Saturday, 20 February 2021 08:29

(TRIBUTE) Senator Anyim Pius Anyim at 60 - Celestine Okafor

Anyim Pius Anyim Anyim Pius Anyim

Birthday milestones don't come often. But when they come, they are celebrated in style, with pomp and panache. It is usually a period of joyful celebration, testimonies and thanksgiving. More importantly, such special birthdays, often, is a period of deep reflections in the life of any serious minded adult celebrant. Milestone birthdays also provides opportunity for a profound, pious supplication to God Almighty for his bountiful mercies, protection, guidance, Divine favors, and in most cases, for attainment of remarkable life's achievements and lofty heights within the period of such milestone.

For individuals who have particularly attained a remarkable age or celebrating their milestones, the occasion is a season of stock-taking of one's  life’s successes  and  pitfalls. Past mistakes, where possible, can easily be corrected if more opportunities provide.The celebrating individual could equally deploy the platform of a milestone birthday to set a fresh agenda towards attaining more successes and accomplishments for a fulfilling life of legacy worthy of emulation by posterity and mankind.

Birthdays generally, especially milestone birthday occasions, serve many purposes. For politicians, whether an aspirant to public office or a political office holder, or an ex-office holder or even a retiree from public office, such special birthdays serve as a forum for political and sundry networking, for self-marketing or for appreciation of the people who have impacted significantly and positively to the successes of the celebrant in getting to public office or while in the service of the public or in the aspiration for service to the people.


And for businessmen and women, such special birthdays enable them to also network, broker hot deals and foster fresh business ties and even resolve existing or perceived business disputes. But generally, milestone birthdays are special moments in the life of individuals, whether rich or poor, famous or obscure, Old or young. It is a special season for sober reflection, when a celebrant comes to the sudden realization that maturity and age are surreptitiously encroaching on him or her.

These scenario, however, probably apply in some instances, in the current circumstance of His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Anyim Pius Anyim (GCON), former President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and also a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) in the ex-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration, as he turns Sixty (60) years today, Friday February 19, 2021.

It is, indeed, a day of celebration for Pius Anyim, a continental statesman, a national icon, quintessential lawmaker and an advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Today also, friends, associates, family members and well-wishers, will gather to merry, give their testimonies and also give meaning to this remarkable age attained by this consumate parliamentarian and great political leader and strategist, who, despite all odds on his pathway to the top of leadership of his country at a relatively very young age, has consistently given his today for the good of Nigeria’s tomorrow. In many ways, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, deserves to be celebrated and honored. For 33 years (1988 - 2021), Anyim, as he is fondly known and generally referred to, has consistently devoted his public and private life to the service of his fatherland. He equally has undoubtedly proved to be an unflinching believer in true democracy and good governance; a patriot and pan-Nigerianist, both in style and character, who has tremendously helped in the growth of Nigeria's current democracy and her national economy.

He has strongly demonstrated his faith in the greatness and unity of the Nigerian nation through qualitative and regular inputs in proffering solutions to the numerous challenging contemporary socio-political issues affecting the country. Anyim has continued to make his voice strident and his position definite, particularly in advisory capacity on critical issues in the land, be it on political, economic, religious or in youth development matters, just as he had never vacillated in making pronouncements, when he considers necessary, on issues of regional or cross continental nature. He has remained focused on his vision for the country and on his primary purpose while at the National Assembly.

While as presiding officer of the Senate sessions (Committee of the whole), however, , Pius Anyim was not a lame duck Senate President. He piloted the affairs of the Senate and the National Assembly generally with uncommon maturity, comportment, courage, youthful energy and zest, wisdom and dedication to duty, resulting in the successful passage of both executive and member bills, etc.

Born on February 19, 1961, in Ishiagu, a pre-dominantly Catholic community in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, young Pius Anyim attended Ishiagu High School (St. John Bosco) and subsequently, the Federal School of Arts and Science, Aba, a huge commercial city in the present Abia state. He later enrolled to study law at the Imo State University, Uturu Campus in 1983, graduating in 1987. He proceeded to Sokoto state for his mandatory national Youth Service. His leadership skill was identified quite early during this time, and he was made the Co-ordinator, Youth Mobilisation Programme. Anyim immediately relocated to Abuja after his Youth Corp Service year, and in 1992, however, became the Head of Protection Department at the National Commission for Refugees, a job that included provision of legal services and political protection for refugees. In this capacity, he traveled to various parts of the world.

His passion for politics and public service burned with intensity, and in 1998, Anyim joined the existing United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and won a Senate election. The death of General Sani Abacha, the then military Head of State on June 8, 1998, however botched his Senate victory. Undaunted, Anyim contested again for the Ebonyi South Senate during the General Abdulsalami Abubakar's transitional regime on the platform of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and won his Senate election in 1998.

While in the Senate as a freshman politician, having been sworn in as a Senator in the early week of June 1999, Senator Anyim was elected President of the Senate in August 2000, after his predecessor, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, was impeached. He was Senate President until May 2003, but refused to seek a re-election back to the Senate, essentially on account of his issues with the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as a result of his principled stand on policy, governance and general state issues, which, to him, was inconsistent with the wishes of the Nigerian electorates and a great majority of their PDP party members. This development, coupled with the overbearing disposition of the Obasanjo presidency and its instinctive habit of serial constitutional violations, could no longer be tolerated by Senator Pius Anyim's led Senate and the National Assembly. This culminated in the impeachment process initiated by the lawmakers on both houses of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) against Obasanjo, and the attempts consequently strained or rather worsened the President's working relationship with Anyim on one hand and the National Assembly of which he was the chairman, on another hand.

But Anyim, following intense pressure from well meaning eminent Nigerians, considered, as a wise leader, the nascent stage of Nigeria's democracy then, and discretionally soft-pedaled on the impeachment moves. He succeeded though in humbling both President Obasanjo who was noted for his executive arrogance and the party (PDP) leadership that had shown lack of capability for calling the erring President to order. Anyim was to explain later, that Obasanjo grossly misunderstood him and his statemanly stance on certain issues, but there was actually no conflict between them. He made it clear, in August 2002, his opposition that all elected political office holders at the time - including himself - should not go for a second term, so that opportunity could be given to others.

As senate president, Anyim ensured that standing rules are vigorously kept by Senators and that their general conducts within the chambers conform to proper legislative practices. For example, he demonstrated this in November 2002, when he slammed indefinite suspension on one of his colleagues, Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe of Imo North Senatorial Zone, due to an allegation of a N22million fraud. Nzeribe who was alleged by Senators to be internally working for the Obasanjo government against Anyim, was said to be planning an impeachment plot against his boss. But Anyim moved in a cold-blooded manner to pull the rug from the feet of Nzeribe, leaving him completely diminished and psychologically broken. It took the concerted pleadings and pressures from concerned senators, top party members and eminent political leaders from the South East and Orlu zone (Nzeribe's Constituency) particularly, for Anyim to pardon and recall the dreaded but humbled lawmaker. But that was almost at the twilight of the life of Anyim led fourth Senate.

The former Senate President is not one to be fazed by controversy, and he adroitly knows how to douse controversy and tension when they erupt under his leadership. This is a rare skill among contemporary leaders of government, and particularly, for a young man of his 39 years of age, at the time. For instance, in May 2001, controversy arose over whether the Ministry of Power and Mines under late political Cicero, Chief Bola Ige, should be probed, Anyim declared that the upper legislative house (Senate) was justified in probing the ministry. The same month, after Anyim had complained about the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Senate instituted a legislative panel to look into the continued relevance of the anti-corruption Commission. Anyim was to warn an Abuja High Court judge, Justice Egbo Egbo, that the parliament had the power to order his arrest over his opposition to the amendment and passage of the anti-graft ICPC law by the Senate. Anyim consequently suffered numerous official persecution and psychological harassment as a result of his stubborn insistence on the right course of things in the governance of the country. His private house in Abuja, for instance, was substantially pulled down for an alleged violation of the Abuja master plan.

At his home front in Ebonyi state, controversy did not flee from Senator Anyim Pius Anyim. As a Senate President, expectedly but unfortunately, he had a political disagreement with the then governor of his state, Dr Sam Ominyi Egwu, who, himself, is now a serving senator and seemingly a political ally of the former Senate President. Anyim also had issues with Egwu's successor, Chief Martins Elechi, who later lost out to Anyim's camp in the 2015 governorship election tussle that saw the candidate he (Anyim) supported, the incumbent Ebonyi state governor, Engr. Dave Nweze Umahi, ultimately emerge as governor, against the wishes and plans of former governor Martins Elechi. A few months ago, in November last year (2020), and shortly after governor Umahi of Ebonyi defected from the PDP to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), a political disagreement suddenly erupted between Senator Pius Anyim and the governor, essentially on account of, whether or not, Anyim should also defect to the APC. While the Ebonyi governor accused Anyim, Senators Sam Egwu and Obinna Ogba (both of Ebonyi South and Central districts) of being "cultists" allegedly plotting anarchy and violence ostensibly to undermine Umahi's government, Anyim countered the governor, equally accusing him, in a petition he wrote to the President, the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), of threat to his life and of being "a prisoner of his greed and inordinate ambition". Anyim was to explain that his inclination not to succumb to unnecessary intimidation and orchestrated political arm-twisting, was often the cause of his political misunderstanding with opponents.

But such occasional tiffs often associated with politics and with politicians of Anyim's stature, especially in their dealings with political opponents, has not seem to diminish or eclipse his penchant for public service whenever opportunity presents itself. Barely four years after he successfully left office as the nation's number three citizen, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim bidded for the National Chairmanship position of the then ruling PDP in January 2007. He was indeed a front runner, the candidate to beat at the proposed party convention. He got substantial following and overwhelming support from the Kaduna PDP. The League of Patriotic Lawyers and even the PDP Youth Forum also backed his candidature. These are apart from the numerous block supports he had garnered from across the geo-political zones of his party. But in the end, the PDP ruling overlords, during the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua administration, chose Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, a former PDP national secretary and ex-Minister from Abia state, as chairman of the party.

Like a Phoenix, the former Senate President quickly rose from the ashes of the bitter PDP chairmanship race experience. In January 2010, he led a delegation of 41 eminent Nigerians that called on the ailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua to urgently transmit a letter of his incapacitation to the National Assembly to salvage the nation's democracy from danger. Anyim effusively commended his colleagues in the Senate when they passed a resolution on February 9, 2010, to make the then Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the Acting President of Nigeria. In May 2011, Pius Anyim was appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by the Jonathan administration.

As the SGF, however, Senator Anyim played a key role in his capacity as government scribe to stabilize the Jonathan's regime. Quite early in the life of the administration, Anyim deployed his legislative experience, contacts and influence as a former lawmaker and ex-President of the Nigerian Senate, in ensuring that there exist, a strong rapprochement between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government. This was evident in the improved relationship between the two branches of government that had been at daggers-drawn, especially during the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo years, as President.

Anyim had equally ensured that there was stability in the leadership of the National Assembly where he was chairman between August 2000 and June 2003. He had help to give accelerated approvals to bills brought to the parliament by the executive, to the Senate in particular. However, in the lower chamber of the National Assembly where it was expected that the emergence of Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as House Speaker against the projections of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) would destabilize the government, Anyim was swift in exploiting his existing cordial relationship with Tambuwal and his then deputy, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, in ensuring that the expected opposition against the Jonathan government by the members of the House of Representatives, was put in check.

At the official level, Anyim so far proved to be a valuable and dependable SGF. He facilitated several reforms carried out by the government he served throughout the fives years the Goodluck Jonathan regime lasted. These reforms, were evident in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, as well as at the Presidential level. It was to the credit of Anyim that the intractable face-off between the Federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which lingered for several months in 2014, was finally and amicably resolved.  The former Senate President's mediating potential also manifested in the settlement of so many other industrial disputes involving the government of the federation and other labour groups, such as the Judiciary workers strike action, which was resolved at the time.

As the head of the secretariat of the national government, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim ensured that the government of President Jonathan embarked on enduring public infrastructural projects that would impact meaningfully on the lives of the people. He supervised the celebration of Nigeria's Centenary project in which the government reportedly contributed no funds. Anyim and his team of planners of the Centenary event, skillfully got a private sector undertaker to sponsor the event very successfully. The former SGF was equally instrumental in pioneering the concept of the prestigious Centenary City in Abuja which was being handled by Eagle Hills, a famous internationally renown private developer and urban renewal expert company around the globe based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate (UAE). The firm was to commit well over N20 billion US dollars into the prestigious Centenary city project expected to be one of the most elegant and modern city in the world.

Anyim, as a seasoned public administrator, is reputed to be a cross ethnic national bridge builder. A national peace advocate. He has helped to broker so many peace deals on cases and  contentious issues  that would have slowed down the smooth administration of the federal government, especially that of ex-President Jonathan, who he served as his SGF.  For instance, in the unabating war against the Boko Haram insurgency, Anyim was pivotal in the efforts by government to contain the activities of the sect. Although his role was not quite visible on the exterior as a government scribe, it was Anyim's office that coordinated most of the government's policy direction in seeing to the execution of the war against the insurgents. He had proved to be a factor in the revolution that went on in government's key sectors like the water resources, YouWin programm, SURE-P, Transport which includes road and rail Transformation of the Jonathan government.

However, Anyim's administrative and leadership propensity was once again evident in the 2014 National Conference in which very many key reform approaches were recommended for the future management of the country to achieve a balanced, fair, equitable and more progressive federal Nigeria. Just when it seemed that the confab might end up in fiasco, Anyim effectively took charge of the affairs and direction of the conference from the rear. He ensured that vital logistics for the successful conclusion of the confab was put in place, including ensuring adequate security for the delegates and all those who participated in one way or the order in the conduct of the confab. He moderated the conference to the chagrin of dooms-day prophets who predicted that the conference would at best, amount to a hollow ritual, a sheer exercise in futility.

However, as Senator Anyim Pius Anyim reaches the Septuagenarian years of Sixty (60) today, the self-effacing statesman who has been described by those very close to him as a thorough family man, a devout christian with strong religious values and discipline, would continue to demonstrate his commitment to the service of his fatherland, and remain unwavering in his readiness to promote the unity of the country, Nigeria.

...Celestine Okafor is currently the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Nigerian NewsLeader Newspaper; a former Editor and Group General Manager (Publications) of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, as well as an Editor in Vanguard, Daily Times and Daily Independent Newspapers. NNL.

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