My Life and Nigerian Politics,
By Tony Anenih,
Mindex Publishing Company Ltd.,
I just finished reading Tony Anenih’s autobiography and I must not fail to state that it ended up being a disappointing anti-climax.
Given Anenih’s pedigree as an experienced and ever present master of the game, an account of his experiences naturally should trigger the interest of political observers. I have followed Chief Anenih’s trajectory in politics and his penchant to always pitch tents with the winning horse. Give it to him, he is a master of the dark arts of politics who is adept in the areas of blackmail, intimidation, arm twisting, influence peddling and the ultimate albatross of every mortal, megalomania. To Chief Anenih, the glory of every political success in Nigeria since 1983 is because of him while every misfortune happened because his advice wasn’t heeded. He is the political oracle of our time.
The autobiography titled, My Life and Nigerian Politics, at a first glance, makes compelling reading. Everyone wants to get juicy details of the intrigues that have pervaded Nigerian politics since he took “centre stage”. Nigerians want to know the behind the scene gimmicks that traded away the June 12 mandate. The people are eager to know how Anenih moved from being a hardcore “June twelver” to a vocal campaigner for the self succession of General Abacha. We are eager to know how Tony Anenih, the avowed Shehu Yar’Adua devotee, ended up moving the counter-motion to the one moved by his mentor for military rule to end by January 1996. This list of expectations from an Anenih biography also include his account of the ill fated third term agenda of General Olusegun Obasanjo, the desperate schemes by Goodluck Jonathan to repudiate a power rotation agreement entered into in 2011, and the shenanigans that saw him in and out of the Chairmanship of the PDP Board of Trustees. We also expect his viewpoints on the characterisation of the PDP as the most corrupt political organisation in modern history, at a time he led an organ that was intended to be “the conscience of the Party”.
Most of the pages of the book end up being an exercise in self-praise and a denigration of others. He is the main dramatist personae and shinning star among his school mates, starting from his good voice as a singer and his skills with musical instruments. His account of his steady rise in the police also portray his self-conceited infallibility and vain glory. Everything happens because of him. Even the coup that toppled Gowon was plotted in his guest house, as Head of the Police College in Ikeja.
According to Anenih, he voluntarily left the police because he could no longer stand the indiscipline in the force due to an incident involving policemen attached to an Emir. He really stretches the idea of self-righteousness in this book.
While he has taken time to explain in great details the tragedy of the June 12 annulment, the main story is about how he stoutly defended the cause as Chairman of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP), while the main character in the drama, Bashorun MKO Abiola betrayed the mandate by engaging in underhand deals with the military establishment headed by General Sani Abacha. In fact, Anenih lays the blame of the futility of the June 12 struggle on Abiola, whom he claims sidelined the party and entered into an agreement with Abacha to topple the Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government and handover to him (Abiola) the ” next day”. The June 12 story can therefore be summed up as Anenih saving it and Abiola betraying it. What a deluded person.
He summarises his betrayal of late General Yar’Adua at the 1994/95 constitutional Conference as his desire for an orderly handover process. He says there shouldn’t be a handover in chaos. To refresh the memory of readers, General Yar’Adua and Anenih were members of that conference set up by Abacha. Towards the end of 1995, Yar’Adua moved a motion that was unanimously carried that military rule should terminate by January 1 1996. Shortly after, Gen Yar’Adua was arrested for what is widely referred to as a ” phantom” coup plot. The Conference went on an abrupt recess. When they resumed, Anenih, the self-acclaimed Yar’Adua kingpin moved a motion that expunged the Yar’Adua motion from the records and proposed a three year transition ending in 1998. This was at a time his benefactor was rotting in jail. Such is the character of Anenih. For him, it is wherever the wind blows.
Anenih also offers a half-hearted explanation on why the Bola Ige-led group refused to join the PDP in 1998. According to him, they frowned at his perceived role in the June 12 debacle and won’t have anything to do with him. The full story however is that they found their cohabitation with Anenih a huge contradiction. Here was Anenih who was pictured with placards in Scotland campaigning for Abacha’s self-succession sitting at the high table of a party formed on anti-Abacha principles! They simply couldn’t deal with it and left.
Anenih in his book admits that formal education for him ended at the primary school level. He wrote GCE exams as a policeman. This explains why there are several mix ups in his rendition of accounts. I had a good laugh when I read page 146 of the book which I will quote here: “so when Chief MKO Abiola died in prison, it was a shock to me. I felt that Nigeria has lost a very generous and patriotic Nigerian. Some weeks later, THE DEATH OF GENERAL SANI ABACHA WAS ALSO ANNOUNCED…..”
So according to Anenih, Abiola died before Abacha. I sympathise with future generations who will be misled by this fallacy. It is an unpardonable travesty for a living witness to events to mispresent facts. Had Abiola died while Abacha was alive, the world wouldn’t have contained the eruption from Nigeria. Anenih LIED.
Another laughable event in his book is his characterisation of the political parties under General Abacha. He claims to have been a prominent member of Don Etiebet’s National Democatic Party of Nigeria (NDPN). Etiebet’s party was actually National Centre Party of Nigeria (NCPN). He also refers to the then government favoured United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) as UNITED NIGERIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY (UNDP). Before any apologist claims “printer’s devil”, these were mentioned at least three times. So Anenih belonged to a party and couldn’t recollect the name of that party.
Talking about names, even though Anenih claims to have been one of those Obasanjo asked to “take him to ASO Rock”, he isn’t familiar with those he journeyed with. He refers to General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau as “Aliu Muhammed Gwarzo”. Perhaps he was fond of an NSA under Abacha called Ismaila Gwarzo.
Anenih appears vicious and unsparing to those he disagrees with and is even ready to descend into the arena of rumour mongering. He is particularly harsh on his former ally, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar by claiming he filled the form to contest the 2003 primaries against Obasanjo, without showing evidence of this in the appendix to the book. By the way his appendix column is filled with several letters of commendations of himself. He claims he made presidents and governors, beginning with Shagari and several governors.
At over 80 years of age, we may never enjoy the privilege of reading Anenih’s full story, especially on Third Term debacle and the advent of Goodluck Jonathan. While one may be tempted to say this was a biography completed several years ago, hence the absence of recent events, it is interesting to note that one of the commendation letters to Anenih was written by a certain President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo. Is it a question of selective amnesia?
Kenneth Gyado is a citizen reporter and PR Consultant based in Abuja.