The Anini In Anenih

by SOC Okenwa

Former Bendel State (now Edo and Delta States) produced one of the ‘best’ audacious armed robbers in the history of Nigeria during the Babangida years. With Monday Osunbor, policeman George Iyamu and others the gang led by Lawrence ‘the law’ Anini turned armed robbery into a fun-filled generous adventure. The streets of Benin City witnessed the ruthless gang spreading money and sharing their loot from banks and companies.

The Anini robbery phenomenon was so much penetrating and national news-item that in one moment of dictatorial loss of temper IBB asked the then Inspector General of Police Etim Inyang after an executive meeting: “Mr IG, where is Anini?” Perhaps Babangida was afraid because the myth surrounding the Anini gang (like disappearing when mortal danger beckoned) and the frenzy with which the Nigerian media reported Anini’s exploits must have rankled IBB.

For Bendelites then the fear of Anini was the beginning of street wisdom. He was alleged to have written letters in advance intimating would-be victims of his intention to pay a visit. And he would visit as planned forcefully resisting resistance from the ill-equipped police force. He was known to be a master-driver and strategist while Osunbor was the marksman, a sniper who spared no human in police uniform. Iyamu on the other hand was an insider-informant paid handsomely by Anini for classified infos by the police high command.

When Anini the mystic man was caught in his girlfriend’s home hideout he tried to dodge the policemen on his trail by feigning not himself. His attempt to escape was rewarded with a bullet that targeted his leg. That bullet wound led to him being confined to wheelchair throughout his trial and subsequent conviction and execution. Iyamu on his part played Judas denying ever knowing and collaborating with Anini, an unconscionable denial which ‘the law’ found irresponsible: “you are a shameless liar!” Anini had charged him before Justice James Omo-Agege in the High Court of Justice off Sapele Road in Benin City.

Courage and hardness failed Anini as he confronted the fruit of his wayward violent lifestyle: a single bullet sent him to ‘hell’ as the shout of “f-i-r-e!” by the leader of the firing squad obeyed their commander on the day of their execution. The memories of the Anini era still linger even today in Benin City as no armed group has dared replicate what the dare-devil broad-daylight dangerous robbers did to make ignominious names for themselves. In Nigeria in general it is only the Niger Delta militants that has so far sought to criminalise the just struggle for resource control by kidnapping even kids going to school.

The erstwhile Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih is a man with impressive political experience and pedigree in Nigeria. Like ‘the Nature Boy’ Ric Flair in WWE in America, a 17-time old world heavyweight wrestling champion (reputed as the ‘dirtiest player in the game’) who has refused to resign Tony Anenih is about the dirtiest player in the Nigerian political game.

That Anenih understands the dynamics and mechanics of power is an understatement and that he is a political survivalist is a statement of fact. Controversy has dogged Anenih’s public life. From corruption to mischief; opportunism to sycophancy ‘Mr Fix It’ is ever in the news. Always on the winning side!

The irredeemably corrupt Nigerian Police Force may have produced big thieves like Tafa Balogun, Sunday Ehindero and other ‘egunje’ junior officers manning the ubiquitous roadblocks but in Tony Anini, sorry, Anenih the NPF gave Nigeria a great political ‘fixer’ who sometimes not only ‘fixes’ but ‘finds’ and ‘finishes’ as well. Another bad product, it must be said here, is the Adedibu godson Adebayo Alao-Akala, the ‘governor’ of Oyo State.

As the SDP Chairman during the June 12/Abiola saga Anenih dumped the struggle for the revalidation of his party’s victory at the polls for other feasible things under Abacha. By displacing him as the PDP BOT Chairman (something he had thought would come in November at least) Anenih is at his final lap of an eventful political long distance race. In Obasanjo he has met his match; two old foxes brawling over power with huge advantage tilted towards the side of the Ota ‘god’ in whose ‘shrine’ President Yar’Adua and Senate President David Mark worship.

Hosting top-class politicians he ‘godfatherly’ helped put to power in Edo state in his Uromi hometown the other day Tony Anenih was in an upbeat mood; yes he was in high spirits. Reacting sarcastically to the news that he was in ‘soup’ he declared before his people: “At Okene in Kogi State this morning, I stopped to buy fuel on my way from Abuja. I bought some newspapers. One of them amused me. The headline was ‘Anenih in soup’. I was wondering which pot can be big enough to cook me before I can become soup. At least not in Nigeria“.

But politically speaking I guess there’s an Anini in Anenih. Both of them are from Edo State with Benin City that Anini terrorised and based as capital. Both love(d) money fuelling the greed and money consciousness found in some animals called men. Late Lawrence Anini could well be described as a benevolent armed robber and Tony Anenih as a political robber.

Tony Anenih may have embezzled billions of naira voted for rehabilitation of dilapidated federal roads and construction of new ones as Minister of Works and Housing (1999–2003)and he may have now outlived his usefulness — since there are no more dirty jobs to fix around but the fact remains that his future political relevance is dependent on the inter-play of centrifugal forces in Aso Rock and NASS. Even the major highway (Benin-Ore Expressway) linking his state to Lagos and other western cities and states was not ‘fixed’ during his tenure as Minister of Works and Housing; Anenih must have been busy ‘fixing’ his pockets! First things first you know!!

How he will end is unknown but going the way of Anini is outside consideration here. But one thing is certain: Anenih will end in disgrace; his end will be more graceless and disgraceful than graceful. Mark my words!

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Don January 8, 2008 - 11:21 am

Hello mr okenwa you hae written an article to the best of your knowledge regarding the issues of the then lawrence anini which i believd that you did quite well in your anylisis. But however i will like to come in with rgards ti chief tony anenih about the issue of fedral road fixing in other to repair fedral roads but most of the roads were never repaired. listen every nigerian leader during obj tenure were stock pilling money because of the nature of the political agenda of having money to contest next election and so on, well in any event i understand that the benin ore road was the responsibility of the edo state governor lucky igbinadion as the obj government started to divert the revenue from the fedral accounts to various state government so that they can repair their rpads them self big mistake the governor embessled all that money that is why you see that with ogun and ondo and all other neighbouring states git their rod fix only for me to spend 9 hours coming to benin from london during the igbinadion tenure becuase he has been such a coward and refused to fix the benin ore high road. so what i am saying is that obj is one of the biggest thef nigeria has ever produce as he is a military and all he did for nigeria was to bring violence and thugry to nigerian politics obj till now still wans grip of nigeria he will rot in hell and may be end up in prison again because he is an animal in human skin. i leave in the same country as the igbinadion and i can assure you our poor edo state people without vision money has gone a long way as they do not like the truth but care about 15k naira and suffer for the rest of the tenure of who they voted fro like the former governor lucky. b 4 the 1999 election there way no violence until this so called lucky and obj bought guns for thugs to contest 2003 election and rigged it massaively which was the beggining of thugry in politics in our poor state and the people are happy. God bless Nigeria leave anenih alone he is not related to me but you guys should broading your research and leave media stories alone.

PAUL NKWUNYE August 3, 2007 - 10:05 am

Whatsoever a man sows shall he also reaps in mutiple folds


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