Tuesday, 6th June 2023
<To guardian.ng
Breaking News:

Peter ‘Pan’ Enahoro (1935-2023)

By Editorial Board
19 May 2023   |   3:56 am
The death of veteran journalist and satirist, Peter Enahoro, and the nostalgia that his flourishing career evoked from former colleagues and curious watchers, are a study of the impact of the press in nation building.

The death of veteran journalist and satirist, Peter Enahoro, and the nostalgia that his flourishing career evoked from former colleagues and curious watchers, are a study of the impact of the press in nation building. As recounted by informed commentators, the life and times of Peter Pan (the sobriquet by which he was known) reflected the libertarian spirit and critical mindset of the dignified journalists of yore. For the journalist and the politician, two strange professional bedfellows who presume that their survival must rest on profitable symbiosis, Enahoro’s career provides a rethink. Furthermore, if responsible journalism has any meaning in this age of social media, the stinging power of the celebrated writings of Peter Pan would be a good historical reference to unpack.

At the height of his popularity, Enahoro was an exuberant professional endowed by providence with the wisdom and insight of a lonesome social reformer. Young, energetic, courageous and prolific, Enahoro had a platform with which he turned his idealism into progressive social crusading. With remarkable energy for fire-spitting critical journalism, he nurtured the ‘Peter Pan’ Column started in the Daily Times in 1959. The column was so influential that it commanded the attention of the political elite of the time. Informed sources claimed that the contributions made by Peter Pan “rattled members of the political class who, while dreading him, respected him for standing up in the fight for the masses.”
In other instances, they were so acerbic that they were a thorn in the flesh of power. Such was the case when the premier of the Western Region, Chief S. L. Akintola, banned Daily Times national newspaper from the south-west. One excerpt of his writing in the 1960’s meant for the political elite of his time is still very instructive to the political situation today: “I venture to give this warning that if you destroy the ballot box, you leave the field clear to the people, to seek other means of restitution. Who wants that in Nigeria? Who wants to sit on a glittering throne built on top of a keg of gunpowder?”
Peter Pan did not reserve this unique style of journalism only to deal with persons in power, he also extended it to his paper. Though as editor of the paper, he penned the paper’s official position on a policy as editorial, he went to his column and opposed it. Thus Daily Times had two opposing views on a policy from the same person, who was at once an editor and a columnist. Notwithstanding his prolificity and asset, this was uncomfortable to the management of Daily Times who kept pushing from one position to another. But before it got to a point of his dismissal, he sacked himself and went on self-exile to Europe for 13 years.
Born Peter Osajele Aizegbeobor on January 21, 1935 to the Enahoro family in Uromi, Edo State, the distinguished veteran journalist and media guru died in London after a brief illness. A young brother of the late elder statesman and illustrious politician, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Peter Pan, 88, had his early education in schools in Akure, Ondo State, Ado-Ekiti, present-day Ekiti State, Ekpoma, Edo State and Warri in Delta State, before proceeding to Government College, Ughelli, Delta State in 1948.
Enahoro began his career as a journalist as an Assistant Publicity Officer, Federal Ministry of Information in 1954. In a career that spanned 10 years of meteoric rise in Africa’s largest daily newspaper, he joined the Daily Times as a sub-editor in 1955, at the age of 20, and had a stint as Assistant District Manager at Rediffusion Services, Ibadan, in 1957. Back to the Daily Times, he became the editor of the Sunday Times in 1958 at the age of 23, and Features Editor of the Daily Times in 1958, then its editor in 1962. He later became Daily Times Group Editorial Adviser in 1965, and in 1966 its Editor-in-Chief.

Disenchanted with the politics of professional practice, Enahoro forsook the comfort, prestige and affluence of his elitist position as an editor and went into a self-imposed exile that would last for 13 years. In a humble cycle of a new beginning, Enahoro got a job as Contributing Editor of Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany, from 1966 to 1976, and was Africa Editor of National Zeitung, in Basel, Switzerland, and became the Editorial Director of New African magazine in London in 1978. In 1981, he launched a pan-African news magazine called Africa Now. He would later become Sole Administrator of Daily Times Nigeria Plc in 1996.
Today’s Nigeria presents itself as a country in need of many Peter Pans. Because Peter Pan flourished as a journalist who set out to clean the Augean stable of the political terrain of his time, the lessons from his life are instructive to practitioners in the mainstream and affiliates who practice in the social media platforms.
Nigerians have in recent years witnessed a trend among journalists, who in the course of their career secure appointments as media aides to political office holders. Recent experiences have brought out the ignoble, discourteous and needlessly haughty parts of many of these journalists. In the course of their stint as public servants of power, these former journalists who, as the word goes “spoke truth to power” have displayed so much arrogance and contempt for public scrutiny of state that one wonders if they really cultivated any iota of positive qualities lavishly expressed as reporters. The idea that journalists must lose every sense of decency, courtesy, and moral scruple upon being political hirelings calls for serious soul-searching. The impression that moving from being opinion molders to becoming attack dogs of their principals, is an elevation, should fill them with shameful retrospection.

Indeed, they are potential Peter Pans in Nigeria today. While many have had their profound journalistic craftsmanship eclipsed by the charlatanism prevalent in the social media, some have been hounded or are being vilified by opportunists in power. Notwithstanding, they should draw inspiration from the life of Peter Pan. One of the lessons learnt from Peter Pan is that the journalist, in the course of his duty, is only a friend to truth. As an editor who commanded the respect of senior citizens and public office holders, Enahoro was known to be in the circles of power. He cocktailed with them, yet he did not lose his bearing as a gadfly. To cultivate the mindset for this demands courage and sacrifice. Unfortunately, the virtue of courageous sacrifice, that powerful attribute of the journalist to speak truth to power is fast becoming a negative quality of the practitioner. 
He exemplified the circumspection that journalists must carry in their duties: that they are not megaphones of privileged power-bearers; rather they are like philosophers of the street who should report to make truth known so that the people can be free and self-governing. In this way, the duty of the journalist is intrinsically connected with the ideals of democracy. Farewell, Peter Pan.