Enahoro: The Struggles Of His Life

Pa Anthony Enahoro.

Pa Anthony Enahoro.

Sometime in 1993, senior editors of TheNEWS magazine met Chief Anthony Enahoro in a   suite at the Sheraton Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos.

Pa Anthony Enahoro.

The editors had come to keep an interview appointment on the political situation in  Nigeria and expectedly, the editors had a good session with him. As interviews go,  Chief Enahoro was every editor’s delight. With his superb command of the English  Language, Chief Enahoro was never in short of words to describe whatever he wanted  to describe. Not to him the  ambiguity of speech or thought: He shot straight,   lucidly and sharply. But apart from the interview copy extracted from this former  editor, there was something else the editors took away: Enahoro’s painful  reflections over how things had deteriorated in Nigeria compared with the Nigeria,  where he grew up.

“How old are you?’’ he asked one of the editors. When the editor said he was in his  30s, Enahoro paused for some moments  and said:  ”you are certainly not old enough  to understand what I am  going to say about the Lagos of the 50s, where water flowed  in the taps, where the streets were clean and lit  and the gutters flowed and the  bus services ran as they do in London’’. “I am not cursing your generation, but it  is clear that you will not enjoy life the way we enjoyed it in this country. Your  generation will never see the good times again,’’ he added.

Interestingly, Chief Enahoro’s life was devoted to ensuring that the younger  generation inherited a better country. His life was devoted to one political  struggle or the other and until his death, he was  the leading advocate of the need  for the political restructuring of Nigeria, after the meeting of all the ethnic  nationalities. For his political beliefs, Chief Enahoro suffered a lot of  tribulations. He was jailed by the colonialists. He became a  fugitive, following  allegations that he and his political associates in the Action Group, planned to  commit treason and topple the civilian government of Tafawa Balewa.  Under the  Abacha dictatorship, Enahoro was also jailed and later left the country for exile in  the United States of America. He returned to the country following the restoration  of democracy in 1999.

Born 22 July,  1923, Enahoro was eminently one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial  and pro-democracy activists. He was born the eldest of twelve children in Uromi in  the present Edo State of Nigeria, to  Esan parents, Anastasius Okotako Enahoro  and  Fidelia Inibokun née Okoji . Chief Enahoro  had a long and distinguished career in  the press, politics, the public service and the pro-democracy movement. Educated at  the Government School Uromi, Government School Owo and King’s College, Lagos.

Chief Enahoro became the editor of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern  Nigerian Defender, Ibadan, in 1944 at the age of 21, thus becoming Nigeria’s  youngest editor ever. He later became the editor of Zik’s Comet, Kano, 1945-49, also  associate editor West African Pilot, Lagos, editor-in-chief Morning Star, 1950-53.

Chief Enahoro became a foundation member of Chief Awolowo’s Action Group party;  secretary and chairman, Ishan Division Council; member Western House of Assembly;  and later member, Federal House of Representatives in 1951. He later became Minister  of Home Affairs in the old western region. He was the Opposition spokesman on  Foreign Policy and Legislative Affairs in the Federal House of Representatives,  1959-63; and attempted to move the motion for the independence of Nigeria. Although  the motion was defeated, Chief Enahoro was unrelenting in his campaign for Nigeria’s  emancipation from the vice-grip of the colonial overlords. He was a  a delegate to  most of the constitutional conferences leading to the independence of Nigeria in  1960.

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During the 1962 crisis in the old Western region, he was detained along with other  Action Group members. Accused of treason during the alleged coup trial, Chief  Enahoro escaped to the United Kingdom in 1963. He was extradited from the UK and  imprisoned for treason. In 1966, he was released by the Military Government.

During the Nigerian crisis that followed the 1966 coups, Chief Enahoro was the  leader of the then Mid-West delegation to the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference in  Lagos. He later became Federal commissioner (Minister) for Information and Labour  under the General Yakubu Gowon Military Government, 1967-74; Federal Commissioner  for Special Duties, 1975.  He was the president, World Festival of Black  Arts and  Culture, 1972-75.

When the soldiers returned Nigeria into presidential democracy in 1979, Chief  Enahoro stunned observers when he joined the conservative National Party of Nigeria,  which later won the national election and became the ruling party between 1979 and  December 1983. Political observers thought then that Enahoro should have joined his  political soul mates in the Unity Party of Nigeria, led by Obafemi Awolowo or even  the more radical, Peoples Redemption Party, led by Mallam Aminu Kano. Enahoro tried  to respond to his critics, but his explanation did not really jell with a lot of his  admirers. When military rule came back again in 1984, Enahoro gradually rolled back  to his familiar turf: leading a groundswell of vocal opposition against the  debasement of the values of our country by the military rulers. That role reached  its peak in the Babangida years.

Under the Babangida transition programme, Chief Enahoro supported the candidacy of  Moshood Abiola for the 1993 presidential election. Although Abiola won the election,  the military rulers annulled the election, to the chagrin of many Nigerians. Chief  Enahoro and his bosom friend, Pa Alfred Rewane  stood ramrod behind the agitations  for the validation of the election. It was a campaign that led to the establishment  of the  National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a pro-democracy group, which Enahoro  chaired as the agitators took on the Sani Abacha dictatorship, that had ousted the  shaky contraption left by the Babangida regime.  It was a bloody war: for a while,  Enahoro was arrested and locked up for months in jail. And Alfred Rewane was  assassinated. Chief Enahoro went on exile again, upon his release.

Chief Enahoro was honoured the Adollo by his hometown of Uromi. He was also   conferred with the national honour of Commander, Order of the Federal Republic,  CFR, in 1982, and is the chairman of the Movement for National Reformation, MNR; as  well as the Pro-National Conference Organisation, PRONACO. He was awarded honorary  DSC by the University of Benin in 1972. Among his publications were the treatise  Fugitive Offender. Chief Enahoro played  golf and followed  cricket ardently.

Chief Enahoro was  married to Helen née Ediae, and had five children- Kenneth,  Eugene, Bella, Victor and Gabriel.

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