Last Saturday, the remains of the late Chief Tony Ahokon Anenih were laid to rest in his ancestral home, Uromi, Esan North East Local Government, Edo State, amid eulogies from dignitaries from all walks of life. From the service of songs in Abuja on Thursday to the arrival of his body at the Benin Airport and later State burial at the Ugbowo Sports Complex of the University of Benin, and to his final journey to Uromi, Edo State Government played key roles in recognition of the contributions of the late politician to the growth and development of Edo State and Nigeria at large.
As soon as news of his death hit the airwaves, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki visited the family of late elder statesman. The governor was visibly touched with the exit of Anenih as he expressed deep sadness over the passing of the former Minister of Works and Housing, and the Iyasele of Esan land. And as a mark of honour for Chief Anenih, the governor declared three days of mourning in the state, which started from Wednesday, October 31st till Friday, November 2. Obaseki also expressed the state government’s resolve to give the late iconic statesman, and political juggernaut with an outstanding career, who believed in a prosperous Edo, a state burial while flags were flown at half-mast in the state.
Obaseki during his visit was received by the eldest son, Tony Anenih Junior in the company of the former Vice President, Namadi Sambo and other members of the family and friends. Recall that the governor, on receiving the news of the passing of Chief Anenih, described his death as a huge loss to the state and the nation. In the words of Obaseki “the elder statesman devoted a better part of his life to the development of the state and country, contributing to national development in the various capacities he served while he lived.”
This marked the beginning of a united front for the final journey home of the elder statesman.
Obaseki, however, deserves some commendation for the role he played in ensuring the unity of all Edo people irrespective of political affiliation in according Anenih a befitting state burial. There was no politics anywhere, Anenih got what he ought to get from the state in death and this is worth maintaining. Edo people must know that irrespective of our political differences, we are one people with same ancestry.
This point was amply made by the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which openly commended the State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, for declaring a three-day mourning period in honor of the late former Chairman of Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Tony Anenih.
The State Deputy Governor, Comrade (Hon) Phillip Shaibu led the Airport reception event attended by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Taiwo Akerele among many other dignitaries from the State Government. They all expressed shock at the demise of Anenih and prayed God to grant his family the fortitude to bear his exit. They were joined at the Airport event by leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other party leaders in the State. Civil Society Organisations, Market Associations, Youth Organisations and even the Physically challenged groups were all mobilized to be part of the history-making event.
The Edo PDP in a statement by its Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, said Obaseki’s recognition is a clear departure from antagonistic politics of the past. In the exact words of opposition party: “PDP is pleasantly surprised and grateful to read that Edo State government has declared a three-day mourning period effective Wednesday, October 31, to Friday, November 2, and ordered that flags should be flown at half-mast in honor of our national leader and former chairman Board of Trustees, Chief Anthony Anenih, who passed away on Sunday, October 28.
“There is no doubt that Chief Anthony Anenih was an illustrious son of Edo state whose every action was geared towards the development of the country as well as advancement of the Edo nation.
“This recognition and honor by his Excellency Governor Godwin Obaseki is a breath of fresh air and a departure from the antagonistic, vitriolic and foul past that was unfortunately introduced to the politics of Edo state in the last 10 years,” Orbih noted.
This is how it should be. Nobody should divide Edo people with politics and Edo people must stand united for its growth and development. We should continue to forge alliances and partnership across various bridges that tend to divide us. We must not play politics with peoples lives and we must not play politics with the dead. Obaseki has set a very good example and we hope that Edo leaders to come must learn from this example going forward.
Most significantly, it is worthy to not that Chief Toney Anenih as Minister of Works and House assiduously ensured the completion of the construction of the Benin – Sapele- Warri dual carriage road, the Benin- Agbor-Asaba dual carriage road and to a large extent, the Benin-Ore Road. These were roads that former Military rulers could not accomplish for the people of old Bendel. I recall General Maman Kotangora’s era as Minister of Works for several years under Ibrahim Babangida. He could not fix these roads for several years. But Anenih did it.
It is also on record that Anthony Anenih also ensured the construction and completion of the Benin bypass, third East Circular Road and Several Other Roads in Edo State and posterity will remember him for all of these lofty achievements. We therefore wish him eternal rest in the bosom of the Lord.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.