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Chinua Achebe: The literary titan is gone

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IMAGE: Chinua Achebe »

The 18th century sage William Shakespeare in one of his plays wrote “some are born great; some have greatness thrust upon them while others achieve greatness by dint of hard work”. This aptly encapsulates the terrestrial sojourn of the godfather and pioneer of modern African Literature. Chinualumogu Achebe, a novelist, a poet, essayist, professor, and critic of repute had a humble beginning like hordes of other great people the world over.

In the literary journey that spanned fifty five years, this man of letters bestrode the world literature like a colossus and as a mortal, he took his finally exit with a bow, albeit not without leaving behind for his admirers and protégés, strings of honours, didactic lessons and superfluous feats which must remain indelible in the sands of time.

Born on 16th November, 1930 in Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state. As the aphorism goes, “the child is the father to the man”-he had high ambitions, and this propelled him to aspire high. He sojourned to the premier University College, Ibadan as it was then known and commenced his academic career in medical sciences on scholarship. As fate would have it, he later changed to the Department OF English Language and History in order to fulfill his destiny.

Upon graduation in 1952, Achebe had decided to be a writer with undying interest in telling the story of Africans and the colonial encounter from an African point of view. One of his numerous motivations was Cary’s Nigeria-set novel Mister Johnson, which, though much praised by English critics, seemed to him “a most superficial picture of Nigeria and the Nigerian character”. In response to this, he rose to the challenge and chronicled the brief history of his home country, although, he captured the Igbo culture which is a microcosm of the entire Nigerian culture, traditions and customs in his first novel and magnum opus-“Things Fall Apart” (1958), and this simply opened the floodgates to numerous books.

Albert, a literary giant and one of the African Continent’s towering men of letters, did not disappoint his admirers and protégés at all. He was not only a giant in the literary circle as a writer, but he was also a detribalized and patriotic Nigerian with a litany of giant records to his credit. As a politician in the early eighties, he was not a failure as he meticulously paid his dues. Achebe was elected a deputy National president of the Peoples Redemption party and this opened his eyes to the intricacies and deceit inherent in the turbulent and murky water(s) of Nigerian politics, thus the publication of the political pamphlet, The Trouble with Nigeria, in 1983. Little wonder he waded into the political situation in his home state, Anambra, when he observed an anomaly in the activities of the political class.

He rightly captured the situation thus: a small critique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom”.

Indeed, this made him reject the Federal Government awards after all, his home was already replete with awards and chains of honorary doctorates but among the tributes he placed much premium on was heaped on him by Nelson Mandela (The Mandiba)- “there was a writer named Chinua Achebe “Mandela wrote “In whose company the prison walls fell down”. Yes; he may not have won-the much talked Nobel laureate prize in literature owing to his vociferous nature as espoused in some quarters by keen observers, especially in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness but he won good prizes such as the second ever man Booker International prize.

The African Daniel Jones, like every other mortal bowed to the Ugly hands of death in March 2013, leaving behind his beloved wife prof. Christie, their daughters, Chinelo and Nwando, and their sons, Ikechukwu and Chidi to mourn his passing. The entire world has been thrown into mourning; the Nigerian students have been reduced to tears of sorrow for their mentor, the Ogidis and Anambrans are crying, the Igbos are wailing, the entire Nigerians are screaming while the Africans are merely weeping in their respective countries asking this tearful question: Is this true? Achebe is gone! The Eagle on Iroko; the African Daniel Jones, the literary guru and genius with an unparalleled erudition. Jee nke oma!

Adieu the godfather of African Literature!

Adieu the literary Iroko tree of Igbo land!!

Adieu the legend!!!

Article Credit: Daily Independent Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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