What do you know about Anthony Akhakon “Tony” Anenih, the late Nigerian politician who was appointed Minister of Works and Housing in 1999? What do you remember him for what does he represent to the Esan people of Nigeria? Join our Content Creation Academy
Talk about people with looming presence and participation in Nigeria’s politics? Anthony Anenih should be among the first people that cross your mind. He’s a true son of the soil.
He was patriotic, considerate, cultured, and many other things worth attributing a good politician with. Anenih is among the phenomenal people from Esanland, proving their worth and capabilities through their works which usually emanate uncommon results.
Late Anthony Anenih’s infiltration into Nigeria’s politics had tonic impacts, which many politicians who partake in politics rarely yield. Hence his strict commitment, struggle, passion, and all towards politics earned him the sobriquet “Mr. Fix it.” Frankly stating, Anenih is a treasure death robbed us of in 2018.
Though he was arraigned as the top bank’s debtors and smuggling of public funds, his input in Nigeria’s politics can’t be warded off in a flash.
Late Anthony Anenih was born on 4 August 1933 in Uzenema-Arue in Uromi, Edo state Nigeria. During his teenage years, Anthony enlisted in Nigeria Police Force in Benin city, where he worked from home and earned his qualifications after he graduated from high school.
Further, in the pursuit of his career, he moved to Lagos, where he joined a Police college in Ikeja before he turned out to be among those handpicked to further their training in Bramshill Police College Basingstoke, England, in 1966.
Later in 1970, he attended International Police Academy, based in Washington D.C. When he was done attaining these training and qualifications, Anenih crept back to Nigeria in the hopes of working in his home country. Frankly, Anenih made a huge impact during his days as a Nigerian police officer.
Anenih served as a police orderly during the tenure of Nigeria’s first governor-general, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and worked as a top instructor in most of Nigeria’s Police colleges.
His presence in Nigeria’s police landscape towered when he was assigned to the Administrative Staff College (ASCON) in Badagary Lagos state Nigeria. His work as a policeman went well before his retirement from the police force swept in, consequent of the military coup that wiped out the second republic.
Anenih retired as a commissioner of police- a firm proof of how daring and hard-working he was during his time as a policeman. Meanwhile, his retirement from the police department marked the beginning of his hunt into politics.
Anenih’s foray into politics began when he was appointed the general chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Bendel state from 1981 to 1983.
During that stead and winding of power as the chairman, Anenih exhibited tonic support to Samuel Ogbemudia to overpower Ambrose Ali, the candidate from the Unity Party Of Nigeria (a political party formed by chief Obafemi Awolowo), to become the first elected civilian governor of Bendel State. His efforts to egging people to vote for Samuel Ogbemudia yielded uncommon results, and only a few politicians can attain such height from a newly formed political party.
However, the subsequent military coup swept Samuel Ogbemudia from the seat of power in 1983, making him last on the seat for a very short period of time.
Seeing his first stride in politics was a success, Anenih pushed further. He took his second step by registering as a member of the Social Democratic Party, from whence he supported the brother of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, that developed an interest in becoming the presidential candidate in the 1993 presidential election.
Though Mr. Yar’Adua’s plans on becoming one were fruitless. Afterward, Anenih was appointed the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) the same year.
During his stint as the party’s national chairman, Anenih fully encircled M.K.O Abiola, who got nominated as the candidate with his unending support. After which, Abiola won the election in 1993, although a few glitches warranted the annulment of the result by Ibrahim Badomosi Babangida (IBB), the then military head of state.
Taking a deeper stride in his political career, Anenih joined the People’s Democratic Movement party (PDM), United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), and also the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), from whence he gained his ministerial position in the minister of Works and Housing.
Having masterminded the declaration of president Olusegun Obasanjo at the international conference center in Abuja, he got his top rank position as the minister of Works and Housing by Obasanjo, earning his nickname as “Mr. Fix it.”
Getting this elevated position cleared the way for Anenih to soak himself deeper into political matters, leading to the attainment of more political positions like the chairman of the board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic party. Additionally, Anenih was also a member of the constitutional of 1994-1995.
Anenih retired from his ministerial position in 2003, and in subsequent years his influence drooped during the regime of Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, but that’s not to say he didn’t make a huge impact on PDP. In fact, Anenih was the top decision-maker in Edo state’s politics all the while until governor Adams Oshiomhole acceded the seat of power.
Anenih’s shuffle in politics brought a lot of controversies. He was alleged to have drilled over N300 billion from the transport sector without a clear statement of the expending of the funds. The news became a sizzling headline back in 2009 but being a powerful man, Anenih was able to defend himself, leading the Senate members to expunge the case in November 2009.
Not only was he accused of expending about N300 billion without a budgetary plan, but he was also arraigned among the top debtors of newly audited banks by the Central bank. He was accused of owing about two hundred and sixty-five million from his transaction with Mettle Energy and Gas.
Anenih denies having done any transactions with the supposed Mettle and Gas, and to further prove his innocence from the charges; he invited the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the matter.
Anenih earned his popular nickname “Mr. Fix It” in 2002 when Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to rerun for a second tenure. To be exact, Atiku, one of the recent candidates for Nigeria’s upcoming presidential election, linked them together.
Anenih helped Obasanjo to solicit votes from the members of SDP. He also organized the “Obasanjo Speaks” event at the international conference center Abuja where the latter publicized his intentions for a second tenure.
It was basically Anenih’s struggle and bustle for Obasanjo’s campaign for a second tenure did he got stuck with the name “Mr. Fix it.” However, he earned subsequent rewards from Obasanjo for his unrelenting efforts and support.
Anthony Anenih married Josephine Anenih, a barrister who was the chairperson of the Federation of Women lawyers from 1994 to 2000. Also, she was appointed minister of women’s affairs in 2010. However, they both begot a son, Tony Anenih Jr.
Anenih died on October 28, 2018, and his funeral was attended by top influential politicians and the president (Muhammad Buhari), who dropped a remark on how Anthony Anenih’s role incited change in Nigeria’s political landscape.
Anenih’s pivotal role can’t be easily brushed off in Nigeria’s political landscape despite the allegations; people can attest to his wonderful works and unending commitments to the country’s democracy. In a nutshell, we can assert that Anthony Anenih is indeed a man of dignity thrust into Nigeria’s politics by fate to swivel change and development in the country.
Written by Juliet Emmanuel for African Docs Project.
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