BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
Chief Anthony Anenih, the Iyase of Esanland in Edo State, is a man any politician looking towards the future would neglect to his peril. Many who have done so have either regretted or remained sullen in quiet lamentation of the political wizardry marshaled by the man against them.
Anenih’s first political prey was the former professor of pathology, Prof. Ambrose Alli, governor of the defunct Bendel State between 1979 and 1983. In his very first political outing, Anenih led the forces of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN to unseat Alli, a fellow Esan man from office in the 1983 elections. That was despite the acclaimed performance of Alli in office.
His move against Governor Alli easily painted Anenih as a man who would not be swayed by ethnic considerations in the actualisation of political, and maybe, other wider objectives.
It was as such not difficult that when Major-General Shehu Yar‘adua, who did not also pander to ethnic bigotry in his life time, commenced his political adventures at the end of the eighties, that he turned to Anenih to be the linchpin for his political campaigns.
Indeed, that sobriquet, “leader” associated with Anenih was said to have been put on him in those days when even Yar`adua deferred to his political calculations, calling him, the leader.
For a man given to playing on such high level political platforms, it is understandable that many of his actions which are often shrouded in secrecy would turn him into a man of many controversies. His actions following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which he led his party, the Social Democratic Party, SDP to win, were no less controversial.
Even in his native Edo State, his role in first of all projecting Lucky Igbinendion to power in 1999, and then declaring no vacancy in the Edo Government House ahead of the 2003 election is another.
It was difficult to believe as the 2007 election approached that anyone could remove the politics of Edo State from his grasp. But another enduring political father, Olusegun Obasanjo did it to him when he stopped Anenih from projecting Senator Odion Ugbesia as Igbinendion’s successor.
Anenih’s foot soldiers were nevertheless confident that what Obasanjo denied them and gave to Oshereinmen Osunbor, they would win back through the courts or by courting Oshiomhole. The story is still told in Benin of how some of Anenih’s closest associates swarmed the Edo Government House after the Appeal Court upheld Oshiomhole as the winner of the 2007 gubernatorial election to rejoice with the new governor.
His embrace of Oshiomhole was, however, to turn into a horrendous political misadventure.
Oshiomhole’s successful accomplishments in office have now turned into a big cross for Anenih and what is left of the PDP in the state.
Not even their protestation that their party has been cleansed of its bad elements, supposedly now in Oshiomhole’s party has been well received.
Anenih’s setbacks in Edo State nonetheless, his political reinvention after first staying aloof from Jonathan in the days of the cabal is today said to be remarkable.
It is a testimony of his political artfulness that he has now become the rallying point for Jonathan’s political calculations.
So, when the president needed somebody to fix the too many gaffes of the Bamanga Tukur led PDP executive, it was to Anenih that he turned to.
In remarkable style, Anenih has been going round the country fixing the problems, making deals and polishing the rough edges of the president so that another term for Jonathan that seemed improbable just weeks ago is now turning into a discernable probability.
PDP governors from the north who not too long ago complained about Jonathan have in the last few days kept mute and turned their fire on Tukur as the problem of the party and the people!
It was apparently based on such perceptions that a group in the party came out last Monday calling on the president to stop Anenih.
Their claim is that Anenih, through fixing the problems of the PDP, is taking over the job of the national chairman. Well, he was only doing what he knows best to do!