I received the news on the demise of Chief Anthony Anenih as any normal human being would, with some sadness and disbelief, but owing to the growing strength of the “Fake News Industry” in Nigeria, which is gradually becoming a menace to the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation. It is now one thing to hear about the occurrence of an event, the attribution of comments nearing the borderlines of senility and imbecility to a particular figure or the demise of a particular figure through these channels of “fake news”, worse is the trend for gullible and depraved minds to copy such information and help spread further, most times with the risible caveat that goes like this “ sent as received”.
The story of Anenih’s demise proved to be true, however, I almost became sick with the effusive praise that followed the announcement of his demise: One would have thought that Anenih was a Nigerian Caesar loved by the people; a freedom fighter or an avowed welfarist like Jose Marti! It was indeed saddening to see people describe Anenih in far reaching eulogies and tributes.
Perhaps, the puerile reason for these deluge of phony tributes given even for the most controversial of figures in this country is that we, as the African custom dictates, should not speak evil of the dead. This then steals whatever opportunity we may have to do true introspection as a people; appreciate true legacies, as well as bequeath these lessons to future generations for guidance.
In the tributes that have followed Anenih’s demise, a number of them have presented Anenih as one of the best things to have happened to Nigeria! One of the tributes described Anenih as a pan Nigerian figure, another, which to me was the most absurd, stated that he, Anenih, contributed to the deepening of democracy in Nigeria!
Emwanta! (Bini expression, which means “Is this true?) as my Bini uncles would stoically retort whenever they were told stories that beat their imagination; Anenih for crying out loud was never a pan Nigerian, being pan Nigerian goes beyond being a minister and frontline politician and come to think of it, how can anyone describe him as one who contributed to the deepening of democracy? Which democracy?
Anenih was none of these, matter of fact, he never had any regards for the smallest of tenets of democracy and never failed to betray such disdain for its institutions.
Starting from his involvement in the shenanigan of the general elections of 1983,where a populist governor in the mould of Ambrose Alli was rigged out for the NPN’s Samuel Ogbemudia, was Anenih not central to the plot as state chairman of the NPN in the now defunct Bendel State? What about 1993? Where the same Anenih was to betray the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12 elections, MKO Abiola? Anenih, you may recall, was the national chairman of the SDP then but chose alongside Shehu Yar Adua, Atiku Abubakar and Babagana Kingigbe to thumb their noses at the sacred mandate given by Nigerians to Abiola, negotiating instead for the emergence of an Interim National Government? Yar Adua was to also get his own baptism of Anenih’s turncoat approach to politics, when at the Constitutional Conference; he supported a motion that allowed Gen Sani Abacha more time in office as a military dictator.
How can anyone who knew Anenih inside out as a political overlord, who brooked no opposition, describe him as a democrat?
Except the word has a new twist and is tagged to election rigging and suppression of the people! Maybe we have forgotten how he was reported to have enthusiastically said at several occasions, “Rig the elections, let them (the opposition) go to court!”
Have we forgotten that his home state of Edo was the hotbed of every known form of electoral malpractice? In the course of these years, the people of Edo State, a people with a proud history, were much denied the right to democratically elect her leaders by Anenih and the PDP, thus costing the state hugely in terms of socioeconomic development, until the emergence of Comrade Adams Oshiomole, the present day national chairman of the APC, who gave Anenih a run for his money.
Truth be said, Anenih’s politics was hardnosed, primitive and opportunistic in nature, which unfairly bludgeoned whatever opposition stood before him and his political desires. His purpose of politics as exhibited by the PDP and encouraged by the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo decimated the chances for the proper development of our democracy.
Thus, to describe Anenih as any of the above is to beguile ourselves because he was not. That he was involved in a number of anti democratic activities in the course of his political life cannot be disputed nor made subject to vile revisionism.