By Hugo Odiogor
Even in death, Chief Anthony Enahoro has continued to attract the admiration of Nigerians who appreciated his contribution to the struggle to make Nigeria a better place to live in. In this interview, the Dean of Centre for Development Studies, Covenant University, Ota, Professor Kayode Soremekun, who, like Enahoro, was an alumnus of King’s College, Lagos, recollects the life and times of the late nationalist beyond the media perception of his contribution to the making of Nigerian state.
What is your reaction to the news of the passing away of Chief Enahoro?
Well, the uncanny thing about death is that in spite of its predictability, it retains the capacity to surprise us. So, to that extent I am still in a state of shock about it, every man’s death surprises us and, in the process, unnerves us. Without seeking to play on the usual words, Nigeria has lost one of her greatest sons.
In saying this, I am mindful of the fact that post-humous tributes are very cheap in this part of the world. However, when I say Nigeria has lost one of its greatest sons, it must be located in the context of the life and times of Pa Enahoro. Here was a man who could be said to have been behind the barricade virtually all through his life in the context of the type of education that he had.
When the colonial masters were here, Pa Enahoro was at the barricade; in the long winter of military rule, he was at the barricade, seeking a better Nigeria from his role in the civil war. In more recent times, under Abacha era, he was there at the barricade.
And, given his stature, his record of public life, he could have become a collaborator easily, but he stuck to his beliefs; to that extent, I can say, indeed, that Nigeria has lost one of her greatest sons and the only tribute we can pay to this memory is to strive and continue the search for his vision of a higher and better Nigeria.
As a King’s College product. What do you remember of him?
He must be one of the oldest old boys of King’s College . The only person who could be older than him would be Monsignor Pedro Martins who turned 100 years last month. He is certainly one of the oldest old boys of K.C. He was so brilliant that he told his father that with a Cambridge, he needed no further studies. There is hardly any book on contemporary Nigeria that Pa Enahoro’s name will not be there.
He was most celebrated for his motion on Nigeria’s independence. Is this all there is to his contribution to the struggle for independence?
The point is that we must try to separate the media image from reality. The media image thrives more on Nigeria motion for independence, a number of social forces have even been disputed. It is such a discreet but it does not take things away from the greatness and profound contributions of Chief Enahoro because, under British rule, he was always in and out of courts; on one or two occasions he had to pay the price of imprisonment for sedition.
He was a fearless journalist. It is on record that he was one of the youngest editors of a newspaper in this country. Apart from moving a motion for Nigeria’s independence, Enahoro’s life and times read more like that of Nigeria. I am saying this because I have read much more recent account of the upsurge of the military strong man, Abacha, and there you see Pa Enahoro’s name etched in brilliant colours. Like I said, he was not to be counted among the collaborators.
If you go back to the colonial days to read some of the cases, then you will understand that he was more than a nationalist.
There are those who argue that he was inconsistent and contradictory in his life as he stood for one indivisible Nigeria during a military regime, but as a NADECO and PRONACO chieftain, he championed a cause that he opposed initially, restructuring Nigeria .
There are two ways to see this thing, first as a contradiction then as an inconsistency but on another hand it could be seen in the context of flexibility, because the true intellectual, when he meets a superior or confronts empirical realities, he must adjust his view.
When we talk about NADECO and PRONACO, he was, in fact, questioning the Nigerian state: should it be structured this way Nigeria could still be one?
But under a different arrangement and I think he was more credited that with fact that he wanted Nigeria to be six geo-political zones under a federal zones under a Federal Republic of Nigeria, he had come to see that unitary arrangement which came with military rule could no longer be sustained. I think he only wanted Nigeria to be restructured, I don’t think there is anybody in the country today who will not say that Nigeria is over due for restructuring.
How would you resolve the contradictions that even as an apostle of restructuring, he opposed the struggle of the minorities as shown in the quest for the creation of Midwest region in 1963?
Prevailing realities must have informed what happened then. These were the realities of the 1960s. You have to situate the voting pattern then in the context of the subsisting politics and that was that here we had three regions and only one was singled out for dismemberment, meanwhile the other two regions had their own varying degrees of heterogeneity and nobody was talking about dividing up.
Only West was singled out. That was in the context of status quo politics and, to that extent, it will be unfair to his memory to judge him along the line of the politics of the 1960 politics.