By OBINNA EZUGWU
Today, Nigeria’s former senate president and veritable statesman, Anyim Pius Anyim, marks 60 years on planet earth. At 60, Anyim, no doubt, has accomplished great milestones, including becoming Nigeria’s number three at just 39. But today’s Diamond Jubilee is made more significant by the fact that he is a man whose second anniversary was already something out of the ordinary. And perhaps, it was the earliest indicator that he is one on a mission; a no ordinary being.
When Anyim was born on February 19, 1961, her mother who had just gone through the pain of labour, must have felt a sense of hopelessness upon finding out that she had given birth to yet another poor male child. She had had six male children before him, non of whom lived beyond their second anniversaries. The female children apparently had better luck as three had survived long enough to give an indication that they had come to stay. So, when Anyim came along, he was expected to continue with “ogbanje” cycle that was ‘responsible’ for his brothers’ early deaths.
But little Anyim must have smiled at her mother’s worried face and told her not to worry, because on her hands is a special gift from God, a child of destiny. However, perhaps not until after he lived beyond his second anniversary, growing fast, firm and strong like the plantain tree, that she began to get the message. And today, as the trite saying goes, the rest is history.
Anyim’s extraordinary childhood, as it has turned out, was only a token of what was to come. Apparently, it was the initial pointer of the fact that he is a man sent by God on a mission. This much, he has, at 60, proved beyond doubt.
Growing up, Anyim, however, faced poverty and daunting challenges. He missed school sometimes because there was no money to pay his fees. He went hungry sometimes at school, because there was nothing to eat. He hawked bread and other items because he had to raise money for his education. But in the end, it has emerged that the vicissitudes of his early life, were invisible hands grooming him for the mission for which he came.
With only his mother, who had become one of four wives to rely on, Anyim proceeded to Ishiagu High School for his secondary school education. And from there, to Federal School of Arts & Science, Aba, and Imo State University where he read Law, defying the odds to graduate in 1987 as one of the best.
And as one destined for big accomplishments, his posting to the Directorate for Social Mobilisation, a federal government agency, in Sokoto State, during his national youth service, marked a turning point. From there, he proceeded to the National Commission for Refugees (NCR) and soon became Head of Protection Department, a job that included provision of legal services and political protection for refugees. Tutored by Professor Jerry Gana, he would go on to make odd-defying accomplishments.
Anyim launched into the political scene in 1998, joining the then United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) under whose platform, he was elected senator at the age of 37. And while he eventually did not make it to Abuja that year because the election became void, he would win another senatorial election in 1999, this time under the emergent ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and go on to become a senator of the federal republic, aged just 38.
Indeed, at 38, becoming a senator was already a huge feat, and it would not have been out of place to assume that the young Anyim would be more than contented. However, one year later, in the year 2000, he became the country’s senate president, replacing the late flamboyant Dr. Chuba Okadigbo who was impeached the same year, thus becoming the number three highest office holder in Nigeria, aged only 39.
Always putting God first, Anyim is a warrior who continues to fight and win battles. Indeed, for a politician of his standing, Anyim’s godliness is something quite atypical. A dedicated member of the Assemblies of God Church, his utmost dedication to the things of God is an abnormality in a clime where many who have barely matched half of his feats are wont to play God. But for those familiar with his life journey, he is a living testimony to the assertion that God lifts those who humble themselves before him, and make their ways straight. Anyim’s accomplishments are only just manifestations of God’s plan for his life and it would appear, for his country.
“I act with the belief that the Almighty God is behind me,” Anyim said while speaking to journalists sometime ago. “When I won a senate seat in 1998, God made it possible,” he had continued. “I heard His voice clearly asking me to contest.” Writing in his yet-to-be-released biography, he further noted that, “God made things possible again in 1999, when I later became Senate President ahead of more known politicians.”
Indeed, his becoming president of the Senate, was only a fulfilment of God’s promise. And perhaps, there is even more to come from the one who is evidently God’s anointed.
As senate president, even at 39, Anyim demonstrated brilliant leadership qualities. He brought maturity to bear and stabilized the hitherto volatile upper legislative chamber beset by rancour. And even in the era of banana peels, he held on, completing his tenure in 2003, becoming the first to do so in the fourth republic, and subsequently opting not to seek reelection.
A core patriot, Anyim would again announce his presence on the national stage, nearly a decade later in January 2010. He led a delegation of prominent Nigerians to call on the evidently indisposed then president, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, to transmit a letter to the National Assembly to save from danger
The senate, heeding his call, and those of other well-meaning Nigerians, subsequently on February 9, passed a vote to make then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, acting president. In May 2011, following his victory in the presidential election, Jonathan appointed him secretary to the government of the federation. In that capacity, he once again, demonstrated rare leadership qualities, helping the president maintain a stable administration while treating every part of the country is his constituency.
At 60, Anyim is obviously still very youthful, vibrant and energetic, and perhaps God might have another say as the country matches into 2023, desperate for capable hands.