Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has an unenviable habit of belittling whatever office he occupies. Anyim was the president of the Senate when the National Assembly received one of its most important dignitaries; when then US president Bill Clinton addressed a joint session of the National Assembly on August 26, 2000.
Instead of honoring that historic moment in Nigeria’s legislative history, Anyim slept through most of the powerful, thought-provoking address by Clinton. Not even the constant and rapturous applause of other legislators could wake him. The only times he seemed to shake off the lethargy was to stir to wipe sweat from his face before returning to his slumber.
There was a pattern to Mr. Anyim’s indolence: Once, as a senator under the leadership of the late Chief Chuba Okadigbo, he interrupted the late leader during his speech after waking up abruptly from sleep and jumping in to offer a suggestion. When asked what was being discussed, he smiled oafishly, and the upper chamber burst out laughing.
Why the senate chose to elect the heavy-eyed Anyim to replace the impeached Okadigbo over the other senators from the South East zone tells a lot about the caliber of people that make it to important positions in Nigeria’s political structure.
I can only imagine the report the US authorities wrote on Anyim’s behaviour, but watching the event which was beamed live on national and international cable channels, it was as embarrassing as it was reflective of the attitude of our younger generation of politicians that the senate president, who was then only 39 years old, could snore through such a momentous occasion.
It was probably a good thing that Mr. Anyim did not seek re-election in 2003, though his replacement in the senate, Emmanuel Azu mostly warmed his seat for four years before being replaced.
After several failed political endevours and near economic ruin following the demolition of his multi-million naira property built on a drainage in Asokoro, Abuja, Anyim was at his wits end, but managed to bounce back to political relevance when he was appointed SGF in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, it seems Anyim did not learn any lesson from his public snoring sessions in the senate, or simply cannot be bothered. If anything, he seems to have built on his reputation for sleeping off at every opportunity as he did earlier this year when PDP stakeholders from his own Ebonyi state visited the National Chairman of the party, Ahmed Adamu Muazu.
According to reports, while addressing the party elders which comprised the Ebonyi state governor, Martins Elechi, Health Minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu and other eminent Ebonyi PDP elders, Muazu took a look at Anyim who had dozed off and said, "Mr. Anyim, I hope you have not started doing what you like doing best”.
It was the laughter that followed from the audience that finally woke up the slumbering SGF.
More recently, at the inauguration of the just concluded National Conference, Mr. Anyim slept through the address by President Jonathan. According to reports, Anyim, who earlier welcomed delegates, slept throughout the 22 minutes that President Jonathan spoke, only waking up intermittently to shake his head as delegates clapped in response to points raised by Jonathan.
What was he shaking his head about?
A newspaper satirically put the SGF’s behaviour in context when it reported that “the amount of responsibility bestowed on the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Pius Anyim, in organising the conference is indeed enormous . . . it was probably the enormity of his responsibility that made Anyim doze off on the day President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the conference”.
My quarrel with Mr. Anyim is not about his sleeping habits. He can sleep whenever and wherever he wants; if his principal, President Jonathan does not complain, who am I to? My problem is the way Mr. Anyim has reduced the SGF’s office to that of an openly partisan political jobber man.
Anyone who watches television or reads newspapers in Nigeria these days is inevitably bombarded with messages from a group called the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN). Even those who try, as many do, to avoid local channels are not free because once you go online from any Internet Protocol (IP) address perceived to be from Nigeria, you get the same trash – clearly funded by government sources.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation is one of the most important positions in Nigeria. The occupant of such a position, especially at a time when the country is facing existential challenges should have more presence of mind than to become another foot soldier, running from pillar to post to ‘beg’ President Jonathan to contest next year’s election.
Watching the SGF making a mockery of himself in Ibadan during TAN’s South West rally was pathetic. As he did as a senator, Mr. Anyim is ridiculing the position of the SGF.