One-time minister of works and former chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih had, doubtless, defined his eon in the politics of Nigeria from the second republic to the current fourth republic before he announced, in 2016, at the public presentation of his autobiography, “My Life and Politics” his withdrawal from active politics.
By his careful choice of words -”withdrawal from active politics”- it was clear that he did not want to turn his back completely on politics, a trade that had fetched him fame, influence, connections, recognitions and honours, certainly more than opprobrium. But for the pains and strains of old age that had conspired with his health condition (he had survived an open heart surgery in October 2015) to compel him to slow down, he probably would have trudged on.
The grand old politician did the needful by listening to advice by family members and, most especially, to his heart and body in reaching the decision. It was clear that having been deeply sucked into politics and enjoying his kind of vast followership, he was going to feel somewhat out of place trying to extricate and insulate himself from the dynamics that underpin politics both nationally and in his home state of Edo.
In the corollary, he had chosen to toe the path of statesmanship to enable him intervene, largely dispassionately, in the state of the nation in accordance with the demands and dictates of the times. He would also be able to offer advice to those who still defer to him as their leader. I consider his proclivity towards statesmanship to be a good decision since governance and governments can always tap from his wisdom, experience and advice as a statesman.
The incumbent administration should, therefore, beyond partisanship, identify and reach out to other statesmen who are genuinely committed to the evolution of a better Nigeria for a partnership that is underpinned by their sincere sense of altruism. At the level they have attained and given their age, there is certainly no more passionate craving for pecuniary gains. They will be happy to avail the nation with the benefits of their experience. Indeed, their generation can be harnessed for national good.
Indeed, it is against the backdrop of this that Anenih’s recent gesture of praying for restoration of peace in Nigeria in the context of the killings in parts of the country, while the oppositions are excited that the situation is casting a slur on the profile of the Buhari administration and thus discounting its goodwill, should be appreciated. That essential patriotism is the driving force that can promote good neighborliness, strengthen national unity, cohesion and stability as well as development, regardless of which party or person that is in power at the centre.
Talking about symbolic gestures, indeed, the real symbolism is in Anenih’s decision not to celebrate his 85th birthday on August 4, 2018 on account of what he described as the sad state of the nation, accentuated by so much losses, bloodshed and apprehension. It is not that he does not have the wherewithal to throw a lavish party where family members, friends and well wishers could wine and dine; an episodic self-abnegation, the kind that he had demonstrated at this time, represents a forceful way of connecting with the troublous state of the nation and official effort to deal with it.
Not to have a sense of connection with the pains occasioned by the tragic killings that have been consistently visited on Nigerians in parts of the country is to scoff our humanity. Other statesmen should stand to be counted, whether or not they like the face of President Buhari. In a show of patriotism and realizing that it is about our nation, they should identify with the current administration and offer soothing words. It is not all the time that those who are seen as statesmen should be throwing barbs at government especially now that Nigeria is at a crossroads.
Anenih had rationalised his decision to empathise with the government thus: “There is no doubt that attaining a milestone of 85 years on earth is a privilege enjoyed by a few; and, it is, therefore, an occasion worth celebrating with loved ones and friends. On reflections, however, whilst I remain grateful to God for His unfailing love and sustenance that have kept me all through the years, I am, sadly, unable to fulfill this earnest desire to celebrate the milestone because of the unfortunate recent losses that befell my family in quick succession, the condition of my health and the sad state of the nation that has witnessed so much losses, bloodshed and apprehension.”
While reference to the losses that befell his family and his health condition complemented the plethora of reasons for his decision not to celebrate with pomp and ceremony, the bit about the sad state of the nation is certainly the clincher that sustains, on the whole, Anenih’s disposition and conviction. He had, however, placed on record the effort being made by government and influential Nigerians to restore peace.
Read him: “Nonetheless, I sincerely appreciate the effort being made by government and some influential Nigerians to restore peace. I believe that with prayers and faith in God, there is hope for restoration of peace and good neighborliness in Nigeria soon and in the years ahead. I urge all well-meaning Nigerians both at home and in the Diaspora to be united in purpose and join in prayers for God’s intervention in the affairs of our nation.”
On the face of it, this is quite touching. It is a challenge to other statesmen to show commitment to and connection with the national issues that defy political party affiliations. Insecurity affects all Nigerians irrespective of memberships of political parties. Those who kill in the middle belt do not ask their victims whether they are members of the All Progressives Congress or Peoples Democratic Party or African Democratic Congress, et al.
Even statesmen that are still leaders of political parties are duty bound to draw the line between unconscionable political zealousness and germane issues that conduce to the defence and promotion of national interest, regardless of which party is in government. They should consider making that sacrifice in the interest of a nation that has been good to them, not minding that the party in government would benefit from the positive utilitarian interventions that they make.