Chief Anthony Enahoro and the Nigerian Nation

Chief Enahoro is one of the leaders of the Mega Summit Movement, organiser of the forth coming national summit on democracy, 1st of October in Abuja.

Nelson Mandela and JJ Rawlings are among the attendants. The aim is to merge several political parties in the country, to create a sizeable rival to the ruling People Democratic Party.

Enahoro was born on the 22nd of July, 1923 in Uromi, Edo State. He was one of the leading anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists in Nigeria, during the colonial era. He has an extensive career in press, politics and in the civil service, both in the pre and post independent Nigeria. In March 31, 1953, he became the first person to move a motion for independence of the Nigerian nation.

Many years later, Nigeria has almost become a failed project and like a true father, he is still rallying around with other eminent Nigerians, looking for the best way to redirect the country.

In an interview with the Sahara Reporters, few years ago, he talked about the Nigeria he had fought for since he was a youth.

“Why are you still in the struggle that you started around the age of 21?”

“I have often said, in answer to this question, that we ‘the youth of my generation’ set out to struggle for freedom, modernization and democracy. As you know, we succeeded with freedom. We also succeeded, to a great extent, with modernization, but it is sad that Nigeria has had a deplorable record with democratization. We have failed so far. Until that goal is realized, I consider it a betrayal of the dreams of my generation and colleagues, many of whom died in our struggles. I refuse to believe that destiny has let me live so long in reasonable health for me to betray our struggle and selfishly confine myself to personal matters.”

He was the leader of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO; a movement which wrestled with the military government for democracy in Nigeria. After the death of General Sani Abacha on Monday June 8, 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who became the new Nigerian head of state initiated a plan to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

Corruption was still in its peak in the country, abuse of power just as usual, yet many pro-democracy activists became almost invisible.

“Many of us in NADECO, including myself, held the view that it is not the business of the military to impose a constitution on the country. We believed that this constituted the danger of a subtle continuation of military rule, and that if we participated in validating military rule by supporting General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the military might find a way to impose one of its own on the country, as Head of Government.

The trouble with Nigeria is monumental. The country’s structures are wrong, its system of government is wrong, and the policies of the party in power are wrong…”

“When, in the fifties, you moved the motion for independence, what type of a nation did you have in mind?”

“There was no general agreement on this question. What was important was that we should be free from alien rule. Some of us, particularly the youths in all parties, were agreed on the issues of democracy, the parliamentary system of government, and staying in the commonwealth. On the latter, I can say that if India had not chosen to remain in the Commonwealth, we the youths would have been opposed to Nigeria remaining in the Commonwealth.”

“Some say our glory is in the past. And they say this when they look back and see that Nigeria, no matter the post-independence problems, was on the right path. Where would you say we missed the road?”

“Some might say that the turning point was the 1959 elections when the Premiers of the Eastern and Western Regions decided to compete personally for control of the central government while the Northern Premier, the Sarduana of Sokoto, chose to remain in power in Kaduna in the Northern Region, and send his subordinate, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to Lagos as Prime Minister. Briefly, the consequence was that the National Prime Minister was superior to the leaders of the East and West, but subordinate to the Leader of the North. The consequences were weighty.”

Nigeria as it is today has been plagued into a serous dilemma. From ethnicity, resource control, social/political and religious turmoil. Stories about Nigeria are not lacking in the world headlines.

In this difficult moment for the country of more than 140 million people, chief Enahoro has always advocated for one thing as a key remedy.

“My theory is ‘through Agriculture and Exports’. We must feed ourselves adequately, and we must produce abundantly for export.”

As for what would be his main recipe for reviving the agricultural sector of Nigeria, if he were to be in government:

“I would call it developing rather than reviving. We are importing too much of our food, and exporting too little to other African countries. We have no justification for being a poor-rich country, given our abundance of raw materials and our production potential.”

Hinting on corruption in the country, he added:

“The promoter of corruption is not so much the profession of those in power as the system by which they come to power!”

Ewanfoh Obehi Peter

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