Chief Anthony Akhakon Anenih, a frontline politician in this country one of the most visible national politicians in this Republic, died on October 28, at the age of 85. Anenih was born on August 4, 1933 in Uzenema-Arue in Uromi, Edo State. Early in life he finished his secondary education and joined the Nigeria Police Force in Benin City. He attended the Police College in Ikeja and was selected for further training at 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 and later worked as an instructor in various police colleges. In 1975 he was assigned to the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, [ASCON] in Badagry, Lagos State. He retired from the police as a Commissioner of Police. Anenih was State Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria [NPN] in Bendel State between 1981 and 1983, helping Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia to become the state’s second elected civilian Governor. Anenih was also was National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] from in 1993. It was during his tenure that SDP’s candidate Chief M. K. O. Abiola presumably won the presidential election of June 12, 1993 but it was annulled.
Chief Anenih was also a member of the Constitutional Conference in 1994-95. At the start of this Republic in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Anenih as Minister of Works and Housing. From that vantage position, he also took on major political roles for the administration and soon earned the name “Mr. Fix It” of Obasanjo and the governing PDP. He resigned as minister in 2003 to head Obasanjo’s re-election campaign. He subsequently became Chairman of PDP’s Board of Trustees until 2007.
Anenih’s long and eventful political career was also dogged by controversy. As SDP National Chairman, Anenih was accused of giving in when a presidential election presumably won by his party’s candidate was annulled by the IBB regime. Rather than join the fight to actualize June 12, Anenih and other party executives negotiated for the formation of an interim national government put together by the military regime. During the 1994-5 constitutional conference, Anenih was also accused of being instrumental in passing a motion giving General Sani Abacha the latitude to fix the terminal date of military rule.
Chief Anenih’s influence waned under the administrations of both President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan. Although he remained a key player in PDP, he did not wield as much influence as he did under Obasanjo. For all those years however, he was the top kingmaker in the politics of his native Edo State until the emergence of Governor Adams Oshiomhole in 2008 ended PDP’s control of the state.
President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his condolences to Anenih’s family on the death of its patriarch and elder statesman. He also condoled with the government and people of Edo State and the PDP leadership. Buhari said, “Chief Anenih was for decades a frontline figure on Nigeria’s political landscape, a State Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), chieftain of the PDP and a former Minister of Works. I pray that the Almighty God will grant his soul eternal rest and comfort his family, friends, political associates and all who mourn him.”
Many other prominent politicians also paid tribute to the memory of Chief Anenih, including former President Obasanjo, former Vice President and PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Edo State Governor Andrew Obaseki and former Edo State governor and APC national chairman Adams Oshiomhole. They variously described him as one of the most astute politicians that this country has produced.
Chief Tony Anenih made his contributions to the political development of this country. Some of his activities in politics were controversial but he was also a worthy community leader who served his country diligently. May his soul rest in perfect peace.