Anenih’s Exit: The End Of A Political Era ?
CHIEF Anthony Akhakon Anenih on Thursday resigned his position as Chairman, Board Of Trustees (BoT) Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His decision did not come to many Nigerians as a surprise, considering that since his foray into the murky water of Nigerian politics some decades ago, he has never fare well outside government circle.
Although Anenih said he bowed out to allow President Goodluck Jonathan to assume the position after leaving office, but many Nigerians believe that it goes beyond that, considering the fact that President Jonathan has not indicated interest to occupy the position.
While it may be in line with the party’s constitution for its ex-presidents to occupy the chairmanship position of the Board after leaving office, Anenih, who is not an ex-president has occupied the position since Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s resignation in 2013.
It would be recalled that Anenih has always aligned with the power-that-be at all times and could be best described as a system man.
To many political observers, Anenih’s sudden resignation may not be unconnected with the change of guard in the Presidency, following the PDP defeat in the just concluded presidential election.
It could be recall that since the PDP lost the presidential election, there have been intra-party squabbles within the rank and file of the party. It also may not be out of place that Anenih’s resignation is connected with the crisis rocking the party. Meanwhile, throughout Anenih’s era in the political arena, he meant different thing to different people.
To many, he was a political godfather whose loyalty and commitment to any cause was never in doubt. Some saw him as a man who supported and played along with the PDP Presidency, while the party enmeshed in crisis for years without a democratic and permanent solution. Others believed his kind of politics was a stumbling block to the PDP progress since 1999.
Many had expected him to quit the stage earlier than this especially when he and his party lost their base in his home state Edo, following Governor Adams Oshiomhole of APC’s reclaiming of his mandate from the PDP in 2008, and went ahead to win his reelection against all odds. Since then Oshiomhole appeared to be politically a torn on the flesh of the Uromi High Chief in the state. Henceforth, his home support base depleted rapidly.
And that marked the beginning of the final demystification of his political dynasty in the state, with the outcome of the recent presidential poll worsening his political fortunes and exploits.
There is no doubt that the exit of the octogenarian politician popularly known as “the Leader” among his party faithful definitely marked end of a political era. His exploits and antecedents will remain a case study for students of socio-political history.
Since his retirement from the Nigerian Police and forayed into politics during the Second Republic, Anenih has bestrode the corridors of power like a colossus, wielding power and influence.
He could be best described as cat with nine lives as he virtually survived and served every government in power from Second Republic till date.
In 1998, he was an influential member of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) one of the groups that formed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the same year.
Even though former Military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) was not a foundation member of the PDP, it was the likes of Chief Anenih, late Chief Sunday Afolabi, and others that were sent by the retired military generals who hijacked the party machinery from inception to appeal to Obasanjo to contest the 1998 presidential primaries of the party.
To ensure that their wish of imposing Obasanjo on the party as its presidential candidate were achieved, the ex-generals provided Anenih with all the resources, and support needed to execute the plot at the Jos convention in 1998.
A plot, Anenih who also served as the Deputy National Coordinator, Olusegun Obasanjo’s Campaign Organisation executed with finesse, and Obasanjo against all expectations emerged the party’s candidate against other strong contender and former Vice- president, Chief Alex Ekwueme.
Throughout Obasanjo’s administration, Anenih was his closest and most influential ally and executor. A situation that earned him the sobriquet, Mr. Fix It.
He was the minister of Works during Obasanjo’s first term in office. Within the era, his words were laws and the fear of him in the government circle and the ruling party was the beginning of wisdom. Before the 2003 general elections, he publicly declared that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock in 2003 meaning that Obasanjo’s second term in office was a done deal. Not many took him serious, while others criticised him.
When Obasanjo’s reelection bid seemed to have met a brick wall, following the insistence of majority of the PDP governors that Obasanjo’s vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was their preferred candidate, Anenih waded in and arm-twisted the governors. He used the party’s automatic return ticket offer to convince the governors to support Obasanjo’s second term bid.
True to his promise, the 21 PDP governors with the exception of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju of Anambra State were offered the party’s automatic return ticket in 2003.
When the leadership of the Senate under late Senator Chuba Okadigbo, and the national leadership of the party under Chief Audu Ogbeh became a hard nut to crack for Obasanjo’s administration, Anenih was allegedly drafted by the presidency to mastermind their ouster from office.
Both were unceremoniously removed from office with Ogbeh allegedly surrounded his position at a gunpoint. Anenih’s failure to fix Obasanjo’s third term plot in 2006 estranged their relationship politically. In what looked like a payback, Obasanjo refused to support Anenih’s preferred governorship candidate in his home state, Edo in 2007, Senator Odion Ugbesia.
Obasanjo’s choice of Professor Oserheimen Osunbor as the party’s governorship candidate in the state did not go down well with Anenih.
It was disclosed that because of Obasanjo’s alleged imposition of Osunbor on the party, Anenih never supported Osunbor during and after the election.
With the emergence of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar Adua as the president in 2007, Anenih aligned with his government and became one of the powerbrokers alongside the likes of Chief James Ibori, Dr Bukola Saraki and others. Yar Adua’s government appointed him Board chairman, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
At the peak of Yar Adua’s health crisis that nearly grounded the country’s democracy, Anenih was neither here nor there openly. But immediately, President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office as acting president, Anenih became his right hand man. President Jonathan re-appointed him Board chairman of NPA.
With the backing of the Presidency, he was railroaded into the position of elected Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) PDP, a position he has held between 2004 and 2007.
Investigation reveals that during the just concluded general elections, Anenih strongly operated from behind the scene, but his political sagacity could not save PDP from defeat.