….A tribute to the late nationalist
By Ajibade Fasina-Thomas
Eromosele Enahoro was an excellent newsmaker. That would have been sufficient for a prolific journalist that he was, except that Tony Enahoro was most times the news himself.
In his profession, he was a Rocky Marciano who came in with rip-roaring qualities that made the great Zik make him a newspaper editor at the incredible age of 21.
In politics, his brilliant ideas won the heart of the remarkable Awo who made him Minister in the then Western Region and consequently member of the caucus of the pragmatic Action Group.
In sports, he carried along a legacy of active participation in games bequeathed to him by his schoolteacher father. He played football, cricket and lawn_tennis at school. In later years, he fell in love with golf so much so that his addiction to the game attracted some snide remarks at the Coker Commission of Inquiry set up by the “emergency” government of Moses Adekoye Majekodunmi to probe the activities of Obafemi Awolowo’s government in Western region.
Two prominent members of the cabinet, Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams and Anthony Enahoro were found irreproachable on the allegations of financial misappropriations against the government of Awolowo.
About Enahoro, one of the counsel was amazed that the flamboyant Uromi chief was not indicted. He said maybe Enahoro was busy playing golf while some people were busy looking into the Treasury.
The man who made that remark was familiar with Tony Enahoro’s reputation as the first African to play golf at the Ikoyi Club, then predominantly a “white man’s club”. The only black faces you saw on the golf course of the club were those of young men called caddies who carried bags containing clubs used by the white men to play the game.
Those lads remembered Tony Enahoro’s dexterity in the game of golf. Long before they graduated to professional golfers, they elected him Life Patron of the Nigerian Caddies Association.
We shall revisit the exploits of Tony Enahoro in sports presently. It is an interesting story about the pedigree of the Enahoro family in sports. And it is the nub of this tribute to the quintessential journalist and politician.
Tony Enahoro was an engine of ideas; most of his ideas, not surprisingly, were agreeable to the Man of Ideas, Obafemi Awolowo whose disposition to sound reasoning was the hallmark of his excellent leadership in the Western region.
As Minister of Home Affairs, incorporating Information, he was instrumental to the opening of the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), the first television station in Africa, in 1959. His creative fingers were deep in the apple pie of the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, opened also in 1959.
On the eve of Nigeria’s independence there was no modern stadium in the country. The emergence of the Liberty Stadium therefore became a straw in the wind, a foretaste of what the future held for sports development. Liberty gave unmistakable definition to sports and served as a wake-up call to the Tafawa Balewa government to be responsive to sports generally.
Shortly after Independence, the government excised a massive part of the land allocated to the Nigerian Railway Corporation from the Alaka end of Surulere, Lagos to the Tejuoso end of the suburb for the construction of a National Stadium. The then Minister of Labour, Joseph Modupe Johnson, was given responsibility for sports matters.
By an interesting twist of fate, two men who were actively involved in the building of Liberty Stadium, Gabriel Akin Deko and Anthony Enahoro were to play notable roles in national sports. Deko was appointed first Chairman of the National Sports Council in 1962 while Enahoro was a Cabinet member with portfolio for Information and Labour incorporating Sports in the military government of Yakubu Gowon when the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos was opened in 1972.
Tony was the effervescent Commissioner in charge of sports, who with Olufemi Adefope, then a Nigerian Army colonel, as Chairman of the revitalised National Sports Commission, successfully organised the 3rd All Africa Games in Lagos in 1973. It was the first time Nigeria would organise a sports event of that magnitude.
While Tony gave up every other sports for golf, his siblings were hitting newspaper headlines with remarkable achievements in football, athletics, cricket, hockey, lawn_tennis and table_tennis.
His immediate younger brother, Ambassador Edward Enahoro was the captain of the Ibadan XI that got trounced 5_0 by a youthful Warri team in the Governor’s Cup encounter in 1950.
Interestingly, the Warri team included two other Enahoros-Henry, a University professor, and Ben, an all_rounder sportsman in his days at King’s College, Lagos. The team, which also had football maestro Daniel Okwudili and Sambo was too much for Ibadan which had in goal Isaac Akioye of the 1949 UK Tourists fame.
Henry was a lawn-tennis devotee while Ben was well known on the football field, the hockey and cricket pitches and in athletics. Ben will be remembered as the affable Sergeant-at-Arms in the first House of Representatives.
Dan stll found time to play cricket while he was District Manager (North) of the Nigerian Tobacco Company. Peter played football and wore the colours of Government College, Ughelli, in athletics at the Grier Cup competitions. He followed the steps of Tony into journalism and became one of the youngest editors in the Daily Times in the 60s.
Chris is unarguably the best all-rounder sportsman in the family. He played football at Government College, Ibadan, and went on to represent the town at the national Challenge Cup matches from 1955 to 1958. He established the Commonwealth high jump record of 6ft. 5 and half inches at the Nigeria Police ground, Obalende, Lagos, in 1956; captained the Nigerian Cricket team, played hockey and featured in the all-Nigeria table-tennis championships. Today, Chris’s devotion to tennis is only surpassed by the undying love Tony had for golf.
And then, there is the multi-talented Mike. Noone in the family played football better than Mike. He was known for his smooth play and was at his deftest when putting the ball past goalkeepers. He was a schoolboy wonder in the late 50s and played for Ibadan in 1958 and 1959 while still a student at St. Gregory’s College, Lagos. He also played for the star_studded Federal United FC of Lagos. Mike was a TV broadcaster and veered into public relations practice later.
Tony Enahoro was the family torch_bearer who related to his brothers and sister individually and collectively. In the words of a close family friend, “if you fight one Enahoro, be prepared to slug it out with eight others; a fight with one of them is a family affair.”
For Tony, however, the fight is now over. The debonair journalist and politician has fought the good fight and has finished the race. He is no longer a fugitive. He is free at last. Forever.
-Ajibade Fasina-Thomas, is a veteran journalist based in Lagos