25 June 2002

Nigeria: Anyim: Truly Ambushed


Lagos — Recent actions or inactions of Anyim Pius Anyim, the President of the Senate, point towards apostasy. The impeachment drive against President Olusegun Obasanjo by the senate presided over by Anyim is one such action. Another is his fervent disagreement with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the need for fresh party congresses in Ebonyi State.

Anyim has since lost on both scores. The impeachment plot against Obasanjo collapsed like a pack of cards last week. The same week, Anyim_s party, the PDP, held fresh congresses in Ebonyi state against the wishes of Anyim and his group who are pitted against Dr. Sam Egwu, the Governor of the state. Anyim is therefore licking his wounds.

What could be going on between Anyim and the PDP? What has become of his romance with Obasanjo? What could be responsible for the perceived nose dive in the political fortunes of the senate president?

Recent developments point to the fact that he is not quite in tune with the political establishment represented by the PDP. It was in the light of this that Anyim had to try his hands on what some members of his party have chosen to see as a renegade act. A member of a rival political party, the All people party (APP), Senator Idris Abubakar, has sponsored an impeachment motion against the president who is of the same political party with Anyim. The motion was not only entertained by Anyim, the tone of the debate which the senate president engineered was indicative of rebellion.

While it lasted, may wondered at what Anyim was doing. It was largely thought that he was flying a kite. But he was not. It took a stern warning from the leadership of his party to break the resolve of the senate president on the issue.

Observers are then left to wonder at what went wrong. Did Anyim mean to rattle Obasanjo? If so, why? What has happened to the rapprochement between the two? Has Anyim jumped ship? Doesn't the senate president need the president's protection anymore?

While these questions were being pondered, the senate led by Anyim did the predictable. The impeachment move remained still born. The lawmakers did not seem to know what they wanted to say or do. It was obvious from the way it all went that they were engaged in mere theatrics. They set out to entertain the Nigerian public. And Nigerians have truly been entertained.

However, the development tells an ugly story about the Obasanjo-Anyim rapprochement. The handshake between them is said to have gone beyond the elbow. Neither appears to be comfortable any more with the set-up. But somebody is at the receiving end in all this. Anyim has served Obasanjo well. He expects some returns in political terms. But the president appears to have had his fill.

In the same way, the PDP does not appear prepared anymore to pamper the man it offered the exalted office of the senate president on a platter of gold. Anyim has been at the centre of the crisis in Ebonyi state. The PDP has done all within its powers to ensure that Anyim and his group reach a compromise with the government in Ebonyi. The state government has, on its own, offered an olive branch. None has brought peace to the state.

But the issue of fresh congresses was one which tested the resolve of the party. Anyim did not want it. But the National Secretariat of the party thought otherwise. Anyim could not be convinced to go the way of his party. Perhaps Anyim held tight to his position owing to the fact that the PDP has a history of indiscipline. The PDP as we know it is an aggregation of disparate entities. The rancour within the party is legendary. Never before have we seen a National Assembly controlled by a particular party being at daggers drawn with a president elected under the platform of the same party. In fact, the intra. party rivalry within the PDP is bemusing. The The way the party members liquidate one another across the country, you would think that rival political parties are at war.

This was the tradition that brought Anyim up under the PDP. He may therefore have been aspiring to carve out an empire for himself within the dismembered PDP. Yet it must be recognised that a certain limit exists in all this. It was the PDP leadership, for instance, that met behind closed doors and decided to pick Anyim to be senate president among the South East senators that were jostling for the office. In other words, Anyim owes his ascendancy not to his fellow senators, but to the PDP leadership. Thus, even though the party appears to be at war with itself, it is still considered impolitic for Anyim to act as if his party no longer matters. But if Anyim was caught in a fit of compulsive amnesia, he needed some dose of the big stick to realise himself. That is precisely what the party has wielded.

On the part of the senate, it has only succeeded in deepening the funny feeling which most Nigerians have about it. Under this political dispensation, we are burdened with a senate that does not appear to have a focus. By now, we are used to its many gyrations. It was because of its protean character that the senate took off on a wrong note. It chose its first senate president without knowing why it did so.

Thus, when a section of the media started a campaign of denigration against the then senate president, the senate fell for it. It hounded the man out of office without stopping to rationalise the sense in it. The senate did not discover this Original Sin until it began to have problems with Chuba Okadigbo, the man that rode on the wings of popular acclaim following the fall of Evan Enwerem. Again, as was the case during Enwerem, the senate began to act as if it made a mistake in its choice of Okadigbo. Then again, it threw the man out of office. The musical chairs was almost assuming the character of a regress before Anyim stepped in.

Since he assumed office, the story has been somewhat different. The man has had to say that his colleagues would have no need to remove him from office because he has not done anything wrong to any of them. He has learnt from the mistakes of his predecessors. He knows how to clip the flapping wings of his fellows. And he has done this successfully all these months. But one area where Anyim has to work on seriously is his relationship with the national secretariat of the PDP and the Ebonyi state government. For instance, the no-compromise stance of Anyim and his group over the issue of fresh congresses in Ebonyi may have infuriated Chief Audu Ogbeh, the National Chairman of the PDP. Anyim's intransigence was an affront. It was on the strength of the danger it posed to constituted authority that Ogbeh had to sound belligerent. He said the party would not mind deploying soldiers to volatile states if that would make the fresh congresses possible. Ogbeh is still threatening violent party members with expulsion. These outbursts from Ogbeh were induced by Anyim.

The congresses have since held in Ebonyi state. With it, the PDP has called the bluff of Anyim. The party has also brought home to Anyim the fact that no man, however great, can win judgment over his people. For Anyim, there is a wise step to take. He cannot afford to be at war with the party that made him. He may have lost favour at the centre. He should try not to face the same dilemma at home. For Anyim, charity can still begin at home.

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