Chinua Achebe: The Exit Of A Legend

 [ Masterweb Reports: Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu reports ] – Maximilien Marie De Robespierre (1758-1794) once said that “death is the commencement of immortality.”  Chinua Achebe might have died but there his immortality begins, for having died he can die no more. He transcends to immortality and to eternal glory with the whole earth as his tomb, for as Pericles (495-429 BCE) declared, “heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.” Chinua Achebe is a hero and legend  for many reasons, not only did he pen the classic book “things fall apart” that  brought African literature to a worldwide audience, he stood on the side of the oppressed  and fought ceaselessly against  bad leadership, social injustice, racism and other  social ills. His famous  rebuttal to  Joseph Conrad’s racist  book  “heart of darkness”  which caricatured  Africans as a savage and subhuman people  stands  out  to date  as a  stinging  rebuke to the  racist and condescending  attitudes of the West towards Africans. 

 

From a generation of honest, hardworking and principled folk with a work ethic  that  produced the likes of Francis Nwokedi;   the most senior civil servant and first indigenous  permanent secretary, professor  Kenneth Onwuka  Dike;  the first indigenous vice chancellor of the university of Ibadan, Professor  Eni  Njoku;  the first vice chancellor of the university of Lagos,  Sir Louis Odumegwu  Ojukwu;  a British Knight and the first president of the Nigerian stock exchange,  Jaja  Nwachukwu;  the first speaker of the house of representatives,  General  Aguiyi  Ironsi;  the first indigenous  commander of the Nigerian army amongst other firsts both  in the public, political and private spheres of endeavour.  Chinua Achebe thus comes  from  a  generation of distinguished trail blazers in all spheres of endeavour and  left  his own print on the sands of time through his literary genius. All through his life,  he remained to the very end,  a man of unbelievable and  angelic  integrity,  who  lived through  Nigeria’s  consuming  jungle of corruption  without compromising  his integrity.  He was a man wedded to the greater calling of selfless service to humanity.

 

Yet, of all the attributes of Chinua Achebe, what has escaped most people is his gift of direct and indirect prophecy much of which has proven true over time.  Though,  the book “Things fall apart” was centred  around  the destructive effects of  colonialism  on traditional  Igbo  communities, it has  ominously proven overtime to be the predicament of the larger Nigeria. Things indeed fell apart for Nigeria from the earliest days of colonialism and post colonialism resulting in the ever increasing social chaos and existential crisis the nation faces.  “A man of the people” was published shortly before  the  January 1966 coup and predicted  that  the prevailing corruption and misrule would engender coups and counter coups in Nigeria,  since then Nigeria has moved  from coups  to counter coups.  “No longer at ease” captured the essence of Nigeria’s stifling corruption and failings in the title;  for  Nigeria has never been at ease. “The trouble with Nigeria” published in the 80’s made clear that   Nigeria’s  problems  stemmed  mainly from bad leadership.  Has that not been the case? Has Nigeria not been ruled by an unbroken chain of bigots, thieves, war criminals, mass murderers, incompetent  scoundrels  and other unpatriotic vermin who have destroyed the country? 

 

“Anthills of the savannah,” tells the story of a malevolent military dictatorship determined to cling to power by hook or crook;  has that not been  the  trajectory  of Nigeria?  Perhaps, of  all Achebe’s books  “There was a  country,” his  last book and parting shot, controversial  for the hard truth’s it delivered,  might yet prove  to be the most  ominous  and prophetic of his books. The book chronicles  the existence and  passing of  Biafra,  but given the social  injustice,  ethno-religious mass murders,  terrorism,  corruption  and general misrule in Nigeria,  adding  to Achebe’s penchant for direct and indirect prophesy,  “there was a country”  might yet end up being the story of Nigeria,  a country that once was but no longer is. There is no precedent in history of any nation with Nigeria’s contradictions, corruption, self  destruction  and  injustice that survived. Except Achebe’s advice which makes up a significant part of  the  book  is heeded, we will very soon be confronted with “ a country once called Nigeria that has since ceased to exist.”

 

Chinua Achebe, a  hero  and  prophet   transcends to immortality a legend. He came, he saw and he conquered,   leaving  his footprints not only in the sands of time but also etched in stone. His books, short stories, poems   and essays will continue to tell his story, the story of a man of integrity,  a visionary, a rare talent, a social crusader, a prophet and an eternal  “man of the people.”  May his soul  thrive in the heavenly abode of angels!  

 

Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu ( larry_peters@yahoo.ie ) reports.

 

 

 

 

 

*Photo Caption – Prof Chinua Achebe

 
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