Nigerian writers pay tribute to Achebe

Prof. Chinua Achebe

Encomiums pour in for Chinua Achebe, Nigeria’s literary icon.

A little over five months after the book that stirred sleeping dogs – There was a country: A Personal History of Biafra- was published, Chinua Achebe, the author and author of many other books that spoke clearly of Africa’s history, has passed away.

Mr. Achebe had been ill and was in a hospital at Boston, Massachusetts. So when news filtered in on March 13, that he had died, panic struck most Nigerians. The news was debunked and most people rested their fears of Mr. Achebe’s exit from the world. Hence, it was a great shocker to wake up to the news, Friday Morning, that Mr. Achebe had died.

Mr. Achebe’s works had been drawn into most schools curricula; and when the problems crippling Nigeria are being narrated, his essay, The Trouble with Nigeria, is a reference point. Most Nigerians and indeed several Africans had been introduced to him regardless of the generation.

The author of ‘Things Fall Apart ‘which has been translated to over 50 languages, had recently generated furore with his latest book, There was a country, when he accused Nigeria’s former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, and Obafemi Awolowo, of leading the Anti-Igbo pogrom.

Mr. Awolowo’s aficionado had been very upset and reacted as such. But in his death, encomiums have continued to pour in acknowledging his greatness and almost omniscience.

Nigerian writers agree that he was a pioneer.

For Kole Omotosho, a novelist and literary theorist, Mr. Achebe will be remembered for being a pioneer and a founder of many institutions.

He will be remembered, Mr. Omotosho said, “for the emergence and continuance of African literature specifically and African political and social affairs generally.

Mr. Omotosho admits that his relationship with Mr. Achebe was not the easiest of relationships; yet he said it was one with filled with respect from his (Mr. Omotosho’s) side.

“Chinua Achebe was clever enough to set his goals as a writer with precision. He wanted to show Africans where the rain started to beat them, because without that knowledge they would not know where to begin cleaning themselves. As for those outside of Africa, he wanted to let them know that Africa did not hear of Culture for the first time with the arrival of white people on the continent,” Mr. Omotosho said of Mr. Achebe in his tribute.

Nigerian writer and a former President of the Association Nigerian Authors, Abubakar Gimba, described Mr. Achebe as a trail blazer.

Mr. Gimba said Mr. Achebe’s death is truly sad.

“We truly lost someone, a trail blazer. His writing was accessible to everyone. He was a great communicator and still very humble. He never wrote for credit and always wrote for his people and his culture. He will be remembered for the way he comported himself and will remain an inspiration to people,” he said.

Mr. Gimba said even in death, Mr. Achebe will remain an inspiration to people. He said his demise marks a new era of African writing as upcoming writers will strive to attain his height or supersede him.

In his tribute, Jerry Agada, the immediate past president of the Association of Nigeria Authors, said he received the news of Mr. Achebe’s death with heavy heart.

“The death only marks the end of his physical existence but I am delighted that he has lived a fulfilled life in the sense that his creative works will outlive him forever . He set the literary scene aglow by establishing the association of Nigeria Authors and serving as its 1st National President of ANA. His death to me as the past president of ANA means a personal loss of one who unarguably is the father of Nigerian writing,” he said.

Mr. Agada prayed for the repose of Achebe’s soul.

Adaobi Nwaubani, the author of award winning novel, I do not come to you by chance, described Mr. Achebe as the most prominent African author of her childhood literary experience.

“My father quoted the Igbo proverbs contained in his novels almost as frequently as he quoted Shakespeare. This probably played a major part in my enduring fascination with Igbo proverbs, which I made sure to include generously in my debut novel. Thankfully, Achebe’s books will always be around for me to share with my own children,” she said.

Mr. Achebe’s death stirred emotions not only in Nigeria, his home country. In the America, where he lived before he died, his colleagues have described him in immense terms.

Brown University, Mr. Achebe’s last employers, described him as one of the most valuable faculty member in history.

They said he was a gift to the world and described his passing as an event of global significance.

Mr. Achebe will be remembered for his passionate responses, in his books and his papers, for responding to racism and colonialism. His essay, a critical response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, is still being studied as part of post-colonial critical movement.


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