By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Anenih led from the front. He took the bullet for his loyalists. He ministered to their different needs. While many other political leaders were using their privileged positions to fix their children in politics, either through appointive or elective offices, Anenih ensured that his loyalists rather than his children were duly positioned. In 2007 he rebuffed entreaties from President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion that he should allow his first son, Tony Anenih Jnr., join the gubernatorial race. Three years later, in 2010, he similarly forced another son, Oseyili Anenih, to abandon his ambition to contest for a House of Representatives seat. It is only a selfless politician with community or kindred spirit that could do rebuff such entreaties. He believed in building up loyalists to succeed him. The idea was to ensure continuity of group interest. He empowered quite a good number of people in Edo State.
Samplers: Chief Dan Osi Orbih (whose appointment as member of the Board of the NNPC he facilitated in 1999), the late Itotoh whose appointment as minister of state for internal affairs he facilitated in 2003; Elder Odion Ugbesia, whose appointment as minister of solid minerals he facilitated. He also ensured his nomination and election to the Senate. He almost made Ugbesia the governor of Edo of State in 2007 if not for Obasanjo’s opposition. Architect Mike Onolenmemen was thrice lucky with Anenih. From being appointed into the Board of committee that wound down the Petroleum Trust Fund, he was nominated and appointed as Minister of State for Defence. It was in 2015 that he got third time lucky as he was nominated by Anenih and appointed as Minister of Works. There were so many others across the state who were endorsed for either elective or appointive positions in Edo state and at the national level.
It just occurred to me recently that so many things are happening in fast paces such that if Anenih were alive, he would have asked me for some briefings and reporting. On the other hand, I felt that if I were to give a report of political developments in Nigeria to Anenih in a sudden dream encounter, what will I tell him? I certainly will report to him events happening in his “political backyard”. He would like to know how his political family is faring. He would like to know how steadfast some of the leaders he had empowered and positioned for leadership have been.
I will quickly and in a fast-paced narrative tell him how only Chief Dan Osi Obih has remained steadfast in the battle to save the PDP political family in Edo from being hijacked by some outsiders and meddlesome interlopers. I will tell him that Edo State PDP won the 2019 governorship elections with Governor Obaseki; a feat that should have ordinarily been a cause for joy but one which appears to have divided the party and pitched the new PDP governor against old PDP leadership; a situation eerily similar to Chief Anenih’s own internecine battle with Gov. Osunbor that “handed power over” to Gov. Adams Oshiomole in 2008. I will tell him how every political meeting in Edo Central convened to resolve this crisis starts with solemn confessions that his death created a leadership vacuum no one has yet been able to fill. I will tell him how many of his hitherto trusted loyalists who benefitted largely from his political large-heartedness have turned themselves into political hawks and savages baying for the blood of one of his sons, Oseyili, who has once again ‘dared’ to express interest in contesting for the PDP ticket to represent Esan Northeast/Esan Southeast constituency seat in the House of Representatives. I will tell him the barefaced anti-Anenih sentiments by men he defied all odds to empower. I will also tell him that apart from Dan Orbih, who has proved to be “a political son in deed”, the mantra by other loyalists of yore is “who is Anenih? Everyone for himself and God for us all.” But I will tell him to take heart; that faced with storms buffeting him from all sides, his son Oseyili has remained unbowed and unbroken. As they say in Esanland: “the son of a lion is a lion”.
All of Anenih’s hitherto loyalists have not considered it appropriate and rational to respect the late dependable political leader even in death by keeping faith with what he stood for. Instead, they are all running around building new structures in promotion of their selfish political interests and in pursuit of their respective ambitions. They do not care if their moves are in direct opposition to the interest of the Anenih family or the wider Esan community. I had expected that no sacrifices or concessions would be too much to make for the sons of Anenih who seek elective offices, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the political legacy of their father, who was their pathfinder and benefactor. This, to me, is the most conscionable way to honour Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, the Iyasele of Esan land, a man who was their canon-fodder, in death and for posterity. This is wat will be the crux of my report to the Leader. Sancta simpliciter.
▪︎ Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via email@example.com