Late Prof. Chinua Achebe
Charles Ajunwa who attended ‘A Day of Tributes’ organised by Aka Ikenga in Lagos to honour the late Professor Chinua Achebe, reports that dignitaries at the event paid glowing tributes to the late literary Icon
“Today, we are gathered for the man born Chinualumogu Achebe and christened Albert, who through dint of hard work and providence became a professor. He did not sit down to watch his benevolent “Chi” (God) to crack his palm kernel for him. He started breaking them and his benevolent Chi blessed his efforts.”
With those words, the President of Aka Ikenga, the think-tank of the Igbos, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, commenced the day of tributes held last Tuesday in honour of the late Achebe whose remains will be interred in Ogidi, his home town today.
Achebe died on March 21, 2013, in Boston Massachusetts, United States of America after his 23-year sojourn in the God’s own country.
Uwazurike, who dressed in traditional Igbo regalia while welcoming dignitaries at the conference hall of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, the venue of the event themed: ‘Chinua Achebe- There Was a Man’, said, “Chinua Achebe was a chicken spotted on the day he was hatched to be a high achieving man.”
“Today, we honour the man who has climbed the Iroko tree and had seen not just one eagle but two eagles perched thereon. He beheld sights fit only for the gods. He watched his hands quite early and so dined with the elders.
“He had learnt the Whiteman’s language with the Igbo syntax. He smiled with satisfaction as the youthful politician who fought for independence. That was why he wrote “Things Fall Apart” and “Arrow of God” with the pride of an African. He wrote “The Man of the People” with foreboding of an impending disaster! The “Girls At War and Other Stories” was a lamentation of the moral depravity of the Biafran war. “The Trouble with Nigeria” was an alarm at the state of affairs of this country. “Anthills on the Savannah” showed the manipulative tendencies of the military. Finally, Achebe cried out in much misunderstood biography “There was a Country” that we must retrace our steps from this journey towards destruction,” he said with the pride of someone who knew the late Achebe.
After Uwazurike’s opening remark, other eminent personalities that graced the occasion mounted the podium one after the other to pour encomiums on Achebe whom they said held firm to his belief till his demise.
Those who defied the rains to attend the day of tributes included: Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi who was represented by the chairman of the Planning Committee for Achebe’s burial, Professor Uzodimma Nwala, former military administrator of Lagos State, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Israel and United States, Professor George Obiozor, President General Ndigbo Lagos, Professor Anya O.Anya and Professor Pat Utomi.
Others are Chief Arthur Mbanefor, Hon. Chudi Uwazurike, Chief Obi Achebe, Mr. Uzor Maximum Uzor-Atu, President of Old Boys Government College Umuahia, Chief C.C. Nweke and many others who sent printed messages.
Obi, who said everything is being done to ensure that Achebe who hailed from Ogidi Town in Anambra State was given a befitting burial today said the governors from the South-east and South-south are working together to ensure that Achebe’s burial was successful at the end of the day.
On his part, Professor Anya said that Achebe was his next door neighbour when he lived in Lagos, and described him as a man of impeccable humility. The day of tributes according to Anya “should be a day of reflection for us to see what lessons we can take out from Achebe’s life” adding “the life that Achebe led should challenge us. The future of Nigeria will be defined by Igbos. What he proclaimed was for us to think home, let’s go back and develop Igboland.”
Also, Professor Obiozor described Achebe as a great and core Igbo man. He said: “He never denied who he was. Greatness followed him from birth until his death and he always spoke his mind not minding whose ox was gored.”
On his part, Kanu said those who criticised Achebe’s book: ‘There Was A Country’ never read it from the beginning to the end. He said that Achebe led a life worth of emulation noting that he achieved greatness while alive.
Chief Mbanefo did not mince words when he mounted the podium and said the present situation in the country would have been different if Nigerians had put into practice what Achebe wrote in his numerous books. He insisted that the issues Achebe discussed in his books were not myths.
“Achebe played honest politics and he always stood his ground. He wasn’t the type that gave in because he believed in himself. He thought about where he came from and as people were begging for national honours he refused the highest honour in the country because those giving it had soiled their hands,” he said.
For Professor Utomi, Achebe even in death would continue to go on errands for Ndigbo until the anomalies in the Nigerian system are corrected. And professor Nwala who was happy at the turn out of guests said that Achebe was one of those that inspired him during his days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He promised that a befitting burial will be given to his mentor whom he said nurtured him “physically and spiritually.
Chief Nweke, who attended the same secondary school with Achebe in Umuahia, said that Achebe had predicted that he would be a great person. He said Achebe throughout his secondary school education came first in class noting that he was one of the brightest minds they had during their days.
Mr. Kole Omotoso, in a written tribute described Achebe as a builder of institutions and founder of organisations. He wrote: “Ours was not an easy relationship, but it was based on great respect from my side and sideways flange of possibilities as far as he thought of me at all,” adding “posterity will decide if he achieved his literary ambitions. But he provoked enough people inside as well as outside of Africa to respond to him. His essays, initially written to back his literary ambitions, move further away from literature to ethnic politics.
“One of his most dramatic actions was his refusal to take a national honour from two administrations in Nigeria. This is an action I fully supported, given his own disapproval of the performance of those governments. His other political action, joining Aminu Kano’s political party, was ill-advised, given the role of that potentate in the riots in Northern Nigeria in May 1967.
“Achebe will be remembered as a pioneer and a tireless founder of institutions for the emergence and continuance of African literature specifically and African political and social affairs generally,” he said.
Obi Achebe, who represented the Achebe family at the event, thanked Aka Ikenga and those who participated in the day of tributes for the honour done to his late uncle.
In a laden voice, he asked the audience to continue to pray for Achebe’s wife, Christy and four children- Chinedu, Ikechukwu, Chidi and Nwandu whom he said were intimately attached to Achebe.
The audience was entertained by different cultural dance groups who received standing ovation from the crowd because of their electrifying dancing steps.