Chief Tony Anenih, To Everything There is a Season By Pius Adesanmi
And a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to spit on June 12 and a time to be an Abacha forever zealot. A time to receive more than two hundred billion naira for road construction and a time not to construct or repair a single road. A time to work for Obasanjo’s third term agenda and a time to insist that Yar’Adua could rule Nigeria forever as a ghost from a Saudi hospital bed. A time to abandon the Turai-Cabal train when it became clear that Yar’Adua would die and a time to work for Jonathan 2015. A time for your iyanga to go and disturb the sleep of trouble and a time for trouble to respond by sending wahala your way in the person of Sam Nda-Isaiah. A time to be reminded by Sam Nda-Isaiah that, at over 80 years-old, it is painful to watch you dance naked at the behest of your latest master in Aso Rock and a time for you to know that it is time to leave us alone and retire to your country home. Indeed, there is a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Perhaps there is also a time of never? A time never to leave us alone? A time never to sever your umbilical cord from Aso Rock and, by extension, the treasury of the Nigerian people? Perhaps you cannot and dare not retire to your country home to drink palm wine surrounded by the love and care of your children and grandchildren in the evening of your life? A time never to ever quit that cycle of rent-collecting and patronage-dependent hangers-on in Aso Rock? Perhaps you operate only on this time of never?
Most Nigerians who wonder why a man four decades your junior still gets to summon you to Abuja in the dead of night (even if he is President) to attend to all kinds of demeaning domestic party issues; most Nigerians who wonder why it is still possible to summon you to Aso Rock to settle a petty quarrel between the wives of two local government chairmen; most Nigerians who shudder and grind their teeth painfully in disgust whenever they see you in those Aso Rock photo-ops with your children and grandchildren (what is papa still looking for at his age, they query) just don’t understand that you operate on the time of never. You can never quit that circle, no matter how demeaning the errands get. You dare not quit.
You are not alone in the time of never. You are in the gracious company of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who has just accepted an appointment “tougher than the PDP”, to borrow the words of President Jonathan. When I heard that the President had appointed a man in his 80s to run the Nigerian Railway Corporation, I told those who sought my opinion that the appointment makes perfect sense. Those transformation trains doing Lagos to Kano in three to four days in the 21st century are refurbished World War II trains. You need an age mate of the trains to oversee things.
I have written before about an epidemic of old and expired politicians who dare not retire to their country homes in the evening of their lives and the spat between you and Sam Nda-Isaiah provides an opportunity for me to revisit that issue. It’s a generational thing. In fact, it’s a generational curse. In my reflection on the spat between Professor Ango Abdullahi and Mujahid Dokubo Asari back in 2013, I described this curse on the generation of Nigeria’s grandpas in politics as the fate of the door. Permit me to reproduce in some detail what I had to say in that essay:
“And this is where I must come back to the question of political grandpas who are rolling in the mud and fighting over the spoils of Nigerian statehood with new actors on the stage barely older than their grandchildren. Before Dokubo Asari and Ango Abdullahi, there were Olusegun Obasanjo and Ayo Fayose trying to determine who was a bastard and who fathered the said bastard. In essence, Ango Abdullahi is not the only grandpa in politics. We have them in abundance. We have an epidemic of septuagenarians and octogenarians who will not stop disturbing the peace of the country.
Week in, week out, they are giving orders, spitting fire on the national stage, oozing smoke from the centre of their heads like D.O. Fagunwa’s Anjonu Iberu (the ghomid of fear). For Ango Abdullahi, Olusegun Obasanjo, Edwin Clark, Tony Anenih, Bamanga Tukur, and so many others in that category, it is joro jara joro every week, fighting for the spoils of Nigerian statehood with guys in their forties. So and so must be president, so and so cannot be governor. Every statement they make is an arrow in the heart of genuine democracy. One is even insisting that his son must be the next governor of Adamawa state.
We must ask: who cursed the Nigerian grandpa in politics with the fate of the door? In the developed world, these are people who, by now, would be enjoying a dignified retirement from public life, perhaps in a country cottage or on a ranch somewhere, surrounded by their children and grandchildren, and only granting the occasional interview to guide the country in the right direction. Instead of a peaceful countryside retirement, the Nigerian grandpa in politics is fated, like the door in Yoruba philosophy, never to know or find peace. “Wahala lon pa lekun” (It is wahala that kills the door), goes the Yoruba proverb. Open, close, open, close, a door never finds peace. Such is the terrible fate of the Nigerian grandpa in politics in the evening of his life. In his advanced age, for instance, Tony Anenih is still doing joro jara joro in the dead of night between Benin and Abuja. This is the terrible fate of the door.
The Nigerian grandpa in politics is responsible for his own fate of the door. In the morning and the afternoon of his life, he did not work to create a Nigeria that would grant him a deserved rest in the evening of his life. Where will they find rest and peace of mind in the Nigeria of today that is the product of their fifty years of visionless and corrupt leadership? Even if they built fortresses in their villages and hometowns, they must still generate their own electricity and water and provide their own security. They must fear Boko Haram, armed robbers, and kidnappers who now target the elderly. Some, like Tony Anenih, didn’t even have enough vision to tar the road to his own gate. Therefore, they must continue to patronize Aso Rock, Governors, Ministers, and Senators their children’s age in order to enjoy military helicopters and other resources of the Nigerian state. Given this state of affairs, I’m afraid that there is no guarantee that Ango Abdullahi will not still be rolling in the mud with boys his grandchildren’s age in the next decade of his life.
This essay was published in May 2013. At the time, a member of your generation, Professor Ango Abdullahi was in the gutter with Dokubo Asari over the fate of President Jonathan. You can see that I mentioned you generously in the essay. You can see how much of your future spat with Sam Nda-Isaiah I foresaw. Sam Nda-Isaiah says that you have hung around government for too long and have grown so used to the wrong way of running government that all the wrong things now appear right and normal to you. He warns you not to write letters defending President Jonathan again.
On that score he is wrong. You will write more letters and invade the public sphere with more solicited and unsolicited actions on behalf of the Jonathan presidency – and the presidency after Jonathan’s if God spares your life that long. As usual, those actions will be beneath you but you will carry them out anyway. I don’t think that Sam Nda-Isaiah understands the predicament of your generation. You cannot quit. You dare not. By spending the better part of the last fifty years ruining Nigeria, you and your generational peers have created a Nigeria in which you cannot find peace, quiet, and rest. You are not serving as an errand boy for Aso Rock in your 80s; Bamanga Tukur is not hopping from appointment to appointment in his 80s because you both need the money. You are both in serious money. What you need now is the protection that closeness and chumminess with the presidency affords you in the evening of your lives. You need presidential aura and power to protect you from the mess and the nightmare that is Nigeria. You need protection from the Nigeria you made, protection from the hell you made of Nigeria. For your generation, it will forever be a time to stay put and a time to never quit. Until that time that you have no control over arrives…
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