As family, friends and associates of foremost Nigerian journalist, author, and publisher, Peter Osajele Aizegbeobor Enahoro, gather in London, the United Kingdom, Wednesday, June 7, 2023 to bid him a final farewell from this sphere of existence, their consolation would be that the deceased lived a fulfilled life and left indelible footprints in the sands of time. His legacy would not be forgotten in a hurry, and no book on the history of journalism in Nigeria would be complete without a well-deserved space allotted to the man whom many came to know as Peter Pan, a pseudonym under which he wrote his widely acclaimed satirical column in the Daily Times.
Enahoro died in London on April 24, 2023. He was aged 88.
Since his death was announced in a statement by Ms Bunmi Sofola, a journalist, it has been a rain of glowing tributes for the man whom Frank Barton, founding editor of the African Times and author of The Press in Africa, described as “perhaps Africa’s best-known international journalist”.
Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State, where Peter Enahoro hailed from, said the deceased was a “national treasure” who made “insightful and critical commentary on the Nigerian nation and its march to a free, fair and just society” and left “a lasting imprint on journalism practice in Nigeria and internationally”.
“A quintessential columnist, his takes on Nigeria’s pressing and nagging issues were deeply thought-out and poignant, a reflection of his very matured political opinions as well as critical views of those in power at various times in the history of the country,” Obaseki said in a statement.
“He can be rightly described as a national treasure, who secured his place in history in the feisty early years of Nigeria’s nationhood. Working as a newspaper editor, he spared none of the Premiers of Nigeria’s three regions at the time in his satirical pieces – he would engage in gutsy debates with the Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello; spar with the Premier of Western Nigeria, Ladoke Akintola, on topical issues, and Dr. Michael Okpara of Eastern Nigeria was not left out,” he said.
The governor described him as a thorough-bred Edo man, who spoke truth to power and espoused noble virtues of diligence, hard work and intellectual rigour.
“Pa Enahoro will be remembered for his charm and candour as well as his commitment to a society with a free, just and vibrant press, where everyone is free to express their opinion without let,” he said.
But Peter Pan’s entry into journalism was not planned. He was barely 20 when Abiodun Aloba, then editor of Daily Times, hired him to join the paper, which was then owned by the Daily Mirror of London. Dr Dele Omojuyigbe, journalism teacher at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in Lagos, calls him “arguably the most influential newspaper columnist in Africa”. In an article ‘Peter Pan – His Daily Times odyssey’, Omojuyigbe tells a enthralling story of Peter Enahoro’s entry and progress in Daily Times.
“Activism took young Peter Enahoro to the Daily Times. He was an Assistant Information Officer in the Ministry of Information where his job detail included ensuring that any press conference organised by his Ministry was hitch-free. But in 1955, he acted contrary to his duty’s demand. Premier of Eastern Region, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, had returned from a trip abroad and addressed a press conference. A reporter had asked the Premier whether he considered revenue allocation a matter of need or derivation. Zik gave an answer, but it was unsatisfactory to Peter,” Omojuyigbe writes.
“Peter stepped out, forgetting that he was to ensure a hitch-free conference as information officer himself. He moved towards Zik and told him in strong words that the question posted to him was a knotty national issue which he should answer with seriousness. Zik was enraged and it was glaring to everyone present, including Peter’s employers. But Peter was undaunted. After the conference, Peter rushed back to his office and wrote his resignation letter before he could be booted out by his embarrassed employers. But Abiodun Aloba who was there at the conference hall and was fascinated by Peter’s courage offered him a job immediately. ‘You should be a press man and not a press officer,’ Aloba told him.”
At Daily Times, according to Omojuyigbe, Enahoro wrote separately under three names – Peter Enahoro, Peter Pan, and George Sharp – with each representing an ideology. But it was Peter Pan, the flowery satirist, that dominated.
Enahoro would go on to become Nigerian Sunday Times editor in 1958, at 23; the youngest Daily Times editor, at 27, in 1962; Daily Times Group Editorial Adviser in 1965, and Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Times in 1966.
After the military takeover of government in 1966, Enahoro, fearing for his life, went on a self-imposed exile, spending his years in Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. He was away for 13 years, but his exile did not quench the fire in his pen. His career blossomed. He was Contributing Editor of Radio Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany, Africa Editor of National Zeitung in Basel, Switzerland, and Editorial Director of New African magazine in London. He also ran his own publication called Africa Now.
Born on January 21, 1935, into a famous political family in Uromi, present-day Edo State, Peter Enahoro attended the prestigious Government College, Ughelli, in today’s Delta State. Thereafter, he joined the government service as Assistant Publicity Officer in the Department of Information. It was while he was on duty that the event that took him to Daily Times happened. And he would go on to become a legend in a profession that he did not originally choose.
But it was not only in journalism that Enahoro left his mark. He authored a number of books, including the highly humorous and ironic How to be a Nigerian, as well as The Complete Nigerian, You gotta cry to laugh!, and Then Spoke the Thunder, his memoir, published in 2009. But it is How to be a Nigerian that many remember him for.
A review of How to be a Nigerian on www.africanbookscollective.com calls it “one of the funniest to come out of Africa”. Another review, found on https://booksellers.ng, describes it as “a hilarious guide book for Nigerians and foreigners on the conduct, demeanour, mien, carriage, actions, misdoings, misconduct and misbehaviours of the Nigerian adult”.
“Small, compact, and loaded with anecdotes and refreshing cartoons, How to be a Nigerian is easy to read, addressing the all time issue of the Nigerian essence, and erecting a mirror into which all of us can take a good look at ourselves and our country,” the review says.
Peter Enahoro may have exited this side of eternity, but his true essence can never be interred. As Fidelis Anosike, Publisher of Daily Times of Nigeria, rightly said, Enahoro’s interment would not be the end of the life and times of that great man of letters whose “engagements were a labour of love for the development of Nigeria” and to whose “bold and courageous skill with the pen to hold those in power accountable to the people” that the vibrant press in the country today owes much of its credit.