Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro was an icon of Nigerian politics. He belonged to the truly left of centre few in the arena of political practice dominated by a large crowd of comprador self-seekers who serve their own pockets and the international predators but never the people of Nigeria.
Anthony Enahoro was one of the few who had genuine intentions to serve the people. Tony shone brilliantly as a star, one of the few in a long-standing cloud of national hopelessness for development. In his early days, Tony emerged as Editor of The Comet, one of the fiery newspapers in the stable that the reading public knew as Zik’s Group of newspapers. He also worked as a reporter on the Southern Nigerian Defender. These were the authentic mouthpieces of the campaign for the decolonisation of Nigeria. Tony caught his public teeth in that stable. He was a golden donation from journalism to politics. Most unfortunately, the emergence of two narrow interest political parties in 1950 derailed the oldest surviving party that started as clarion call for the socialist development of Nigeria into their ranks of tribally focused political machines.
The twin emergence of the Yoruba interest Action Group AG and the Northern interest Northern People’s Congress NPC pushed the erstwhile socialist propagating National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon NCNC to become the Igbo tribal political platform. With the consolidation of the three parties as the government business controllers in the three antagonistic regions, Tony Enahoro became one of the leading thinkers in the Action Group, the ruling party in his region. The conversion of the pro NCNC Mid-West area to an Action Group territory was partly due to Tony’s political work in the area. Although he worked in the Action Group, his political character was akin to that of the radical leaders of the Zikist Movement, the firebrand wing of the anti-colonial struggle. The leaders of that movement, Raji Abdallah, Osita Agwuna, Mokugwo Okoye and Zana Bukar Dipcharima were older than Enahoro who never joined the Zikist movement, but his political thoughts were similar and to the radical stand of the Zikists. Indeed, many thought he was of the group. Tony once made a public statement that he was never a member of the Zikist Movement.
Political deftness on the part of the Action Group saw Tony emerging as a spokesperson of the opposition Action Group in the House of Representatives. A study of the Hansard, the official records of the debates in the House confirms Anthony Enahoro as one of the very best debaters and informed parliamentarians that this country, possibly the British Commonwealth has ever seen. Parliamentarians of his calibre in the house included the likes of Maitama Sule of the NPC and indeed, I cannot now recall another! As undergraduates and avid readers of the newspapers of those days that were indeed newspapers, we usually browsed the papers every morning to search, first for the headlines that would lead us to read reports on debaters of the calibre of Enahoro and Maitama Sule. Certainly, standards have gone down today virtually everywhere! Parliamentary debates! News reporting! Politics and politicking! Political campaigns! Government programmes! I believe that Enahoro would not recognize what is on the ground in the public affairs of this country today, in the Nigeria for which he applied beautifully his intellect and political sagacity.
Arguably, Tony probably lost track of his political direction when he worked in the despicable autocratic military governments that derailed the political and economic development of Nigeria. I am sure he later recognized the futility of being an accomplice to military dictators, particularly autocrats who had no idea of how to promote development in a backward neocolonial country.
It was to his credit and a proof of the uselessness of his years with dictators that Tony became a leader of the movement that fought the dictators to pack their filthy baggage and get out of government. Tony was a leader of the National Democratic Coalition NADECO that rubbed the noses of the dictators in the mud. Tony went further to lead the Sovereign National Conference that came out with a Draft Constitution for Nigeria in 2006. This writer has proposed to the Democratic Alternative and other political parties that believe sincerely in the development of Nigeria to adopt the Draft Constitution as a party document and propagate it among the people of Nigeria as the authentic basic law for the development of our country. The self-serving ruling politicians behave as if the document does not exist. They prefer to tinkle the military imposed 1999 Constitution to perpetuate them in power. Only parties like the DA, NCP and PRP can promote the Draft Constitution that emerged from the Sovereign National Conference.
Only when such parties get into power can we use the Draft to reconfigure the constitutional structure of Nigeria. Only thereafter will this country have any hope for authentic development that will improve the quality of living of 150 million Nigerians. The Draft is qualitatively superior to the current 1999 Constitution in use. It is much more consistent with an arrangement for the rapid economic development of Nigeria as against the one that serves narrow interests of the ruling right wing politicians and international capitalism.
Members of the Democratic Alternative console the family of the departed icon, Anthony Eromosele Enahoro for the loss of a close and loved one. Your family gives us excellent human materials particularly journalism. Tony was the greatest. You must take solace in the undisputed historical fact that Tony remains one of the few historic giants in the history of our country. Aside from his records in the Hansard, his book Fugitive Offender remains one of the eternal political treatises that will determine the political and economic progress of the African continent. That is when we are ready to develop! Although he is physically gone, we congratulate your family for giving such a worthy son to this beleaguered country. We pray that his work will not be in vain.
Adieu! Tony Enahoro!
This battered country needs many more of people with your leadership quality.
Dr. Abayomi Ferreira