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Posts tagged ‘Things Fall Apart’

Slouching Into 2014, The Eve Of Nigeria’s Destruction! By Ogaga Ifowodo.



Ogaga Ifowodo

From the same poem that gave Chinua Achebe the title of the work that immortalised him, Things Fall Apart, comes this more foreboding sentence: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” The end of a year is traditionally a period of reflection and projection.  We look back in hindsight at the errors and failings of the dying year and promise to do better; to banish all missteps from the coming year. Like the proverbial Owl of Athena/Minerva of Greek mythology, we are supremely wise only in retrospect—by the pitiless backward glance.  As I participate in this ritual—after all, the capacity for retrospection and to learn from experience, is probably what best distinguishes humans from animals—my mind, unbidden, fixates on W.B. Yeats’s great poem, “The Second Coming.”

The first section of the poem, laden as it is with troubling images of a world unable to contain anymore the chaos and catastrophe laid unblinkingly bare by the hitherto unprecedented barbarism and carnage of World War I, also gives us those powerful statements borne of the most acute observation: “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” I don’t know, but maybe the sanctimonious carrying-on of former military dictator and (s)elected president General Olusegun Obasanjo, and the rather tepid response by President Goodluck Jonathan (why did he trouble himself?) has something to do with my mind’s unilateral musing on this poem. I make no judgement as to who might even qualify for “the best” among the tiresome writers of epistles supposedly driven to passionate intensity by nothing but patriotism and probity.

But perhaps it is the image of a blood-dimmed tide that unconsciously led me to brooding on this poem, and after a while, inevitably on Christopher Okigbo’s equally memorable verses of despair, “Come Thunder”— in his case, a prediction of the Nigerian Civil War that would claim his life at the tender age of 35—but more on this presently. Still mourning the murder of my friend and mentor, Professor Festus Iyayi—and now that we have photo evidence that he was shot straight through the heart at close range, showing that the automobile accident was merely a cover for a high-tech assassination, we must insist on a judicial inquest and charges of murder and conspiracy to murder soon after by the Kogi State Attorney-General—I dwelled on that image of a beast, half man and half lion, slouching towards Bethlehem (Nigeria? since we surely have surpassed Bethlehem in holiness?) to be born.

Only Yeats, who dabbled in the occult, consulted Ouija boards, and had devised a personal spiritual vision of the world symbolised by two intervolving spirals or gyres whose outward and inward spinning represented the unending tension between order and anarchy, might have explained with any clarity what his poem is really about. Yet the tension produced by its lapidary diction and the puzzling obscurantism of its private spiritualism makes the poem plainly unforgettable. Proof is that it is one of the most anthologised poems of all times in the English language. And the more I recalled each image, the closer to Nigeria’s “blood-dimmed tide” I found it to be; not less that phrase “somewhere in sands of the desert,” an image sustained by later mention of “indignant desert birds.” Could it be because the unending bloodbath in the north-east of Nigeria creates bright red trails to the Sahara, where beasts of human head and human body roam menacingly?

Okigbo, who may be indebted to Yeats, given what I now see as the structural similarity of “Come Thunder” to “A Second Coming”—both poems start with gripping images of the chaotic present and move on to prophecy, all in very clear diction, ending with lines that defy easy explication (in Okigbo’s case, “A nebula immense and immeasurable, a night of deep waters” and “the secret thing in its heaving / Threatens with iron mask / The last lighted torch of the century,” for instance), not to mention the private spiritualism of both poets (Okigbo’s less intricate or pronounced)—spoke of “The smell of blood already float[ing] in the lavender-mist of the afternoon” and of “The death sentence [lying] in ambush along the corridors of power.” Somewhere in those corridors, I insist, someone pronounced a death sentence for the assassination of Iyayi, and the direct involvement of a driver in the convoy of the Kogi State governor leaves a lot, an awful lot, to be explained!

Well, it is 2014, the eve of the year Nigeria falls apart, according to America’s intelligence experts and war gamers. Clearly, the falcon (our so-called leaders) can no longer hear the falconer (the people). I do not believe that doomsday prophecy, the US government’s disclaimers notwithstanding. It seems to me that Nigeria has perfected the art of recoiling from absolute self-annihilation when it stares down into the abyss from its precarious perch on the edge of the cliff. And with President Jonathan’s national conference/dialogue, as deliberately ambiguous as it is, we have the rope, the lifeline, to pull us away from the fatal plunge. I will, therefore, raise a toast to 2014!


No, Mr President, Legislators—Sovereignty Belongs to the People! By Ogaga Ifowodo.



Ogaga Ifowodo

And just like that, President Jonathan took the wind out of his own sails! With his Independence Day announcement, and subsequent empanelling, of a National Conference Advisory Committee, his floundering presidential ship of state seemed set to sail out of troubled waters. I was, and remain, cautiously optimistic about his decision to convene a national conference. Frankly, at this calamitous point of our life as a nation, I would be delighted by any chance of airing out grievances, real or imaginary, sitting face to face with the “enemy other,” before we all go mad. Thus, I offered a tentative endorsement of the national conference in my last column, “Salvaging Nigeria: Only a Sovereign National Conference Will Suffice!” (9 October 2013).

For me, the qualifying word “sovereign” is the litmus test of Jonathan’s sincerity, foretells whether or not his national conference will be a transforming event or just another bloody waste of time. Precisely in the same way that his combative refusal to publicly declare his assets has been a test of his so-called “zero tolerance” war against corruption. Now that he has said he would forward the proceedings of the conference to the National Assembly for ratification, I feel even more confirmed in this view. More than mode of representation (ethnic or across the varied strata of civil society) or agenda, the question of sovereignty strikes me as the most important. Lest it be forgotten, especially by the self-serving individuals (with very few exceptions) known as our national legislators, a sovereign conference means no more than that its proceedings be ratified only by referendum.

This would be a straightforward enough proposition in any sane polity, except in ours of the most expensively paid parliamentarians. With a straight face, our legislators insist that sovereignty resides not in the people but in them, the mere agents sent on an errand of executing the people’s will. Their arguments in defence of this outrageous claim are so patently disingenuous a secondary school student would beg to debate them on television. Since our return to civilian rule (not to be confused with democracy), I have had cause to dismiss the majority of our “honourable” legislators as illiterates. By which I mean not the inability to read or write but lack of the requisite cultivation of mind to fit the citizen for service to his society and humanity at large. But after the arguments advanced by a gaggle of senators and representatives in support of their contempt for the people, I am beginning to think that perhaps they are functionally illiterate. For what do they not understand in the clear provision of Section 14(2)(a) of the Constitution: “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government . . . derives all its powers and authority”? Perhaps, that government includes the legislature? In what world does the agent ratify the principal’s act?

Well, then, suppose the nine villages of a clan — let’s call it Umuofia — resolve, after protracted deliberations on the root causes of incessant conflicts among them, to set up a Council of Elders with a representative from each village. And this council’s duty is to make subsidiary resolutions towards the implementation of their decision on ways of settling their differences and ensuring lasting peace. Suppose that four years after, relations among the villages have not only failed to improve but have degenerated. And that, consequently, they decide to rewrite the original resolution. For which purpose, they constitute another body to draw up better principles of co-existence for the clan. Would President Jonathan and our legislators insist that the new body’s recommendations are to be ratified by the Council of Elders and not by each of the nine villages?

I should hope not. The best one can say for the National Assembly is that it is the “custodian” of the sovereign will of the people. But a custodian is only a caretaker. His powers are subject to, and determined by, the over-riding powers and rights of “the owner” or “beneficiary.” If Jonathan and our federal legislators do not understand this principle, then they confirm the fears of those who suspect a hidden agenda in the sudden conversion of hitherto sworn enemies of a (sovereign) national conference. After all, in what democracy do public servants hold their masters, the people, in such utter contempt? Oh, I know: one in which politicians have perfected the art of rigging elections and so do not need the electorate.

Still, I remain cautiously optimistic about the conference for the simple reason that it is better to “jaw” than to “war,” particularly at this ominous juncture of our national life. But I have no confidence in Jonathan or the National Assembly. All my hope is in the people. And to some extent, on the Okurounmu Committee whose members, I pray, will choose to be patriots by taking the side of the people. If the goal is to salvage Nigeria and set her on the path to self-actualisation in a free, fair and genuine federation, then only a sovereign national conference will do. Which means that its final resolutions may only be ratified by referendum and adopted into law wholesale by the National Assembly. That is the only way the resultant Constitution can claim to have been made by “We the people.” Anything else would be a travesty.


Unity In The Human Psyche By Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua.

By Cornelius Omonokhua

What can bring about unity in our human psyche to make us see ourselves as one? I would like to examine the mind of our political ancestors when they were fighting for the independence of Nigeria.

It will be good to know how they perceived the way and manner the colonial masters were governing the amalgamated ethnic regions. Were our political ancestors really matured and prepared to take over governance from the British? What was their vision of an independent Nigeria? What were their expectations? What was the relationship between Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and the other nationalists from the different regions? Was their idea of a united Nigeria realistic or idealistic? Did they have a critical study of how the ethnic groups had administered their regions traditionally as empires, kingdoms and emirates before the amalgamation of 1914?

Perhaps they needed an anthropologist with some knowledge of the ethnology of the various tribes in Nigeria to assist them. It is possible that when the Nationalists struggled for an independent Nigeria in the colonial era, the hope and dream could have been a total liberation from the “Colonial masters” to take full control of the new mega empire as a nation.  The assumption could have been that with all the amalgamated tribes there would be no more colour, racial and ethnic discrimination which they perhaps experienced when they were studying in the “Western world”. Why did the political ancestors not deem it necessary to lay a new foundation for a system of government that could be acceptable to every ethnic group in Nigeria? Of course it would have been difficult or impossible to educate and enlighten the new Nigerians about the colonial system of government without a war. This could only occur after the fact of Independence. Why was there no need to adopt and accept a national language like some independent countries in Africa? This is still an important point to consider in building the human psyche. Chinua Achebe’s effort in “Things Fall Apart” to attempt an answer to these questions came at a time when the nation had lost the centre of gravity.

Among the reasons given for the clamour of a national sovereign conference was that the indigenous Nigerians were not part of the decision to bring all the tribes and ethnics groups together as one nation. Another reason has been that Nigerians should have a sovereign conference to decide if we can truly and sincerely live together since the unity that came after the civil way does not look realistic.

The clamour for a conference or national dialogue has received attention from the Federal Government of Nigeria. A committee to draw the road map was announced on October 1, 2013. The various reactions and comments from many people and groups are almost turning the whole debate into a “national dialogue fever”. Among these agitations and expectations is the disintegration of Nigeria. This brings me to the question of whether we can identify any united region in the whole country that could be perfect and free from terrorism, kidnapping and armed robbery should that region be made an independent country.

The concept of a regional unity looks like a mere unity in the psyche. It is not realistic given that some people who often claim to be patriots to their people only send out the poor to die while they and their families are well protected somewhere outside the “battle field,” in the guise of liberating the people. Many independent nations in Africa are still struggling to be liberated from their own people. Intra-regional and inter-regional conflicts are very obvious in many places. Intra-religious and inter-religious conflicts are daily staring at our faces. Brothers are killing brothers, and sisters are killing sisters, yet we are busy taking drugs for a perceived fever of disintegration of Nigeria as if that is our utmost concern and problem. The issue of settlers and indigenes is claiming the lives of many innocent people who speak the same language as we are presently experiencing in the North, East, West and South of Nigeria. Regional boundaries and land disputes are tearing apart those who have been living together for ages.  The colonial masters must have been excited with the hope echoed from the national anthem that “though tribes and tongues may differ, in unity we stand.” What really happened to this pledge?

Many people have opined that what we need today is a change of attitude. The big question is “which attitude?” What is our past experience in governance that formed this attitude?  Is it an attitude problem for a person to wake up and be killing human beings like insects and slaughtering them like rams and cows? Any national conference or dialogue should not forget to remember that so many people are living in the historic memory of hurts and wounded hearts. They are only waiting for an opportunity to explode in a commensurate vendetta. What we have today are chain reactions of what many people have inherited from birth, environment and brainwashing. Let us examine the foundation on which Nigeria was built. We have a constitution and laws, but on what foundation are they anchored? When Christ came to save the world he summarised the whole laws as based on two foundational laws: Love of God and love of neighbour and he made it clear that God is in charge and will judge justly without discriminating. The harmony of the world and all the peoples in it is validated on this foundation. Now, let us look at Nigeria’s fundamental principles and circumstance of her birth, and since Independence, her efforts and actions to forge a united whole.

Who is the real “parent” of Nigeria? The answer is Britain. The DNA of Britain in creating Nigeria was for its benefit and interest. How did we gain our Independence? By assuming to be, and maintain who we are not. The basic question here is; what is our foundation and where is it? What could our Nationalist Fathers do to gain Independence, given the fact that to be “educated” and qualified to negotiate with the colonial masters you have to be trained and certified by them. The territory was already determined and set by the colonial masters, and they alone knew what they put together and why. Many leaders have shed their blood and the blood of their brothers and sisters when they tried to believe that Nigeria must be kept one. Some of them change their lives from corruption to reform and tried to lead Nigeria through repentance and with the fruit from their best vision and ideas. They perished in what was labelled as CIVIL WAR, which now could be labelled as TERRORISM. The way forward is hard, but we must know where to start, and acknowledge the past efforts of our leaders who sacrificed their lives so that we can know how to protect our vision from further murder and death.

It is not easy to deal with people with their unique psyche, and it is impossible to deal with people without having the “owner’s manual,” which is God our foundation. He created one HUMAN RACE and gave us the law to harmonise us if we will listen to him (OBEDIENCE). Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5). This is the principle that will lead to peace and unity.  No one is an island. I pray that the unity we seek should go beyond the psychic and imagination to a united Nigeria that is safe for all irrespective of race, tribe and religion.

Fr. Prof. Cornelius Afebu Omonokhua is the Director of Mission and Dialogue of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja and Consultor for the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims (C.R.R.M), Vatican City, Rome.


Achebe’s Things Fall Apart A Mega Bestseller.


By SaharaReporters, New York

Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart “has sold between 15 million and 20 million copies worldwide in 60 languages,” according to the late author’s literary agent. The sales figures make Mr. Achebe’s modern classic one of the bestselling literary novels and the most widely read book by an African author.

Mr. Achebe, who was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor of Africana Studies and Literary Arts, died on March 21 this year at the age of 82.

His agent, the Wylie Agency, reported the record-selling performance as Things Fall Apart celebrates its 55th year of continuous publication.

Mr. Achebe was born on November 16, 1930 and attended the elite Government College Umuahia as well as University College, Ibadan – affiliated with the University of London – where his studies focused on literature, religion and history. Born to Isaiah Okafor Achebe and Janet Achebe, earlier converts to the Anglican Church, Mr. Achebe was a precocious and intellectually gifted child. His father became a catechist for the Church Missionary Society, traveling in different parts of the southeastern part of Nigeria to spread the Christian gospel. The late author and numerous scholars have written extensively about the way his artistic outlook and worldview was shaped by early exposure to Christian upbringing.

The early success of Things Fall Apart established Achebe’s great and unique powers as a writer and cultural advocate and also gave a global impetus to creative works by other authors from an African continent emerging from a debilitating phase of colonial subjugation. Mr. Achebe remained in the first rank of writers in the world, producing an impressive oeuvre that including five novels, several essay collections, poetry, children’s books, memoir, and political treatises. His other novels, Arrow of God, No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, and Anthills of the Savannah, also met with great commercial success and critical acclaim. While Mr. Achebe is most well known around the world for his first novel, Things Fall Apart, many scholars and critics regard his third novel, Arrow of God, as his most powerful work, with the late Emmanuel Obiechina, a highly regarded literary scholar, praising the novel for its “composite grandeur.”

Yet, it is Things Fall Apart, which portrays a traditional Igbo community at the moment of contact and tension with imperial British power, that continues to hold the fascination of readers drawn to its elegiac air and evocation of a world threatened by the entwined forces of Christianity and colonialism.

Achebe’s works have garnered numerous international prizes, awards for artistic excellence, and earned him more than forty honorary doctorates from universities in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States. A recipient of the Nigerian National Merit Award, his country’s highest accolade for intellectual accomplishment, Mr. Achebe was to later express his outrage at the desultory state of affairs in his country by refusing to accept two national honors given to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan. In the last ten years of his life, he won several prestigious awards and honors, including an award for lifetime achievement by the New York-based National Art Society, the Man Booker International Prize (2007) for his artistic output as well as the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2010) for using his art and cultural advocacy to make the world a more beautiful place.

Mr. Achebe’s last book, There Was A Country, was published in 2012. Part memoir and part reflection on the Biafran War (1967-1970), the book inspired Foreign Policy magazine to include the author on a list of the Top100 Global Thinkers of 2012. The publication said Mr. Achebe’s achievement lay in “forcing Africans to examine their demons.”

A global literary luminary, Mr. Achebe inspired other writers as well as political figures in Africa and beyond. The revered South African leader, Nelson Mandela, once described Achebe as a writer “in whose company the prison walls fell down.” The late author founded the Chinua Achebe Foundation chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The foundation seeks to promote peace through the arts; to showcase Africa’s complex cultural heritage to the world, and to recapture lost components of Africa’s fine art, literature and languages.

In Search Of Role Models By Ahmad Salkida.

Ahmad Salkida
By Ahmad Salkida

As my parents would say; when they were growing up and getting married in the 60s, they revered great leaders and wished that their children would grow up to emulate these leaders. They proudly recalled.

Nigeria‘s past heroes as if ‘they once walked on water’.

The Sardauna of Sokoto, Tafawa Balewa, the Nnamdi Azikiwe and their likes were wonderful role models. Our parents looked up to them, and
so do we today, because of their accomplishments. These leaders, it would appear, placed the needs of their subjects ahead of theirs and
made selfless sacrifices their ethos in public service.

Great thinkers like Aristotle believe that we learn to be ethical (virtuous) by modeling the behavior of moral people, and depending on
the role models we have, people can learn both good and bad habits.

Today, many Nigerians feel betrayed whenever our leaders stand on podiums to extol the excellent work of our heroes past. At the funeral of late Chinua Achebe, Nigeria’s literary icon, the follies of our leaders played out glaringly when President Goodluck Jonathan recounted reading ‘Things Fall Apart‘ in 1971. Many in the audience that evening felt the President did not learn any lessons from the

And so, for me and numerous other countrymen, the question rings profoundly: Who are the role models in Nigeria’s contemporary
political leadership? There’s hardly any voice that speaks hope. Both from the camps of those occupying the various Government Houses today
and the ones in opposition you routinely receive in different decibels the voices of deceit. There’s nothing in the open pointing towards
affordable housing, healthcare, quality education, electricity, and access to potable water.

Steadily, it has been more of those that uphold ethical precepts that are routinely losing out, and those with dubious characters are heavily
on the ascendancy. Merit and hard work are hardly any qualification for elevation in any field of endeavour instead nepotism and crass political patronage are the rule.

Journalism that ought to be the ground of cultivated values is up to the dogs, sadly.

This is the case in many spheres of our public life, where many that decided not to thread the path of corrupt and retrogressive leaders,
and chose to adhere to the highest ethical conduct are silenced and hounded into submission or passivity. I have asked myself who among
today’s rulers could inspire and not despair. Who could be a leader and not be a dealer? Who could be a real refreshing breath of fresh
air, not a grandstanding, dubious claimant? I can only think of one or maybe two, but I couldn’t think of a third person in a country with
over 160 million people.

Although, a role model can vary from one person to another, however, my focus, here is; are today’s leaders as selfless and committed to the
overall good of Nigeria like what we see in some of the names mentioned here? Why is the disconnect between today’s leaders and their followers so wide that they have to protect themselves with armoured vehicles and heavily armed guards? Can a leader serve without accumulating questionable wealth for himself and for his family?

Can we have a Madiba in Nigeria whose mission in governance was not the institutionalization of self, who served a single term and stepped
down without being heckled? Who left power willingly for the younger generation of South Africans at a time he could command a landslide
to win in any national election?

There was something about most of Nigeria and Africa’s founding
fathers that made them very special. They led by example, raised the
bar for us, and we wish to be like them but today, I doubt if I want my
children to be like any of the Governors or presidents that emerge
A look at one of my favorite pictures of our founding fathers, the picture of Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa with his two children taking sugarcane in his farm. He sat on the mat with very modest clothes during a vacation in 1963. Such modesty was glaring when these leaders were found to have near empty bank accounts when they were killed in 1966.

Can our local council chairmen today live a modest lifestyle? Today’s leaders at all levels of governance in Nigeria are in a race to have
the fattest foreign bank accounts, the most palatial mansions, who will be treated in the best hospitals around the world when they or
members of their families fall sick.

Today’s leaders or ‘bad’ role models have no compunction with the way they globe-trot with their private jets amidst the squalor and indignation of the people they claim to be working for. Apart from the general despair of any likelihood that things will ever change for the better in our lifetime, the generality of Nigerians have not witness practical   dividends of democracy other than the strange cute scorecards that are published regularly.Today, the absence of role models have made it practically difficult for our traditional rulers, religious leaders, elders, or political leaders to ask restive or irate youths to rest their fists and shun violence. Many youths will say; we have never seen your kids in the schools we attended, under trees, with no instructional manuals, no teachers, where we have to stay at home many times due to strikes. Many youths will say; how can they stop violence when, in fact, it was you, politicians that provided them with money to buy hard drugs, money for training, provided them with weapons and charms to kill or intimidate people, especially their opponents for them to win elections. Today’s political elites erected high parameter fences around their houses, built private boreholes while the community in which they live is bereft of any public amenity. These rulers siphon the resources meant to build hospitals, roads and schools to support the industrialization drive and real estates of many developed countries and invested heavily in their companies and banks, while our industries that can provide jobs to teeming youths are in ruins. Nigeria is indeed, in need of role models.

Salkida writes from the United Arab Emirate and can be reached at / @contactSalkida


President Obama, Others Celebrate Chinua Achebe.


Anambra masquerade at the memorial yesterday
By SaharaReporters, New York

President Barack Obama of the US last night lauded the late Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, as a “revolutionary author, educator, and cultural ambassador.”

Mr. Obama’s words of praise for Mr. Achebe, the author of the classic Things Fall Apart and four other widely read novels, were contained in a condolence message he sent to the organizers of an event held in Washington, DC on Sunday, June 2, 2013 to celebrate the life of the late author. The celebration was held at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium, 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC.

International writers, government officials, and fans gathered at the venue to remember Mr. Achebe who was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor of Africana Studies and Literary Arts at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. The event, which lasted from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., included readings, music, an arts exhibition, Igbo masquerades and a variety of cultural dances.

Mr. Obama’s personal condolence message at the event was read by representative of the American president. In his statement, Mr. Obama stated that the late professor and author “shattered the conventions of literature and shaped the collective identity of Nigerians throughout the world.” The US President added: “With a dream of taking on misperceptions of his homeland, [Professor Achebe] gave voice to perspectives that cultivated understanding and drew our world closer together. His legacy will endure in the hearts of all whose lives he touched with the everlasting power of his art.”

Other speakers at the event included Ruth Simmons, the immediate past President of Brown University, Johnnetta Cole, a former President of Spelman College and current director of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Sonia Sanchez, a leading American poet, Scott Moyers, whose Penguin Press published Mr. Achebe’s last book, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, and Micere Mugo, a Kenyan-born poet, cultural activist and professor of literature at Syracuse University. Professor Simon Gikandi of Princeton University as well as Jules Chametzky, a retired professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst also spoke about the late Achebe.

The Afrobeat band known as Eme and Heteru entertained at the event. One of the highlights of the evening was a dramatic recreation of a scene from Things Fall Apart by the Chuck Mike theatre group.

Among those who attended the celebration was Africa’s literary star, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of three novels, including the recently released Americanah. In a recent interview with SaharaTV, Ms. Adichie described Mr. Achebe as a literary icon, adding that the late author “gave me the permission to write.”

A Tribute To A Man Of The People- Professor Albert Chinualumogu Achebe By Ikenna Edson Obodozie.

By Ikenna Edson Obodozie

Life as a young boy growing up in Enugu, Eastern Nigeria was pretty enthralling- be it at home, school, after-school lessons (when I am less naughty), with young friends, neighbours, schoolmates, football, Boys’ Brigade, etc. As far back as then, one name kept ringing an incessant bell…that name was, and still is, Chinua Achebe. I knew not exactly the reason for the fame, but I was all too sure it was for something crucial. Quite unbelievably, I grew up to realize that the larger-than-life human was still alive, hale and hearty, at least as I grew very conscious of my environment. All the while, I had thought Professor Achebe was a colossus of ages past.

On my further growth and development, as well as with progress in my schooling, I gradually began observing the reasons why this giant of letters was such a household name. I got acquainted with the super novels Anthills of the Savannah, A Man of the People and, of course, Things Fall Apart. The national TV, NTA’s then adaptation of the classic- Things Fall Apart- was a classic of its own I still have some scenic memories of- thanks to Achebe, and the veteran master actor- Chief Pete Edochie. I vividly recall as a young boy in Elementary School, growing up watching Things Fall Apart on National TV, NTA. It was, to me, one of the most engaging programmes on TV- so arresting I’d shelve any other activity when it was on air. That was the extent to which Achebe’s typical work captivated me.

As I matured in age, my interest in this storyteller grew proportionately. I started reading more of his works- the novels, poems, critiques and commentaries. His writings are proof that Prof. Achebe, just like the simple mien he used to exude, was endowed with a simple, but highly inimitable manner of writing. He wrote with exclusive simplicity- in a manner that promotes the most important tenet of language (speaking and writing)- communication. He never did believe in ‘big’ words, writing to impress like some of his peers- but preaches and practises writing to express which in turn aids and advances the core essence of communication. His writings were always for a purpose and always on point. He never belonged to the league of those who talk/write just so their voices could be heard, or to score cheap, worthless points. He belonged to his own unique class and acted as such.

In a country with almost all forms and volumes of tribalism/ethnicism, nepotism, hate, envy, greed, corruption of unimaginable magnitudes, etc., Achebe’s noted critique- The Trouble With Nigeria- remains one of the most formidable, enduring materials for those who want to foster their understanding of the Nigerian situation, its complexities, oddities and the forces responsible for the toddler Nigeria has been since 1960 till 2013. It remains Nigeria’s most enduring critique containing certain pertinent solutions for those honest and willing enough to pursue change in a positive direction.

Achebe was a trailblazer in African Literature. In Mandela’s words, he was the author “in whose company the prison walls came down”. I have had cause at several moments in the past to meditate on that clause, and finalized that he (Mandela) literally meant he felt free, while in bondage, reading Achebe’s books. In Mandela’s words again, “Achebe brought Africa to the world”. He showcased Africa; he proved beyond reasonable doubt that a typical African can sit back, and put together words, phrases and clauses that make profound sense and meaning. Indeed, Achebe bravely rose when many stories were being written about Africans, but not by Africans, hence the master’s words that ”until the lion (ie. the hunted) begins to write its own stories (or at the least, have its own historian[s] to write for it), the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter”. What magic! Sheer class! Achebe had a knack for idioms and proverbs and that placed his works on an astronomical level.

I find it needless to flog the issue of “The Father of African Literature” title. It is quite a futile exercise. It is one that will involve loads of emotions, sentiments, envy, prejudices, pride and feelings from virtually all angles. All sorts of sentiments and sensations must come into play when most people, including some of his fellow colleagues are posed such questions. But suffice to say that Achebe was “Africa’s first”, the trailblazer and trendsetter- he opened the cast-iron gates, and in the process made fellow Africans believe in themselves, write like they never did, and ultimately emerge onto the world stage to live their dreams. I think this is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Professor Achebe, and surely by any African writer. In Jacob Zuma’s (South Africa’s sitting President) words: “Professor Chinua Achebe remains Africa’s greatest literary export”. In truth, there should be no reasonable doubt to that assertion.

Hailing Achebe as The Father of African Literature is very well deserved, and perhaps, called for. In Achebe’s case, I think such remarks are made more out of reason than emotion. In those who attribute it to “literary ignorance” and/or ”momentary exuberance”, I vehemently perceive strong tinges of envy in very veiled forms- forms that could pass as abstract, but which only very discerning eyes and minds can see and decipher. In truth, Achebe remains Africa’s greatest literary personality. He made me believe, to some reasonable degree, that a tree could actually make, and pass for, a forest.

For goodness sake, how else do you describe a man who wrote an enduring classic at about 26 years of age- now, that’s genius! He remains the only writer to be listed on Everyman’s Library while still alive. Furthermore, Achebe displayed tremendous management and leadership prowess in founding and establishing the African Writers’ Series (AWS), and much later, the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).

Achebe’s classic, his magnum opus- Things Fall Apart- is the most sold and the most read African book, and is regarded as a milestone in African literature. It is now seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, widely read in Nigeria, throughout Africa, studied widely in Europe and North America, where it has yielded innumerable secondary and tertiary analytical works; it has also achieved similar status and repute in India, Australia and Oceania. Time Magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. The novel has been translated into more than fifty languages, and is often used in literature, world history, and African studies courses across the world.

Most impressively, the novel sits comfortably amongst the top 30 most translated books in the history of man, alongside such eternal classics as The Bible and Qur’an. What more can be said of such a man?

Men of goodwill will miss you, Prof.- but thanks to The Most High, you still live through your works and words. Ga n’udo!


Ikenna Edson Obodozie writes from Dubai, The United Arab Emirates.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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