August 8, 2013

Anenih: The quintessential and great leader @ 80

AGE, according to the British great philosopher, Mark Twain is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

For Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih and his family, friends, well-wishers even enemies across the globe, it matters because Anenih is now an octogenarian.

This is a no mean feat in a continent where the average lifespan of a man is less than 45 years. For a man who was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he steadily and diligently braved all odds to be who he is today, which is nothing but an eloquent testimony of God’s grace and reward for selfless service to humanity.

As a growing young child in Uzenema-Arue vilage in Uromi, Edo State, Anenih joined his parents in their rubber plantation which was major occupation in the region then. Not deterred by enormous challenges in the society, he had his primary education at Government School now Okpujie Primary School also in Uromi between 1944 and 1949.

By 1951 he joined the Nigeria Police Force in Benin City and also diligently studied at home and obtained the GCE ‘O’ Level as well as ‘A’ Level. His professional commitment in the Police gave him the opportunity to attend the Nigeria Police College in Ikeja and other professional trainings outside the shores of the country.

Due to the confidence the Police authorities reposed in him, he was chosen above other colleagues to serve as a Police Orderly to the First Governor General of Nigeria, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Before his retirement from the Nigeria Police as a Commissioner, Anenih had made an indelible mark in the Force. Though the Nigeria Police as it is today may be a far cry from the dream police, Anenih and colleagues paid their creditable dues before their retirement, a reason for which the history of the Force cannot be complete without mentioning Anenih’s immense contribution.

A man with a Midas touch, his foray into the murky waters of Nigerian politics has largely been a success story due to his immense achievements. Believing so much in the words of the great writer, Jim Rohn, that “whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness – great wealth, great return, great satisfaction, great reputation, and great joy”, Anenih’s entry into the political scene since the Second Republic has been characterized with selfless service to humanity not only to his people in Edo but to Nigerians across the divide.

That was the reason he was not desirous of contesting for the political office of a governor or President, even when it was obvious that he would win. Rather, in the interest of the generality of the people, he has always remained in the background to play the fatherly role to all and sundry. It is clear that in the country today, he appears to be one of most sought for politicians, not because of his financial strength or deep pocket, but because of his immeasurable experience and wisdom.

No wonder as the State Chairman of National Party of Nigeria, NPN, between 1981and 1983, Anenih worked tirelessly and convincingly for the election of Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia as the civilian governor of the then Bendel State.

Describing Anenih as an encyclopedia of the polity called Nigeria is not far from the truth. That was why every successive government in the country has always found in him a reliable, experienced, nationalistic, detribalized, dependable and resourceful Nigerian in building and rebuilding the country for better.

Having held and still holding various key positions, there is no doubt that Anenih has built bridges not only across the country, but around the globe like no other Nigerian politician of his age and class. He has established himself as an icon in Nigeria’s politics and democracy, a development that has endeared him to Nigerians from different walks of life.

With the return of democracy in the country in 1999, he was among the foundation members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and has played and has continued to play major roles in shaping the political space even as an octogenarian. In the face of all odds, he has consistently kept faith with the people, God and his political party, even when the party has lost the governorship seat to the opposition party in his home state, Edo, due to some internal squabbles in the party instigated by outsiders in 2007.

A trail blazer all his life, Anenih by this lives according to the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson that: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. His remarkable achievements, especially in the area of human empowerment, peace promotion, dialogue and unity in diversity, speak volume of him, and are all there for posterity to see and verify.

He never believed or subscribed to political harlotry as is the case with most Nigerian politicians. Anenih has  always remained steadfast and committed to his party ideologies and principles. That was the reason when the position of the Chiarman Board of Trustees, BoT, of our great party, the PDP became vacant following Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s resignation, all the members, including the Presidency, without hesitation moved for Anenih as  the candidate for the plum position.

That position, he has used and still using to stabilize our great party in the face of the daunting challenges in the country’s polity. At 80, Anenih is still trudging on undeterred and unruffled. Happy birthday our leader and many more years ahead.

It is on record that in all the positions entrusted in him since he joined politics he has always performed his duties to the best of his knowledge and abilities. That is why he has not been on trial or indicted by any of the anti-corruption agencies or law courts. Even when some people mischievously and politically try to drag his name in the mud for selfish political reasons, he has always come out to put the records straight to the chagrin and shame of his detractors.

In all his life, Anenih has always proved that he was good of student of Elbert Hubbard’s ideology that the final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment. He has always seen reasons to forgive and mend fences with those who have wrongly offended, accused, disgraced or blackmailed him politically or otherwise in the past.

An attitude that is very rare among Nigerian politicians who most times see the game as do or die affairs without remembering that power belongs to God. That is obviously the reason why at 80, Anenih is still trudging on undeterred and unruffled. Happy birthday our leader and many more years ahead.


Mr. KENNETH IMANSUANGBON, a lawyer,  wrote from Abuja.