By Kassim Afegbua
Even at old age, he was still looking his radiant self, well-shaven with ecclaistical presence of mind. His routines were typical of elders who were nurtured in the tradition of military and para-military orientation. Those who were close to him tells you how he nurtures his day with reading newspapers, doing exercise, attending to guests and ensuring that everything was put in place in order of priority. I had close encounters with him both in Abuja and Benin, during the course of politicking. I saw it all at formation, when PDP was just established and political factors and actors were converging in Abuja to give it a sail. He was generally calm, even when he was initially kept at the back seat when Obasanjo was being fronted to emerge as the preferred choice of an outgoing military regime in 1999. The likes of Late Awoniyi and Solomon Daushep Lar called the shots until Obasanjo emerged as candidate at the Jos Township stadium. Pronto, Chief Anenih stepped into the fray and executed the campaigns and delivered OBJ to the inner sanctuary of Aso Villa pantheon. He assumed a more formidable role there after and became every politician’s politician. He was nicknamed Mr. Fix it in recognition of his political wizardry at solving almost unassailable political problems. He stood tall amongst men not in terms of height alone but in terms of his understanding of the rubrics of politics and it’s distribution system. When fate brought me to Benin to serve in Comrade Oshiomhole’s government, I saw myself on the opposing side of this great political icon. I had advised in several of my articles that it was time for the Iyasele to sing his nun Dimitris from the murky waters of politics and allow his son to take off from his departure point. My articles were acerbic and blunt in pushing my thoughts through. Having dominated the political space for so long, and seeing age as a nemesis of all creation, I had noted with unequivocal posture that it was time to exit the fray of politics. My position was not taking lightly by the Iyasele. An encounter with him in Benin Airport in October 2013, exposed his misgivings. When he saw me at the departure lounge, and was told this was Kassim Afegbua, he stopped and his imposing height dominated the environment. “oh Prince, I didn’t even know you are this young. What have I done to you that you won’t allow me space in the newspapers?, he queried. I responded by saying ” sir, you have seen it all. It was time to say bye to politics so that upcoming political actors like me won’t have to disrespect you”. He looked at me with unimpressed disdain and quipped, ” Prince, you see this my grey hair, they are a function of age not hereditary. If I place a curse on you, your hair won’t grow again”. Those who accompanied him told me to prostrate and plead for forgiveness. Among them are Akhere and EJ Agbonnayima. I responded by telling them, I have not wronged Chief in anyway and that I still held him in high esteem not minding our political differences. I acknowledged the fact that he was my political senior who had dominated the political space, but that it was time for him to retire and enjoy his old age. As to the issue of curse, I politely responded to Chief, by saying that, “anyone who stops my hair from growing had just saved me from salon expenses. And that as a Prince from Okpella, our subjects can’t place curses on the blue blood, it has to be the other way round”. He busted into hysterical laughter, and walked away with a note of remark: “I think you are just stubborn. I wish you good luck Prince.” This is just to make the point that even when our political views differed, he saw sense in my admonition. And by the time he exited from active and partisan politics, he was there for everyone. His huge following was a result of his ability to distribute political empowerment to his arrest of friends and political godsons. Those who worked closely with him would tell you if his generosity and milk of human kindness. He was widely consulted and in the last 20 years of his sojourn on earth, no political plot is considered complete without factoring Chief Anenih to the equation. Just like I did advise, it would have made a huge sense to have Tony Jnr take off from where Chief departed from in the field of politics. But just like all mortals, he lived his full circle and played his role very well. He would be missed by all and sundry no matter your political leaning. May the Almighty God forgive him his sins and place him among saints in the hereafter. May God grant the family the fortitude and grace and sobriety to absorb the deep emotions peculiar with this griefing moments. Adieu the Iyasele of the Universe. Rest in Peace.
*Afegbua writes from Abuja