Opinion: Lessons Chief Tony Anenih Taught Me by Tony Ademiluyi


I got initiated into the media at the age of 8 when I used to read the newspapers and magazines that my veteran journalist father used to purchase. I so loved the news in all its forms that my mother used to punish me by hiding some of the magazines when I refused to join the rest of the family for dinner.

I can remember after reading the History of the American Nation at the age of ten that I first appreciated the immense power of the media. It was Tom Paine’s Pamphlet, ‘Common Sense’ that stirred up nationalist sentiments. The agitations were given more bite by Thomas Jefferson’s ‘American Declaration of Independence’ and Patrick Henry’s ‘Give me liberty or give me death speech.’
During the June 12 1993 crisis, I further appreciated the influence of the media. Tagging along my dad who was in the National Republican Convention at the time, I wondered why the soldiers with all their guns harassed ‘hungry looking’ pen pushers. Why would these ‘scruffy looking guys’ whom few dames would want to date be a source of eternal scourge to the gun totting goons?
I took a keen interest in how underdogs were able to use the media to project themselves. Benjamin Franklin who moved to Philadelphia penniless became a millionaire before he turned 30. William Randolph Hearst shook the American media firmament as well.
When I wanted to write JAMB, I faced a big dilemma. I had always had an independent streak and I felt pursuing a career in journalism would make me live in my father’s shadow. I had caught the Charly boy and Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu bug then and so as a compromise I chose law even though I knew before I entered the University of Lagos that I would never practice it. No doubt I deeply respected lawyers especially the radical ones like Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Festus Keyamo etc but I had a near maniacal devotion to journalists and writers. One of my favourite pastimes during holidays at Kings College was to go to the National Library in Yaba and read the great writings of Dele Giwa, Pini Jason, Sonal Olumhense, Biodun Jeyifo and return to school with some mesmerizing quotes to the irritation and amusement of some of my classmates.
Politics had returned to the nation three years ago at the time and it became a source of attraction to me especially as my late grandfather who passed on three months after my birth was a prominent one before independence.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the party at the centre and for some strange reason I was greatly attracted to it despite its unpopularity in the land of my birth and other parts of Yorubaland.
I have always been attracted to underdogs and as I have the pain of nearly always been tagged as one. One of my favourite Biblical stories was that of David and Goliath and the thought of slaying the dragons drove me to frenzy.
The most powerful politician in the country at the time was Chief Tony Anenih and I carefully read his story and applied the lessons to my life. He has always swum against the current and shunned popular opinion.
When he joined politics in 1978 after his 25 years in the police force, the natural thing to have done was to pitch his tent with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) which was the ruling party in the then Bendel State. He did the most unpopular thing by joining the NPN especially after veteran nationalist and fellow kinsman, Chief Anthony Enahoro lost the Chairmanship of the party in the state to Chief Tayo Akpata.
In 1981, he took firm control of the party by sending Akpata packing and boldly declared that he would dislodge Late Professor Ambrose Alli in the 1983 elections. Given the tribal sentiments that have crept into our politics, it made me the most hated man in Esanland as he was going against his own brother.
One thing struck me: he put up his house for sale to raise the funds to finance the elections. Bread and butter politicians would have run to Lagos, the then nation’s capital to beg for funds to finance the elections. His sacrificial nature struck me and I decided to first fly the kite.
In 2002, politics was banned in the Law Faculty and I approached Seun Lawal, now an American based attorney, Wale Fapohunda, who now runs a Lagos based practice to team up with some other democrats in other levels to agitate for a return of politics and the immediate disbandment of the then caretaker committee.
We used our personal resources to spearhead the struggle and a resounding victory was recorded. Something strange then happened in the student union scene. A phenomenon known as Abudugana was sweeping the campus with his oratory in the mould of the legendary Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe. The three of us were convinced of his genuine desire to effect a deep-rooted change and decided to shun the easy way out in aligning with the money spraying Adebowale Fafore who was a quasi-Abraham Lincoln. We ate akara and drank pure water and had nocturnal meetings for days unending. Our price paid off as Unilag had something reminiscent of the Roman Pax Romana in 2003.
In 1991, when Edo State was created, Anenih had the easier option of backing the disaster that Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion later became. He instead backed John Oyegun-Odigie despite the huge financial overtures from the Esama of Benin.
 I put my hat in the ring for the Law Society elections of 2003. I got my first Baptism of Fire as the mudslinging and campaign of calumny was extremely ferocious. Against all odds as I had little funds to prosecute a hitherto money gulping campaign, I emerged victorious with the sheer power of oratory and eye-captivating campaign slogans.
The role he played in the June 12 crisis was largely misunderstood. The Hope 1993 campaign was a sham and M.K.O Abiola wasn’t really going to be the Messiah that Nigeria needed apologies to Olusegun Obasanjo. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands. You don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. You cannot acquire a fortune by taking advantage of the ignorance of the generality of Nigerians, dole out a few millions in the name of philanthropy and then expect to make a change. It is curious that the APC led phony change that the country has been cursed with was brought by the so called progressives who were all so called June 12 advocates. Anenih was pragmatic enough to see through the veneer and wisely disassociated himself from the fraudulent struggle powered by sinister stomach infrastructure.
Despite my family’s association with the progressives from the Action Group to the current APC, I have refused to be swayed by the bandwagon and have stuck my neck for my desire to be part of the process to enthrone good governance in my dear country.

The consistency of the Iyasele of Esanland is truly amazing. He has always stuck to one party despite the fact that politics in this country isn’t ideologically driven unlike his peers who take solace in cross carpeting at the slightest opportunity.
His legacy is viewed by pundits with mixed feelings. Some opine that his loss at the twilight of his career was a great dent. I choose to view it differently. The legendary Napoleon Bonaparte lost the Battle of Waterloo after his brief hundred days in office. It hasn’t reduced his place in history.
Consistency which is an element lacking in our debased polity is a key takeaway is a lesson to be learnt from his political career that spanned nearly four decades.
Happy Retirement Sir!

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