President Goodluck Jonathan’s intensive maneuvering to take full control of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party yielded a huge dividend Monday night as the president’s anointed candidate, Tony Anenih, was “elected” chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees.
At the end of a late night meeting at the presidential villa, which stretched into the early hours of Tuesday, party leaders presented Mr. Anenih, a former Minister of Works, to journalists as having emerged BOT chair by consensus.
The Secretary of the BOT, Wali Jibril, broke the news of Mr. Anenih’s election to journalists as President Jonathan and other top party chiefs walked away from the venue of the meeting.
“BOT met today and approved the report of Prof. Jerry Gana on streamlining the membership of the BOT,” he said. “Our new chairman of the BOT by the grace of God is Chief Tony Anenih.”
An elated Mr. Anenih spoke afterwards, saying, “I was elected today by consensus as the chairman of the BOT. I know I can make meaningful contributions to the progress of the party. As you know, the BOT is the conscience of the party. It’s a body of men and women who have seen it all and I am happy to be the chairman of that board.”
The election of the BOT chair was postponed a number of times after other challengers, including ex-Vice President Alex Ekwueme, former party chair Ahmadu Ali and former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, failed to step down for Mr. Anenih, who is Mr. Jonathan’s preferred candidate.
The election of the former works minister appears another political setback for former President Olusegun Obasanjo who had backed one of his loyalists, Mr. Ali, for the position.
That blow came less than two weeks after some of his core loyalists in the party’s National Working Committee, the South West zonal executive and the Ogun State chapter were removed from their posts.
Mr. Anenih, who will be 80 in August, was a former chairman of the BOT until 2007 when he was unceremoniously deposed after he fell out with Mr. Obasanjo who proceeded to mastermind an amendment to the party’s constitution reserving the BOT position for ex-presidents produced by the party.
That provision has now been reversed, clearing the way for Mr. Anenih and others to run after Mr. Obasanjo suddenly stepped down from the position.
Mr. Anenih has held party positions since 1981 when he was first elected chairman of the the defunct National Party of Nigeria in the then Bendel State. He went on to become chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party between 1992 and 1993.
He was SDP national chairman when the late businessman cum politician, Moshood Abiola, won the 1993 presidential election. But as soon as the then Military President, Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election, and General Sani Abacha took over, Mr. Anenih abandoned the mandate Nigerians gave his party.
He began to root for Mr. Abacha and the military.
He was appointed Minister of Works by Mr. Obasanjo. Critics say his tenure is better remembered for ineptitude and corruption.
In October 2009, a senate ad-hoc committee on transportation, led by Heineken Lokpobiri, released a damning report detailing how Mr. Anenih allegedly mismanaged billions of naira meant for the rehabilitation and construction of Nigerian roads.
The report showed how, in 10 years (1999 to 2009), through multiple contract inflation frauds, connivance between contractors and government officials, some N645 billion was spent on 4,752 kilometres of road; shortchanging the government to the tune of N49 million on each kilometre of road worked on, amounting to approximately N233 billion.
The committee blamed Mr. Anenih and his successors in the ministry for the poor state of Nigerian highways during the period and called for their prosecution.
But high-level politicking then set in and the Senate indefinitely shelved the consideration of the report. Mr. Anenih has denied any wrongdoing.
In spite of the indictment, President Goodluck Jonathan proceeded to appoint Mr. Anenih as head of the Board of the Nigeria Ports Authority, a federal agency that oversees and operates the country’s ports, late last year.