African Viewpoint: Looted legacy?

Nigerians line up to cast their votes during presidential polls in Lagos in 1999 after 15 years of military rule Anthony Enahoro campaigned for independence from the British in the 1950s and was at the forefront of the campaign to end military rule in the 1990s

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa fears for the legacy of one of Nigeria's great statesmen.

He had joined in the struggle for the democratic emancipation of colonial Nigeria as a nation. In the next 60 years he was harassed, jailed and detained without trial innumerable times. Last week at age 87 he died still with his boots on.

Anthony Enahoro Enahoro was a newspaper editor before turning to politics and went to prison several times

I am talking about Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, the most respected, most tortured and most ridiculed Nigerian politician ever.

The medical cause of his death was said to be diabetes but he could have died from the utter frustration of devoting nearly 70 years of his life exclusively to fighting the cause of Nigeria and Nigerians and yet seeing nothing but darkness in the horizon.

The same people who pooh-poohed his nationalistic propositions and scorned his yeoman efforts at getting them to spare a thought for the directionless ship of state are today scrambling to eulogise him in superlative phrases on newspaper front pages and television news headlines.

You can be sure, from the press coverage, that his funeral will be a state affair. Public treasuries will be flung open to accord him a "befitting burial".

I am past being bothered by the widely-held belief that half of the money disbursed will end in the pockets of the organising officials.

Powerful persuader?

At least Papa Enahoro died peacefully in his bed, he will not witness the predicted collapse of the nation that he loved passionately and his memory will be celebrated long after those of his erstwhile adversaries would have been flung into the trash can of history.

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Citroen DS-19 photographed in 1961

No respectable Nigerian at that time would even think of buying a second-hand car”

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It was an army commander who said, after observing how the war chest was being plundered during the Nigerian civil war: "Nigeria is not worth dying for."

While his contemporaries and others were (and still are) amassing fortunes from the common wealth, Papa Enahoro was researching, thinking and addressing seminars and conferences across Nigeria to persuade other political leaders to see beyond the day.

Think of it - was his life choice a wise one?

That brings me to the poser a politician threw at me during a news interview three months ago in Ibadan, 120km (75 miles) north of Lagos.

I can proudly claim that profoundly analytical politician, Dr Omololu Olunloyo, as a friend.

We met in the 1960s when he was dating a pretty woman of about his age whose brother lived with me in the same house.

Dr Olunloyo was then a young university lecturer and he had just bought a brand new Citroen car - no respectable Nigerian at that time would even think of buying a second-hand car.

His car excited me and my friends with its hydraulic system.

When the car engine was started, the body would rise slowly about a foot before the car moved. I delighted in taking ride in that marvel!


As it turned out the relationship between the two did not work out.

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They and their children are spending this Christmas season in opulence although they need fleets of armoured vehicles to venture out of their fortress residences”

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Dr Olunloyo was a mathematics graduate and lecturer. At that time anyone known to be a mathematician was assumed to be an eccentric.

Don't ask me why - perhaps because the reputation of Chike Obi, Nigeria's first famous mathematician, preceded him to my neighbourhood in Ibadan.

I am not saying that that was why wedding bells did not ring for the assumed eccentric suitor and our lovely sister, but it can't be far from it.

Sorry for that digression. What did Dr Olunloyo ask of me?

He said I should investigate how a person who spent his entire working life in either the military or civil service became a dollar millionaire immediately on retirement when it was public knowledge that their parents were ordinary and poor folks.

Such are the people who are lording it over Nigerians and who frustrated the life efforts of Papa Enahor and other nationalists like Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Mallam Aminu Kano.

They and their children are spending this Christmas season in opulence although they need fleets of armoured vehicles to venture out of their fortress residences.

Folks like me plan to have a truly merry Christmas out on the town; it's the luxury they can only dream of.

Merry Christmas!

Here is a selection of your comments.

A lot of Nigerians know that corruption is the reason for our woes. But not many people are prepared for a revolution. At least the sanusi lamido Sanusi type

John Olaoye, lagos

Merry Christmas Odunfa! Thank you for your interesting article. May the soul of Papa Enahoro rest in peace and may God grant his family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss of a states man. If our politicians were doing the right thing, they wouldn't need armoured vehicles and soldiers to protect them when they venture out of the mansions. Our people are suffering in the midst of plenty. How can more than 75% of the population of Nigeria be living on less than $2 per day when we are blessed by God? The actions of a few individuals is holding the progress of the nation hostage. These same politicians travel abroad and send their children to schools in the U.S and London but refuse to develop and help our institutions of higher to compete internationally. The hard currencies they are spending abroad could help our economy to grow. May God deliver us from gluttons.

Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Nigeria cannot forget the sacrifices of Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro. May his gentle soul rest in peace. Having said that, it is worrying that some people still dwell in the past. Especially those based abroad. Nigeria today is different. We are forging ahead. Things are improving for all to see. Nigerians are beginning to be proud of themselves.

Tokunbo Arabangbe, Lagos, Nigeria

Tony Enahoro's use of the English language to most lucidly express his opinions were the hallmark of a genuine intellectual - something of a rarity in Nigeria where the sword is still too scared to bow to the pen. His command of English was legendary, inimitable without being bombastic, polished and yet pungent in criticism.

Opeolu Shonekan, Ibadan, Nigeria

Merry Christmas Odunfa. May Pa Enahoro rest in peace. Well, it's no secret that corruption may eventually lead to the failure Nigeria as a state. However, I believe that when can collectively change this situation if we want to. We have to introduce the Chinese option into our penal code - the death penalty for any form of corruption. From the policeman who extort 20 naira at the street corner; to the teacher who collect money or demand sex from student before passing them in exams; to the fake "men of God" who collect many from the poor to pay their luxurious lifestyle; to the politicians who are looting us dry.

Joe Ohwodo, Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands

The way things are going in Nigeria it is possible that the country may not outlive its citizenry. The political elites are killing the country in bits and pieces and it might eventually give up the ghost, sooner rather than later.

Akin Akinyemi, San Antonio, Texas, USA

A preacher once said "you have nothing to live for until you have found something worth dying for". And although commitment to Jesus as Lord and Saviour was the focus, I do believe the same applies to Nigeria. Until we the common Nigerians come to the point where we are willing to shed our blood if necessary, we cannot claim to be living for the good of Nigeria.

RC, Temple City, California

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