Opinion: Tony Anenih, Goodluck Jonathan and his trouble-making elders

by Rotimi Fasan


His veiled attack at nameless and unpatriotic elders making comments likely to cause disaffection and disunity among Nigerians was definitely one of his many incompetent attempts at addressing festering national issues.

So Chief Tony Anenih, the BoT chair of the PDP, marked his eightieth birthday last week and provided President Goodluck Jonathan an opportunity he must have been craving to send some verbal missiles at those Nigerians he thought haven’t been particularly friendly to him and his administration.

It’s easy to imagine the President must have craved this opportunity given the barrage of attacks he has come under in the wake of his wife-induced battle with Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

The fallout of this is the increasing restiveness of members of his own party, particularly five Northern governors, that have been making the rounds of the homes of leading members of the party and former military and civilian leaders of the country, including President Obasanjo, President Shehu Shagari, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, although Abubakar claims not to be a politician. The governors took their shuttle diplomacy more seriously after they were pelted with stones and packs of sachet water by supporters of President Jonathan and his wife.

They had gone to Port Harcourt to show solidarity to their embattled colleague who had been hemmed in by Jonathan’s attack dogs led by Police Commissioner, Mbu Joseph Mbu, Nyesom Wike and   Evans Bipi.  Huddled together in the damaged vehicle that conveyed them from the airport, the governors ran the gauntlet of anti-Amaechi Riverians who only stopped short of manhandling them.

There is no question that would have happened had they had the misfortune of stepping out of their vehicle. President Jonathan’s supporters didn’t seem to realise nor were they bothered by the import of their action which could very easily have resulted in calamitous backlash against innocent Southerners in the North should these men choose to return the crude complement extended to them in Port Harcourt.

As far as the President’s people were concerned, they were out to defend their home front against the invasion of barbarians. They didn’t stop at humiliating the governors.

They followed with warnings of dire consequences to would-be visitors and agitators with plans to protest against the barefaced misuse of federal power.

The condemnation that followed Jonathan, his wife and their supporters’ misconduct must have startled the President to the realisation that he might be stoking a fire he couldn’t put out concerning his ambition to remain in office. He has himself been making barely concealed fence-mending visits, in the last two weeks, to the same leaders of the PDP the five governors had consulted.

His veiled attack at nameless and unpatriotic elders making comments likely to cause disaffection and disunity among Nigerians was definitely one of his many incompetent attempts at addressing festering national issues.

According to President Jonathan, these nameless elders lacked the nationalist credentials of Chief Anenih who at 80 was still looking strong and is at the heart of national politics. For Jonathan, Anenih was a nationalist that should be emulated. Chief Anenih in his response didn’t fail to live up to expectation. He made comments that earned him the moniker of ‘Mr. Fix-it’ under President Obasanjo who was part of the birthday party in Abuja. He spoke about the need for Nigerian leaders to come together.

Apparently speaking of the bad blood that had flowed freely until recently between him and Obasanjo, his erstwhile buddy, Anenih represented the former president’s presence at his birthday event as an act of forgiveness. In the end, he said what Jonathan couldn’t have expected him not to say on such occasion, namely, that he is the man destined to lead Nigeria beyond 2015.

Nigeria is ‘turn by turn’, Chief Anenih said, and so it’s Jonathan’s turn now to lead. It would not matter that Jonathan hasn’t discharged his presidential remit in any meaningful way. He simply must continue in office because it’s his turn. And any contrary view, as far as President Jonathan is concerned, is unpatriotic and likely to cause disaffection and disunity among Nigerians. Profound thought!

While, as Governor Oshiomhole said in his comment at the birthday party, it’s our culture to respect our elders, and in that vein one would want to wish Chief Anenih many more years- but as a true elder who should be proffering wise counsel from the background when sought.

Most people of his age are in deserved retirement not slinging political mud among people of his grand children’s generation. One would be talking differently if politics in Abuja has been edifying. But this is ever hardly so. Nigeria must be exceptional as a country whose politics is still firmly in the hands of geriatric figures like Chief Anenih, President Obasanjo, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, General Abubakar- all present at the party and pushing their eightieth and ninetieth year on earth. In saner climes their likes should be in retirement.

Until he was run out of town, politically, by Oshiomhole, Chief Anenih was very active in his politics of ‘turn by turn’, placing expediency over competence in Edo State. This is not the way to leave a worthy legacy for younger generations. The key figures of Nigerian politics are men of the day before yesterday, people whose contemporaries in other societies, except in a Mugabe-type government, have ceased to be active politicians. This wouldn’t matter if they were true statesmen. General Abubakar claimed he first met Chief Anenih in 1964, definitely as an adult. Since he left the police in the late 1970s, it is doubtful if he has done little else but politics. Now in 2013, his eightieth year, he is still breathing and talking politics. And because he supports Jonathan he is not one of the elders ‘heating up the polity’.

President Jonathan needs to be more sophisticated in his appraisal of national issues. His naivety is many times embarrassing. Where does he place the likes of Chief Edwin Clark, his Ijaw conclave of elders and their uncompromising insistence on an Ijaw president post-2015 in his categorization of unpatriotic elders mired in ethnic politics? Right before him Chief Anenih talked of ‘turn by turn’ politics and the President still looks elsewhere for those he labels unpatriotic elders!

How can he live in this gilded house of glass and still throw stones? Of course there are many ‘ethnic’ politicians and ‘elders’ of different hues scattered across different parts of the country and among different ethnicities. But in identifying them, the President must look first to those by whom he is surrounded, politicians, kinsmen and women. Not the least of them, his loving wife whose busybody would be her husband’s undoing.


Read this article in the Vanguard Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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