Hundreds receive Achebe as family limits government involvement in burial

Chinua Achebe
Chinua Achebe

Mr. Achebe’s body arrived at Abuja without much of the pageantry earlier envisaged.

Hundreds of people were at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, to receive the body of late literary giant, Chinua Achebe; even as major burial plans scheduled to involve top Nigerian government officials were shelved.

The late Professors body which arrived in the early hours of Tuesday aboard a British Airways flight was received by the Governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Anyim Pius Anyim; and the Minister of State for Abuja, Olajumoke Akinjide.

The programme of activities for the burial had suggested that Mr. Achebe’s body “will be received upon arrival by a delegation of Nigerian Leaders. Diplomatic and [that] Cultural representatives from African Nations shall be in attendance to pay their respects. Cultural troupes from different parts of the African continent shall perform at the airport reception”.

But at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, most government officials were not in attendance. The only cultural troupe that performed at the reception was from Mr. Achebe’s kinsmen, the Ogidi Union Nigeria, Abuja chapter.

The only notable programme that took place at the Airport was the prayers offered; while Mr. Anyim spoke briefly eulogising Mr. Achebe and what he stood for.

Thereafter, one of the sons of the late Professor, Ike Achebe, thanked all who attended the event and expressed the family’s gratitude for “the warm welcome and reception” since arriving the country earlier in the morning.

No reception at the National Assembly

The programme had also stated that after the Airport reception, Mr. Achebe’s body will be conveyed to the National Assembly, Abuja for another reception. However, shortly after the performance by the Ogidi traditional group and a light refreshment for guests, no effort was made to convey the body to the Senate as scheduled. Instead, Anambra Governor, Peter Obi, was seen frantically trying to make arrangements for a flight to transport the body to Enugu.

The governor succeeded in getting the services of an Overland Airline and the body was flown to Enugu with no explanation from any quarters as to why the National Assembly reception was shelved.

However, sources close to the family informed PREMIUM TIMES that the family felt embarrassed by a PREMIUM TIMES report which showed displeasure by some family members and friends at a seeming government hijack of Mr. Achebe’s burial allegedly for pecuniary gains.

Mr. Achebe was a major critic of government ineptitude and failure at providing basic necessities of life. He also condemned the corruption in Nigerian governance. Friends and family had questioned why his family would allow the same government Achebe roundly criticised to take charge of his burial.

A family source said the family was so embarrassed that it decided to limit to the barest minimum, the federal government’s involvement in the burial.

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