February 24, 2021
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By Celestine Okafor  |

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, birthdays, are a period of deep reflections in the life of any serious-minded individual.

Such was the case recently, and precisely on February 19, 2021 when the drums rolled out to celebrate the 60th birthday anniversary of former Senate President, distinguished Senator Anyim Pius Anyim. In many ways, Senator Anyim deserves to be celebrated and honored. For 33 years (1988 – 2021), Anyim 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.

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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 heard and his position known, particularly in advisory capacity on critical issues in the land, be it on political, economic, religious or  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.

As presiding officer of the Senate sessions (Committee of the whole), 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.

Born on February 19, 1961, in Ishiagu, a pre-dominantly Catholic community in Ivo local government area of Ebonyi State, young Pius Anyim first attended Obioha Primary School, in Ishiagu. He later proceeded to Ishiagu High School (St. John Bosco) for his secondary school  education, and subsequently, to 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 then proceeded to Sokoto State for the mandatory National Youth Service scheme. His leadership skill was identified quite early during this time, and was made the co-ordinator, Youth Mobilisation Programme.

While in Sokoto, Anyim was one of the best youth corpers in the state and won the prestigious State Chairman‘s Award. After a while, he relocated to Abuja and in 1992,  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.

His passion for politics and public service burned with intensity, and in 1998, Anyim joined the 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 Peoples 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 to the Senate, essentially on account of his strong belief in the principles and practice of power rotation as a way to stabilize the nation‘s young democracy at the time. He made it clear, in August 2002, his position 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 were vigorously kept by Senators and that their general conduct within the chambers conform to proper legislative practices.

The former Senate President is not one to be fazed by controversy, and he adroitly knows how to douse controversy and tension when they erupted 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 and the Senators had observed certain legal lapses about the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and he complained about it, the Senate set up a legislative panel to look into how to strengthen the anti-corruption agency to make it more efficient. 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 necessary amendments 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 doing 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.

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 helped 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 known around the globe and 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 Political 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 prudently ensured that the administrative managers of the conference operated within the financial budget of N7billion allocated for the national talk shop. He equally moderated and safely navigated the conference to a successful end, 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.

As Senator Anyim Pius Anyim clocks 60 years, 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 and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria.

  • Okafor is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Nigerian NewsLeader Newspaper and  former Group General Manager (Publications) of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers

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