May 6, 2023

Peter Enahoro: Power must be taken away from people who squandered it

Peter Enahoro: Power must be taken away from people who squandered it

Born on January 21, 1935, was a renown Nigerian journalist, author, businessman and publisher. Also known by the pen name of “Peter Pan” because of his popular column in New African magazine under that name, he has been described as “perhaps Africa’s best known international journalist”. He became the Editor of the Nigerian Sunday Times in 1958 at the age of 23, and Features Editor of the Daily Times in 1958, then the paper’s Editor in 1962. He went on to become the Daily Times Group Editorial Adviser in 1965, and in 1966 Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Times.

His publications include How to be a Nigerian (1966); You Gotta Cry to Laugh (1972); The Complete Nigerian (1992) and Then Spoke the Thunder (2009). He was Contributing Editor of Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany, from 1966 to 1976, and was Africa Editor of National Zeitung, in Basel, Switzerland, becoming Editorial Director of New African magazine in London in 1978. In 1981, he launched a pan-African news magazine called Africa Now. His “Peter Pan” column that he began writing in 1959 ruffled feathers among the political big-wigs. Frank Barton in his book The Press of Africa (Macmillan Press Ltd.) described Enahoro as “arguably Africa’s best journalist writing in the English language”. Peter Enahoro died in London on 24th April 2023, at the age of 88.

In this tribute, an extract of his last interview with Arise news television is reproduced where he traced Nigeria’s problem to 1953 when his elder brother, late Chief Anthony Enahoro moved a motion for independence.


Nigeria’s problems began in 1953 when my elder brother moved a motion for independence and the Northern Peoples Congress, NPC, moved a counter motion saying”independence as soon as practicable” and they were allowed to get away with it. And from then on we have allowed the far north, I make a distinction between the north and the far north, to dictate to this country.

Don’t forget the north and south amalgamation that became Nigeria was because the north had no money, was always broke whereas the south had surplus and Lord Lugard thought if he merged the two, the money from the south can assist to help the north. Then we had politicians who bought the idea that a united Nigeria is something that had to be fought for. Good or bad, the system of how you do it, is what was missing.

And I’m saying the far north is the spoilt child of the federation. We have to restructure the federation in such a way that it’s not a race to the bottom. We can’t have people in Lagos for instance, or any other state who have brilliant boys, they passed exams and because we have a quota system they can’t get into the institution that they want, that they deserve to be. And then you give somebody who is less qualified a chance and you said you are catching up; no, you are not catching up.

The late Alfred Rewane was asked a question when they had a Coker Commission of Inquiry, that, Chief, you say that you support democratic socialism of the Action Group, don’t you understand what socialism is. He said yes, when he was first told that, that will be the party’s politics, he thought it meant they wanted to bring him down to the level of the common man at the bottom. But when it was explained to him that socialism meant raising a man who is at bottom up to his level, that he gave his full support.

What we are doing at the moment is that we are bringing everybody down as much as we can, that is why the standard of education is so low, that is why nobody talks about building hospitals, because those who are in charge, those who have benefitted most from it are people using the money to do all kinds of things. The problem in Nigeria is that we need to have a restructured system whereby those who work hard and those who benefit from it are the same. It’s a scandal that people can go to Mecca virtually every year when the Q’uran says that they can go once in a lifetime. And where is the money coming from? It’s not from any investment that they have made, it’s not from their earnings, it’s coming from the quota system of oil distribution called statutory revenue allocation. It’s a scandal and that’s why we are where we are today.

Nigeria has deteriorated because we have been ruled by people who don’t have a clue, they don’t have a clue and it goes on and on. It’s infuriating. If only some of these people know how we all started it, how pre-independence Africa was a great hope. I remember the founding of the Oraganisation of African Unity, OAU, in 1963, the big competition was between Nigeria and Ghana and Nigeria came on top. All Africa was behind Nigeria. At the moment, I’m sorry Nigeria is on a downward slide. Nigeria is not a great country at the moment but it can become a great country if the south will produce leaders who will take charge of the country. By taking charge, I mean they should build alliances with the middle belt, they should find a couple of people in the far north.

Power has to be taken away from people who misuse it, and it’s been misused long enough. We can’t go on the way we are, we can’t be putting money in people’s pockets who have no foggiest idea what to do with it. All they do is spend the money. We have to change the system, we have to restructure the country, otherwise Nigeria will not be a great country. If we have militant southerners, we will be on the brink of breaking up but we don’t have them, nobody will do it. The only people who tried it, the Ibos, were defeated. I don’t think anyone will try it again.

But power has has to be taken away from people who squandered it. How long will it go on, that’s the question Nigerians should ask. I said earlier on that the trouble in Nigeria began in 1953 because people were allowed to get away with it. Sardauna of Sokoto stood up and said independence as soon as practicable, nobody pinned him down to say when is this going to happen, instead he walked out in anger and that gave him a chance. And then Lugard started it by saying there is no money in the north, let’s take the surplus from the south and use it.