Nnamdi Nwigwe pays tribute to Peter Enahoro, Journalist, writer and author of ‘How to be a Nigerian’
The death of the Nigerian Journalism Colossus, Peter Enahoro, stirs a whole lot of emotions and sentiments that justify a brief excursion into the odyssey of Journalism in modern Nigeria.
In the halcyon years of pulsating and eclectic newspaper journalism in our country, precisely in the 60s, reading the newspapers was a pleasure to both the literate and illiterate citizenry.
The Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) now Radio Nigeria, and the stations owned by the Regional Governments, were the only electronic media. Private radios came on board much later with Ray Power of Alagbado Lagos leading the way in the 80s.
The newspapers were also few and far between with the big ones based mainly in Lagos and Ibadan. Among them were the West African Pilot and Daily Times. Ibadan, the capital of the Western Region where the Premier, then Chief Obafemi Awolowo, founded the “first Television in Africa,” hosted the Tribune newspaper, owned by Awolowo.
It was however the Daily Times, an offshoot of the London-based Daily Mirror Group, that was to throw up great and unforgettable names in newspaper journalism, among whom was Peter Enahoro.
Peter won his stripes very early in his career when he became the editor of the Sunday Times, a weekly stablemate of the Daily Times in his 20s! His personal column PETER PAN was a delight to most readers of the weekly. He continued with the popular column in the Daily Times when he became the editor.
The Daily Times was a truly mass-circulation newspaper in Nigeria and was available in most parts of the country. The paper had its own transport fleet that carried both passengers and the newspapers across the country.
Invariably, the news and editorial opinion of the Daily Times impacted the citizenry and the Peter Pan Column of the editor was a socio-political sermon to its avid connoisseurs!
Peter was a born journalist because he virtually possessed all the attributes of a quintessential practitioner. He was intelligent, deep thinking, curious, and combined, rather curiously affability with cold cynicism.
You never caught Peter unduly excited about anything or any authority for that matter.
He was a thorn in the flesh of every government because what the paper would not say in its Editorial for reasons of Corporate Boardroom nuances, Peter would freely write in his Peter Pan column.
Peter respected authority as a product of a Government College of those days, but he did not fear or cringe from telling ‘it as it is.’
Both the civilian government of the immediate post-Independence era and the military regime that supplanted it, feared and hated the guts of Peter Pan.
A typical case remains indelible in my mind: When General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi Nigeria’s indigenous pioneer Army Commander quelled the Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu-led putsch of January 15, 1966, and assumed power, it wasn’t long when Peter Pan called him to order.
On the front page of the Daily Times, a copy of which I bought in Accra, Ghana where I was a student, a picture of General Aguiyi-Ironsi in the full Nigerian national babariga/dashiki regalia, at a reception in Lagos with a wine glass in his hand, was emblazoned full-size. The only caption, which was the editorial was: “No Sir! Please back to your uniform!”
Of course, the military regime didn’t take it lightly and hunted Peter. Before the overthrow of Ironsi a mere six months later, on July 29, 1966, Peter Enahoro with foreign diplomatic support had been smuggled out of the country to Accra, Ghana from where he ventured further abroad to Europe.
Before this scenario, Peter Enahoro had visited Ghana where I met him in flesh and blood for the first time. That was at a media event and I was there as a young journalism student at the Monotechnic Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra. I must confess that it was one of my proudest moments to shake the hand of my long-held idol as I introduced myself to Peter Pan and as a Nigerian student Journalist. He took a special interest in me as he wished me well in my studies.
Several years later in the 70s, our paths crossed again at the editorial offices of the former West German broadcast giant, the Deutsche Welle, Voice of Germany Radio, based in Cologne, near Bonn.
I had been employed there in 1971 as an editor at the Afrika-Englisch Section of the large Africa Department which had French, Amharic, Hausa, and Swahili Sections as well.
Peter Enahoro was a guest writer to the station
for a weekly Africa Roundup programme long before I came. He was based, according to what he replied to me “between Continental Europe and the UK.” He wasn’t joking, humorous as he was when in the mood. He lived at Ostend from where he covered England and Germany as well as Holland and Belgian writing for the various Media houses.Peter eventually settled in London where his death reportedly took place on Sunday, April 23, 2023.
Peter published several books, and edited and owned many high-class international magazines. But the one that many of his admirers, colleagues, and associates will not quickly forget is his HOW TO BE A NIGERIAN. There you would encounter Peter Enahoro, Peter Pan, and Peter the Great at his most cynical and also most serious in perception and prophecy.
Adieu, our beloved friend. You will surely meet our other German-based chums like Akin Fatoyinbo, Egbuna Obidike, Anierobi Ngwube, and Chike Egbuna who preceded you.
Auf Wiedersehen! Peter.