Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Before PRONACO’s Enahoro Accepts the Chairmanship of Obasanjo’s NPRC
Mobolaji E. Aluko
February 7, 2005
Two well-known men are trying to make a lasting impression on Nigeria before they leave Mother Earth to join the Majority – and their names are Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (81) and Mathew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun Obasanjo (67). They both want to use the same vehicle – an upcoming (Sovereign) National (Constitutional ) (Peoples) Conference – to achieve their aim.
President Obasanjo DESPERATELY wants Chief Enahoro to chair the conference – whose outcome(s) may be the only lasting legacy he might leave behind after eleven years in office. Similarly, despite his strong denials, I firmly believe that Enahoro DESPERATELY wants to participate in a credible government-backed Conference – hopefully to lead to a late correction in Nigerian governance on behalf of his fallen nationalist comrades after over 50 years at the forefront of Nigeria’s political life. The former will make the biggest catch of his life if the latter accepts, but the latter will be making the last political mistake of his life if he takes this job – which I fully believe that he will still take – without laying down and getting acceptance of some certain un-compromisable guarantees.
But first, some history of these two men wooing each other.
Anthony Eromosele Enahoro
Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, the Adolo of Uromi, was born July 22, 1923 in Uromi, Esan-land, in present-day Edo State, which makes him eighty-one-and-a-half years old. Under actuarial probabilities, this issue of (Sovereign) National (Constitutional) Conference will be the last act of his long and eventful life.
And what a life ! At age 19, he was rusticated from high school at King’s College Lagos for anti-war, anti-colonialist agitation. Enahoro later became a member of the stridently anti-colonial Zikist Movement (formed in 1946), and held several editorial positions in Zik’s stable of newspapers (Nigeria Defender, Daily Comet, West African Pilot, Morning Star). He later parted ways with Zik to join the Yoruba politician and rising political star Chief Obafemi Awolowo, co-founding the Action Group in March 1951, a prominent political party in the Western Region that was to play a significant part in that region’s economic and social development. Enahoro later rose to become AG’s acting General Secretary and National vice president, and held a number of ministerial positions in Western Region. He attended all constitutional talks preceding Nigerian’s independence, and at the age of 30 years, as a member of the Nigerian Federal legislature, moved on March 31, 1953 the first motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1957, a motion that was then not carried. [On March 26, 1957, triggered by Ghana becoming independent three weeks earlier on March 6, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, then opposition leader of the Action Group in Lagos parliament, re-introduced this “Independence in 1957” motion with an eye to beating Ghana to it – this time it was unanimously carried, but only after it was amended by Jaja Nwachukwu of the NCNC from “1957” to “1959”. The Lancaster House Conferences in London were to follow immediately, from May 23 to June 26, 1957.]
October 1, 1960 finally saw Nigeria become an independent country with a flag and a constitution. But before Nigeria became a Federal Republic in October 1, 1963 and a new constitution, Enahoro had fled Nigeria to England in September 1962 after being accused, along with Awolowo of planning a civilian coup against the Nigerian government. Arrested in London on November 27, 1962, the “fugitive offender” was returned to Nigeria on May 16, 1963 to face the treason trial, jailed on September 7, 1963, with Chief Obafemi Awolowo jailed four days later. Both of them were not released until August 1966 by then military head of state General Gowon, whereupon Enahoro became Federal Minister of Information in May 1967 (Awo became Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council and Federal Minister of Finance), and remained so (until 1974) throughout the Biafra-Nigeria war years of July 1967- January 1970.
In 1979, he re-emerged briefly and surprisingly as an National Party of Nigeria (NPN) politician, disappearing for a while when that civilian regime of President Shehu Shagari was cut short by military coup in December 1983.
In 1992, during the Babangida regime, Enahoro became an apostle of the Sovereign National Conference as a way to fundamentally restructure Nigeria, as head of his Movement for National Reformation (MNR).
In 1994, Enahoro was on the move again, this time as head of the pro-democracy NADECO (National Democratic Coalition), which was leading the June 12, pro-Abiola movement. He fled to the United States ahead of General Abacha and his military goons / killing machine after being incarcerated for four months. He continued by leading the June 12 movement abroad. His exile-home in suburban Alexandria Virginia was a pilgrim site of sorts for Nigerians of all generations, with his gracious, protective and stately Bini wife Helen as ever-willing hostess. With Abacha out of the way in June 1998, Enahoro did not return to Nigeria until April 2000 - and to heroic welcome – to pick up the MNR mantle once again on Nigerian soil.
In 2003, Enahoro registered the National Reformation Party (NRP) in time for the 2003 elections. His MNR/NRP have now joined with similar organizations to form PRONACO – the Pro-National Conference Coalition.
Enahoro is a delight to talk to about Nigeria’s history, but you invariably hear a tinge of regret that there were things left undone by his generation. Not a deeply religious man, he however exudes a sense that he believes God has spared his life up until this time to do on behalf of the late Awolowo, Enahoro’s right-hand-man late Mokwugo Okoye and others.
I pray that he be spared many more years to see a glimpse of the New Nigeria.
Olusegun Aremu Matthew Okikiola Obasanjo
Unlike Enahoro who was born into a literate family, we are not sure when Olusegun Obasanjo, the Balogun of Owu, was actually born, but his nominal birthdate in Abeokuta (Western Nigeria) is March 5, 1937 which makes him 67 years old less one month. Even according to Obasanjo himself, he may be 64 or 70 years old for all we know – a plus-or-minus 4.5 percent confidence interval. A high-school classroom-mate of Chief MKO Abiola at Abeokuta Baptist Boys High School in the early-to-mid 50s, he joined the Army in 1958, and proceeded abroad later on to do some military courses in India and England.
He returned to Nigeria to later be sent to the Congo as a member of the Nigerian Army’s United Nation’s peace-keeping contingent, a posting where he cemented his friendship with Chukwuma Nzeogwu, who was to later lead the first military coup in 1966. Obasanjo also fought in the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-1970, distinguishing himself as the field general commanding the 3rd Marine Commando Division. He received the capitulation of General Bassey Effiong of the Biafran Army on January 12, 1970, after Biafra Head of State General Odumegwu Ojukwu had fled for the Ivory Coast. In 1975, he was appointed by General Gowon as Works and Housing Minister, later becoming Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters.
The most unusual of Nigerian rulers to date, Obasanjo has been military ruler (February 13, 1976-October 1, 1979) and is currently civilian president (May 29 1999 to date February 2005) of the whole of Nigeria, making his present tenure next in length only to Lord Lugard (1914 – 1922) and maybe Sir John McPherson (1948-55) since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.
General Obasanjo’s first round of rulership was accidental: the substantive military dictator General Murtala Mohammed (who “putsched” Gowon over on July 29, 1975) had been assassinated in February 13, 1976, and his second-in-command Obasanjo reluctantly took his place. Obasanjo’s only charge was to return the country to civilian rule, and he did it with aplomb, organizing first a Constitution Drafting Committee (between October 1975 and September 1976), and then a Constituent Assembly (between October 1977 and June 1978). The Federal Government promulgated the new constitution by decree on September 21, 1978, making it effective one year later on October 1, 1979 before giving way to the civilian Shagari that also began on October 1, 1979.
That move gave rise to one of Obasanjo’s legendary claims to fame: one of a handful of African leaders, military or civilian, to ever voluntarily hand over power.
Four years later, Shagari was putsched aside by another set of military adventurists (Buhari), quickly followed by Babangida (1985 – 1993) and then General Abacha (November 1993 – June 1998). In the interim, in 1991, Obasanjo engaged in a failed bid to become UN Secretary-General in 1991.
Tragedy struck in 1995: Obasanjo was jailed Obasanjo for twenty-five years by Abacha, escaping the death sentence by a whisker in what is generally believed to be trumped-up coup charge.
Three years later, another twin set of accidents happened: Abacha died in a sexual fling on June 8, 1998; and Obasanjo was sprung from prison to take Abacha’s place through a well-orchestrated set of elections to civilian rule under General Abdusalami Abubakar who had succeeded Abacha. Obasanjo became a civilian president on May 29, 1999, winning a second term, this time in more clumsily orchestrated set of elections, in April 2003.
It has not been an easy period of rule for Obasanjo: ethnic strife, economic downturn, political assassinations and rampant corruption in the midst of significant oil boom.
Problem now is that after five years, Obasanjo is frightened by the prospect that he may leave no lasting legacy that for Nigeria from his civilian term as president. Consequently, he sees in a National Conference a prospect to so fundamentally re-structure Nigeria that it could bear his name for ever.
President Obasanjo ALWAYS has an eye for history beyond his personal abilities.
Enahoro versus Obasanjo
I really have no personal knowledge of how Obasanjo feels about Enahoro, and I can only surmise that he deeply respects the octogenarian. They both served in Gowon’s war cabinet, over-lapping in the 1967 – 1975 time period. However, when it comes to how Enahoro feels about the political process that THREW up Obasanjo in 1999, I have a personal knowledge that during his NADECO exile days in Alexandria Virginia, Enahoro had nothing but contempt for it.
When once in late 1998 or early 1999 late Ambassador Tanko Yusuf came to the US to seek to convince Enahoro to return home to become leader of AD, in effect to take over from him (Yusuf) – and I was there as at the Alexandria meeting between the two because the Ambassador was guest at my home for his week-long stay in the area – Enahoro peremptorily dismissed the suggestion and asked for a government of national unity instead. When Obasanjo was released from Abacha’s prison and sought to meet with a number of people in Washington DC in September or October 1998 – and I was asked to convene it - I informed Enahoro about it, and he peremptorily dismissed the invitation, stating that Obasanjo knew how to find him out where he lived in Alexandria.
Consequently, political watchers were horrified when, on August 28, 2001, Enahoro’s MNR offered to join PDP in some political understanding. I was not utterly surprised however because I suspected that Obasanjo had invited him with a promise that he would be made to head a (Sovereign) National Conference. Enahoro had thus chosen to attempt to “strain from within”, a prospect which never materialized in Obasanjo’s first term, to Enahoro’s bitter disappointment. The deal (signed September 1, 2001) later collapsed due to irreconcilable differences, with Enahoro forming and registering his own National Reformation Party (NRP) in time for the 2003 elections.
Hence, this latest venture must be Obasanjo’s way of making up to the Old Man for an old unfulfilled promise.
Suggesting Conditionalities to Chief Enahoro
If Nigeria is to realize its potential as a great nation, we must talk at a conference to re-engineer the country. Whether it is Obasanjo’s NPRC, Enahoro’s CEN (Conference of Ethnic Nationalities) or the People’s SNC is the question of the moment.
I strongly believe that Enahoro will eventually be made chairman of Obasanjo’s National Conference, and he will be only too glad to accept. I only hope and pray that he stipulates the following conditions, otherwise he will have been sold a bill of goods at his old age:
Finally, we must admit that between Steps 5 and 6 some decisions MIGHT be changed by the National Assembly working in concert with the President. This is why PRONACO must NOT dissolve, and rather must be prepared to MOBILIZE the citizenry to ensure that this does not happen in any major and significant way. If it does happen, however, then those items must be made to be issues of the 2007 election campaign to kick out those who in the National Assembly so vote against the will of the people. This is why one of the fundamental outcomes of ANY of the conferences must be a credible electoral reform to retain the performing ones, kick out wayward representatives, and replace them with more promising ones.
I intend to pass these suggestions on directly to Pa Enahoro.
Will Obasanjo Agree to These Conditionalities ? Will the National Assembly Play Ball ?
Going by president Obasanjo’s antecedents, the betting man would unequivocally state that he will not go along with these conditionalities. The skeptical mind would go further to give a simple reason: that Obasanjo is merely trying to frustrate the genuine Sovereign National Conference by going through the motions, and that the key issues of restructuring; resource control; devolution of power to federating units; and explicit recognition of ethnic nationalities are anathema to him. As far back as 2002, Prof. Omo Omoruyi, the irrepressible commentator on Nigeria’s intricate political life, stated viz:
Chief Enahoro should not be surprised that when the National Conference should hold it would not be what he has in mind. National Conference would come about as and when President Obasanjo and the political class that sponsored him in 1999 come to a dead end. Chief Enahoro is alien to this class. Right now there is still oil money to buy up support and disorganize opponents with the hope that his original sponsors would have a second thought about their fears.
The hurdle of legal backing of or funding by the National Assembly of any or both of the Conferences may also be insurmountable without a highly public show of support for them, since that class of Nigerians “representatives” apparently does not see itself as really representing the yearnings of the Nigerian people, but rather its own self-preservation.
I am not even sure what gives me the urge to give both Obasanjo and the National Assembly the benefit of the doubt – but I shall.
Let us watch and pray.
Sovereign National Conference Project (Nigerianmuse.com)
Enahoro Confab-related News Items
National confab: Why FG wants Enahoro, by Obasanjo's aide
Vanguard [ February 06, 2005]
Confab: Reps vow to impeach Obasanjo
Vanguard [February 05, 2005]
Enahoro Group's Confab Guidelines Out Feb. 15
Daily Champion (Lagos) February 4, 2005
Obasanjo Seeks N900m for National Confab
Daily Trust (Abuja) January 26, 2005
Political Reforms Confab Underway
This Day (Lagos) January 13, 2005
Council of State Okays National Dialogue, Enahoro's Group Seeks 480-Member SNC
Daily Champion (Lagos) January 13, 2005
Sovereign National Confab No Solution, Says Obasanjo
Vanguard (Lagos) May 11, 2004
"If you can convince me that a Sovereign National Conference has something it can achieve which the National Assembly cannot achieve, who were elected in their own right, which the governors cannot achieve, which the traditional rulers cannot achieve, which the leaders of thought that met from all walks of life cannot achieve, who we can trust in their own right; different associations, women groups even the youths I had conference with. If all these cannot achieve what we want to achieve then I wonder what the Sovereign National Conference will achieve."
Obasanjo Rejects Sovereign National Conference
Panafrican News Agency February 2, 2001
“Speaking in Ibadan, capital of old Western State, and the bedrock of opposition to the present political arrangement in the country, Obasanjo said acceding to the organisation of such a conference would mean surrendering the mandate given to him by the people who elected him into office. "I have the custody of the people of this country and I will not surrender the sovereignty which has been given to me to anybody," the President said”
Enahoro Restates Call for Sovereign Confab
Vanguard (November 30, 2000)
Enahoro Allays Fears on Threat of SNC to Political Office Holders
This Day (June 1, 2000)
Enahoro returns, restates call for Sovereign Confab
This Day, April 11, 2000
“Leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Anthony Enahoro, arrived the country yesterday after four years' self- exile in the United States of America and declared that Nigeria is not yet a democratic country. He reiterated his call for a Sovereign National Conference, saying that now is the time to address pertinent questions about the country.”
“We Need a Reconciliation Conference to Clear the Ground”
Olusegun Obasanjo in “This Animal Called Man” 
The Century-Okota Resolutions of the Conference of Nationalities
December 17 – 19, 1998
Table 1: 20 Major Ethnic Groups in Nigeria (in Alphabetical Order)
Annang Bura Edo Efik/Ibibio
Fulani Gbagyi Gwari Hausa
Idoma Igalla Igbo Ijaw
Itsekiri Kanuri Katab Nupe
Ogoni Tiv Urhobo Yoruba
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.