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Anenih:Spent Political Force?

Chief Tony Anenih, popularly known in political circle as ‘Mr. Fix It’ may have not only resigned his position as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but has also resigned from engaging in any major political adventure given his age, reports Peterclaver Egbochue

To some political pundits, the resignation of Chief Tony Anenih, as the Chairman of Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), did not come as a surprise given the rumbling in the party since its poor outing in the last general elections. Though in his resignation letter, Chief Anenih, reputed in political circle for his ‘magic wand,’ which has earned him the accolade ‘Mr. Fix It’ explained that his resignation on Wednesday, was to allow President Goodluck Jonathan, take over the position. In a one-page letter addressed to President Jonathan, Mr. Anenih observed that his decision to quit would enable the president to effectively assume the chairmanship of the BoT.

The letter dated May 20, 2015 and titled: “Notice of my decision to step down as Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, reads in part, “Your Excellency will recall that in a conversation I had with you a few weeks ago, I had offered to step down from the office of the Chairman of our party’s Board of Trustees and proposed to hand over to you as its new Chairman in a ceremony that would have taken place on the 23rd of May, 2015. I had also repeated this position in our subsequent meetings. “As a follow up to the above proposal and in view of the current state of affairs in our party, I have decided to formally put my offer in writing to enable you effectively assume the Chairmanship of Board of Trustees or approve a process that will enable any other member of the BoT who is considered competent, to assume the position. “Kindly accept therefore, this letter as notice of my decision to step down from the position of Chairman of the BoT of our party with effect from today, the 20th of May, 2015.

I am happy to inform you that, I remain a loyal foundation member of our great party and will continue to pray for the prosperity of Nigeria, our party, and for you and your family. “Your Excellency, kindly accept the expression of my highest regards.” Top members of the party, including governors, have been calling on the NWC members to resign their positions for leading the party to its most disastrous outing since 1998. Already, the party has ordered the investigation of one of its top members, Femi Fani-Kayode, for criticising its leadership.

The disclosure by Mr. Anenih that President Jonathan would likely become the next BoT chairman has a precedent in the party. On the eve of his exit from office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had caused the PDP Constitution to be amended to reserve the chairmanship of the party for past presidents. The constitution was, however, altered during the 2012 Convention to open the position for others.

Mr. Anenih, who had been the PDP BoT chairman before Mr. Obasanjo, was reappointed into the position when the former president resigned in April 2012, claiming it was to enable him develop his Presidential Library and to mobilise and encourage investments in Nigeria and Africa. In the interim, the National Secretary, Wale Oladipo, said that “consequent upon the resignation, the Secretary of the Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, would hold forth pending the election of a new BoT Chairman.”

Chief Anenih was briefly chairman of the BoT in 2007 but was outmaneuvered by former President Obasanjo, Who arm-twisted him in a controversial amendment of the PDP constitution which allowed him to take over. It would also be recalled that when Obasanjo was elected in June, 2007 at the Kano Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, it became the first time in the existence of the party that the board of trustees held its meeting in the morning as against the usual nocturnal meeting of the board. Before the meeting, Anenih as chairman had fixed the meeting for 8pm that day, but the time was changed without his consent.

To pave way for him to become the Chairman of BoT, former President Obasanjo had seen to the amendment of the party’s     constitution which provided that only a former president still in the party could hold that position, but the clause was later changed in 2009. Political watchers argue that Anenih, a key political stalwart of President Jonathan was drafted into the position essentially to perfect the process of Jonathan’s re-election. After three failed attempts, Anenih was chosen at a meeting of the party at the presidential villa in Abuja attended by President Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President, David Mark, and other major stakeholders in the party in. Anenih, who also chairs the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) board, was generally believed to be President Jonathan’s choice for the position.

His emergence then signified that forces loyal to the presidency were taking hold of the party ahead of the general elections. But it was also learnt that the process of Anenih’s emergence was also enhanced by the report of a verification committee led by Prof. Jerry Gana set up to streamline the membership of the board during its last meeting. It would be recalled that his appointment as Chairman of NPA by President Jonathan was trailed by a huge public outcry. For many years, he has been a prominent figure in successive administrations holding one sensitive position or another which political watchers argue did not benefit the people.

For instance, Chief Anenih as Minister of Works could not account for over N300billion budgeted to repair federal roads all over the federation. The federal roads for which these billions were budgeted remained uncompleted, and had become death traps, many years after. In fact, former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, had to call for his investigation. Interestingly, Chief Anenih has traversed and adapted to the ever-changing landscape of Nigerian politics with a combination of unobtrusive survivalist instincts of both a chameleon and a cheetah. He has displayed an uncanny ability to adapt to the political temperatures and temperaments around him and exhibited a phenomenal staying power.

From his days with the late General Shehu Yar’Adua where his skills and capacity for mobilization and manoeuvre earned him the sobriquet of leader, coming to a climax in the very peaceful 1993 elections and their subsequent tragic abortion, he has remained at the centre. He remained at the side lines in the Abacha days, sprang into action after the death of the General and was a key actor in the process that led to the formation of the PDP, which brought Chief Obasanjo to power in 1999. He has been a central force in the controversial politics that has come to define the PDP. His success in managing, maneuvering and containing Presidents Obasanjo, President Yar’Adua and later President Jonathan was a feat even his worst critics gave him credit for.

These men and very many others at different times have, had to hang their political fortunes on Chief Anenih’s shoulder. However, before his appointment as the BoT chairman, elders and hangers on in the party had expressed concern over what they described as worrisome signals before the election. In fact, they at some point, were no longer comfortable with the deft and calculated moves by the progenitors of APC to pull the rug from their feet. They had thought that drafting Chief Anenih, into the squad would strengthen things for the party. Prior to this time, Chief Anenih was known for fixing the problems he was called to manage at any particular point.

The processes he adopted might be controversial and his opponents would naturally make accusations and insinuations. The fact is that, for the purposes of getting the job done, he could not be faulted. Some might call his tactics Machiavellian or any other name. Unfortunately, this did not save the party. Chief Anenih was believed to have played a major role in the victory of the PDP in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

But this time, the   PDP was on the wrong side of history. In his Edo State, the man who reportedly fixed the presidential elections in eight years could not find the spanners and the screwdrivers to stop Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s Bulldozers and Caterpillars in the governorship election in 2013. Regrettably, Chief Anenih, during the first term of former President Obasanjo, suffered a series of political reverses to Governor Oshiomhole, including the loss of the Edo governorship, as well as electoral losses even in Uromi, his hometown. Born in Uzenema-Arue in Uromi on 4th August 1933, he had his primary education in the area before joining the Nigeria Police Force in 1951 in Benin City. Working at home, he obtained secondary school qualifications.

He attended the Police college in Ikeja, and was selected for further training in the Bramshill Police College, Basingstoke, England in 1966 and the International Police Academy, Washington DC in 1970. He served as a police orderly to the first Governor-General of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. He worked as an instructor in various police colleges, and in 1975 was assigned to the Administrative Staff College (ASCON), Lagos. He retired from the police as a Commissioner of police. He was State Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) between 1981 and 1983, helping Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia become elected as civilian Governor of Bendel State.

However, the governorship was cut short by the military takeover of December 1983. He was National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) from 1992 and 1993, when he assisted in the election of Chief MKO Abiola as president. He was a member of the Constitutional Conference in 1994. Anenih was a member of the PDM until early April 2002, when he transferred to the PDP. Anenih was said to have masterminded the 26th April 2002 declaration of President Obasanjo at the International Conference center Abuja. He was deputy national coordinator of Olusegun Obasanjo’s campaign Organisation in the 1999 and 2003 elections.

In October 2009, a senate committee issued a report on their investigation into the use of more than N300 billion in the transport sector during the Obasanjo administration. The committee recommended prosecution of thirteen former Ministers, including Anenih, saying he had awarded contracts without budgetary provision. In November 2009, the Senate indefinitely shelved consideration of the report. In October 2009, the Central Bank of Nigeria released a list of customers with major debt to five recently audited banks.

It reported that, through Mettle Energy and Gas limited, Chief Anenih and Osahon Asemota owed N2,065 million. However, Chief Anenih said he had nothing to do with Mettle Energy and Gas Limited, and subsequently wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, then Farida Waziri, urging the commission to investigate the matter. With his recent resignation, Chief Anenih’s political force is said to have further waned as this may be his last major political engagement given his age.

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