In 1953, he became the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence which was eventually granted in 1960 after several political setbacks and defeats in parliament. Anthony Enahoro has been regarded by academics and many Nigerians as the “Father of Nigeria State”. However, his motion for Nigeria’s Independence suffered setbacks in parliament on several occasions with the northern members of parliament staging a walkout as a consequence of the motion.
Notwithstanding the defeat in parliament, a popular movement was started on account of this motion and the pressure was now built up against colonialism and there was agitations for independence for Nigeria, or at least self-governance. S. L. Akintola attempted to revisit the motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1957 and though his motion was passed by parliament it was not acquiesced to by the British colonial authorities and it therefore failed.
In August 1958, Remi Fani-Kayode revisited Enahoro’s motion and the motion was again passed by parliament but its date was not approved by the British. Fani-Kayode’s motion had called for independence to be granted to Nigeria on 2 April 1960. Nigeria was granted independence on 1 October 1960.
In furtherance of the ever recurring Enahoro’s Motion, a further motion was proposed to Parliament by Sir Tafawa Balewa in 1959 and it was passed. As a consequence of the sustained pressure, the colonial governor announced the decision of the British government to grant independence in 1960.
ANTHONY ENAHORO: BACKGROUND
Anthony Enahoro was born the eldest of ten children in Onewa village, Uromi, in the present Edo State of Nigeria. Some of his siblings include the legendary Mike Enahoro [Ace broadcaster for Nigerian Television Authority (NTA)], Ben, Dan, Bess, Chris, and Emmanuel.
His Esan parents were Anastasius Asuelinmen “Okotako” Enahoro and Fidelia Inibokun née Ogbidi Okojie. Anthony Enahoro had a long and distinguished career in the press, politics, the civil service and the pro-democracy movement. Educated at the Government School Uromi, Government School Owo and King’s College, Lagos, Enahoro became the editor of Nnamdi Azikiwe’s newspaper, the Southern Nigerian Defender, Ibadan, in 1944 at the age of 21.
As a student then at the Kings College, Enahoro took part in the turbulent Nigerian liberation struggle against colonial rule in the early 1940s, leading to student revolts at the college in Lagos where he was a student leader. He was prominent in politics at a time of rapid change. He was twice jailed for sedition by the colonial government, for an article mocking a former governor, and then for a speech allegedly inciting Nigerian troops serving in the British army. The British marked him as a firebrand, but even as he was jailed for a third time, he was beginning to reassess his position.
In 1950 he and Arthur Prest founded the Mid-West Party. Enahoro had already started the Mid-West Press and he published the Nigerian newspaper from 1950 to 1953. The Mid-West Party became part of the Action Group in 1951.
During the Nigerian crisis that followed the 1966 coups, Anthony Enahoro was the leader of the then Mid-West delegation to the Ad Hoc Constitutional Conference in Lagos. He later became Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Information and Labor under the General Yakubu Gowon Military Government, 1967–74; Federal Commissioner for Special Duties, 1975. He later became a member of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, 1978–83. He was the president, World Festival of Negro Arts and Culture, 1972–75.
He was the chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a pro-democracy group that fought dictator Sani Abacha till Abacha’s death. He also was conferred with the national honor of Commander, Order of the Federal Republic, CFR, in 1982, and was the chairman of the Movement for National Reformation, MNR; as well as the Pro-National Conference Organisation, PRONACO.
In 1953, Anthony Enahoro initiated the self-government motion in the Western House of Assembly, which eventually led to Nigerian Independence 1 October 1960.
He was awarded honorary DSC by the University of Benin in 1972. His publications include the treatise Fugitive Offender. Enahoro played golf and followed cricket ardently. Anthony Enahoro was a delegate to most of the constitutional conferences leading to the independence of Nigeria in 1960.
He died on the 15th of December, 2010 at the age of 87.
By Oluwamayowa Akinyemi