NIGERIA: Chief Tony Anenih, the political dinosaur returns

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HE was the “most natural” choice for the position.  Chief Tony Anenih, is the “new” Chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees. The old dinosaur is back to where he loves the most: as the central figure, inside the smoke-filled, inner recess of PDP politics.

The man that was disgraced from his perch a few years ago by Obasanjo, has finally returned to inherit the position which the old despot abandoned hurriedly as his stranglehold on the political process seemed to be loosening. It is revenge time in Nigerian politics and there will be no prisoners taken!

For President Goodluck Jonathan, the party is far too broken and he hasn’t the requisite experience to mend it not to talk of bend it, in the direction which satisfies his ambition to become the  PDP candidate in 2015. The emergence of adversaries from  the different tendencies within the party means that this ambition has become a source of serious tension. Who better to recruit to fix things than the ultimate “fixer-in-chief”, Tony Anenih?

It is testimony to the rottenness of Nigerian politics, that it is the like of Tony Anenih that must still be reached to provide solutions to contemporary political problems. In a national where 75 percent of citizens are under the age of thirty-five, politics remains the monopoly of its political Neanderthals.

This colonial-era policeman has become the legend in the neo-colonial political order that has singularly been central to the underdevelopment of Nigeria, while enriching those who have played by the rules set by Tony Anenih and his group. Tony Anenih was described by Nasir El-Rufai, in his new book “THE ACCIDENTAL PUBLIC SERVANT”, as “one of the project managers of the third term effort” and further more, El-Rufai said of “Mister-Fix-It”, that “he believed so much in the power of money to modify the principles and actions of political actors”.

It is this man of no known ideals or principles but expediency and political brinkmanship, who thrives only in the context of dominant political tendencies able to wield state power, money, cunning and ruthlessness to achieve set objectives, that is back at the heart of PDP politicking.

Operation clear all opposition

In this situation, the set objective is
to clear all opposition to Jonathan’s ambition in respect of the 2015 election. Political know-how to achieve this ambition has been left to two old men in their 80s. The opposition has been clearly demarcated and the fight is already being taken to them in a big way.

Obasanjo is being de-robed  in the open, with the removal of his lieutenants from the party hierarchy; the Nigerian Governors Forum is to be undermined from within and without, in order to end its role as a redoubt of opposition or a platform for governors like Rotimi Amaechi who is accused of nursing a presidential ambition on a joint ticket with Sule Lamido; then others will be picked off one after the other, including the recently leaked plan to remove individuals like Atiku Abubakar from the BOT, following a script that is written through Jerry Gana.

We are in the midst of what promises to be one of the most bitter political fights in a very long time in Nigeria’s political history. The battle within the PDP needs to be joined early because the emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC), is seen as a major challenge which must not be underrated. The political Mandarins of the PDP, like Tony Anenih are aware that President Jonathan cannot go to the Nigerian people on the basis of his record of performance.

As I have written elsewhere, I have only ever met Tony Anenih once and that was in January 2006. The only game in town was the Third Term Agenda. The old dinosaur was holding court in the expansive settings of his Asokoro residence. Waiting to be received in audience included serving ministers; members of the National Assembly; party hacks and sundry flotsam and jetsam of Nigerian political society. In my presence, Tony Anenih received calls from governors; gave directives to one governor, to see him in the company of his party chairman; many of the people who came in search of favours prostrated fully on their bellies in front of the Fixer-In-Chief. It was clear to me that this was a really powerful political operative, who gets things done. The myth was very much the essence of the man. It took Obasanjo to dent the myth, when as part of revenge for failure of Third Term, even a “Project Manager” like Anenih, could not escape the old despot’s wrath. He was knocked off his perch as BOT Chairman. The man found a temporary respite under Yar’adua but with Jonathan he has completely been returned to the heart of intrigues. For Tony Anenih, this must be one of his finest political moments.

In the evening that I met Tony Anenih in 2006, it struck me that not even the old man wanted to be seen as a “bad man”. He assured me that he is a much misunderstood man who stands for goodness. He rolled out a long list of friends that he has made all over Nigeria and when he asked where I came from, he named as a friend my cousin, Justice SMA Belgore.

I nevertheless left the man unconvinced about the content, value and direction of his politics. The truth for me is that Tony Anenih has resided for too long in the inner recesses of the cloak-and-dagger world of politics. Within that stuffy, hot-as-hell redoubt, what they cook is conspiracy against the best interests of the Nigerian people. The broken and dysfunctional country in our hands today, is testimony to the politics which Tony Anenih has represented since 1999. He is back to his perch as PDP’s BOT Chairman, but that will only deepen Nigeria’s problems.

 The Nigerian political elite’s deep-seat inferiority complex

LAST Friday, February 22nd, 2013, THE NATION newspaper carried on its front page a picture of leading members of the nation’s political elite, ruling party and opposition, in a photo-op with former American President Bill Clinton, and a host of foreign contractors, during the dedication of Eko Atlantic 5, 000, 000 square meters of reclaimed land for Eko Atlantic City.

It was without doubt a major development project that all can be proud of, but what I find worrisome is the deep-seated inferiority complex that drives these politicians desperately to want to be seen in the company of imperialist politicians, like Bill Clinton. In that picture, Bola Tinubu, the self-styled “progressive” opposition leader snuggled close to Clinton and was grinning from ear-to-ear, in obvious satisfaction at the “privilege”.

It was the same Tinubu who  lied about a gold card invitation from Barack Obama to attend the National Convention of the US Democratic Party, as “leader of Nigeria’s opposition”. To further the lie, he got a picture of himself clapping and grinning heartily at the Convention, to be published in newspapers.

That inferiority complex was a central baggage of the transition to civil rule in 1999. Obasanjo became a past master at dropping the names of leading Western politicians as I noticed repeatedly on the various occasions I attended events at the Aso villa, when I edited DAILY TRUST newspapers. His administration constantly fawned at emissaries from Western nations, but especially those from the United States; and public policies became subservient to what pleased the imperialist nations. The height of absurdity was when Obasanjo threw out his Army Chief, General Victor Malu, for his opposition to American domination of our security interests.

Imperialist reprimand

This subservience has deepened ever since. Umaru Yar’adua described a visit to George Bush’s White House, in 2007, as the greatest event of his life. These politicians who treat Nigerians with disdain shake like leaves at any form of imperialist reprimand. Obasanjo appointed Lynda Chalker to head a Nigerian presidential investment body. The reactionary woman was a minister of the Conservative Margaret Thatcher administration, notorious for its anti-African foreign policy. Jonathan has also copied from the Obasanjo script by appointing a presidential body on agriculture made up of foreigners who have no relevance to the agricultural fate of Nigeria.

Just as I was thinking about the groveling lack of self respect of the thieving crop of politicians that rule us today, I went back on the net to watch the documentary produced during the 1960s visit to the USA by Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

The popular narrative in the media is to describe him as “conservative”, but the dignity with which he carried himself wherever he went, was far superior to the slave-like, subservient, ear-to-ear grin of Tinubu; the clueless befuddlement of Jonathan or the self-deprecating assertion of Umaru Yar’adua.

This crop of politicians is deficient in honour; and not organically linked to the best interests of the Nigerian people. They wrongly assume that acceptance by imperialist politicians is superior to genuine affection of the Nigerian people.

In truth, they know that the Nigerian people loathe them for the crimes they have continued to commit against them. But groveling lack of self respect and complete surrender to Western Imperialist politicians cannot trump genuine acceptance by the Nigerian people. This is what heroes like Murtala Muhammed demonstrated while in power.

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