out. He said Chief Enahoro’s passing away at this time had left a big gap.
“A great gap he has left. We have lost a great nationalist and a man who fought for freedom and unity of Nigeria.”
He said the best way to immortalise him was to restructure Nigeria under a true federal system.
“The best to immortalise him is to restructure Nigeria under federal system where we have to live together in peace and harmony; where the smallest ethnic nationality in Nigeria will have access to the highest office in the country.”
Chief Anthony Enahoro, born 22 July 1923, was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. He was born the eldest of twelve children in Uromi in the present Edo State of Nigeria. His Esan parents were Anastasius Okotako Enahoro and Fidelia Inibokun née Okoji.
Chief Enahoro had had a long and distinguished career in the press, politics, the civil service and the pro-democracy movement. Educated at the Government School Uromi, Government School Owo and King’s College, Lagos, Chief Enahoro became the Editor of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern Nigerian Defender, Ibadan, in 1944 at the age of 21, thus becoming Nigeria’s youngest editor ever. He later became the editor of Zik’s Comet, Kano, 1945-49, also associate editor West African Pilot, Lagos, editor-in-chief Morning Star, 1950-53.