[@trends_ng] As the world mourns Chinua Achebe.

Fellow Nigerians, let me join you and countless
others across the universe in celebrating the life of
one of our few global Ambassadors, Professor
Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, who took a final bow
two days ago as the curtain was closed on his
spectacular performance on the world stage. It was
a total blackout as the lights dimmed for a man who
had sparkled under the klieg-lights for half a
century of his 82 years on earth.

The rumour of his death had earlier crept in last
week but that was soon dismissed as arrant joke.
But this time around, the news came back with a
renewed vigour and slammed at us like a ferocious
thunderstorm.
It was impossible for an Achebe to have gone
quietly. The era of social media had foreclosed that
possibility. Every family now has a stake in the new
media that makes everyone an automatic reporter.
Those days are gone when we had to wait for
media houses that had to wait for confirmation from
those not ready to confirm anything. These days
we capture the news as soon as the first tear drops
from the eyelids of the bereaved. Such is the
advancement of technology.

When I got the news of Achebe’s death yesterday,
I was in the process of writing a different letter to
some political office holders. I was thus faced with
a dilemma of whether to postpone Achebe’s tribute
to next week or do an instant justice to it. As a
journalist, I understood the importance of seizing
the moment, when the news is still oven-fresh and
current and everyone is definitely in the mood to
ask questions and get answers instantly. That
helped to sway my decision to write the piece you
are now reading.
As a Twitter devotee, I was able to test the waters
and got the confirmation that Achebe’s news was a
hot item on the front burner and I needed to serve it
nicely. My timeline was on fire as soon as I fired my
first shot: “An elephant has fallen. The Iroko has
collapsed. The Eagle has departed. Good night,
Professor Chinua Achebe.” I got countless
retweets for it and it kept flowing all day.
I soon fired a second tweet that tried to capture a
play on the wordings of Achebe’s popular titles:
“When the arrow of God is fired, things fall apart,
and a man of the people is no longer at ease.” My
followers responded with incredible frenzy. That
tweet was meant to bring back memories of the
novels that turned boys into men.

We did not stop there. I tweeted a more serious
one: “It is a sad day for the world of Literature as
one of its greatest icons, Prof Albert Chinualumogu
Achebe, joins his ancestors…” This reflected the
sobriety that engulfed the world as the news
spread across like bush fire in harmattan. I took the
news nearer home when I tweeted this: “A sad day
indeed for the irrepressible Ndigbo, as its
iconoclastic Ambassador, Prof Albert
Chinualumogu Achebe, departs this sinful world!”
The Twitter went wild with all manner of creative
tweets that serenaded our minds with what the
world has lost with the demise of Achebe. Most of
them were positive while a few people still found
the time and space to send and spread messages
of hate and bitterness. Some Nigerians were still
polarised along ethnic lines at a time we have the
opportunity to unite and celebrate an undoubtedly
great man who did us all very proud.

As for me and my house, Achebe was one of the
best things that ever happened to the Black race.
He was a superlative scholar of no mean
achievement. He was a quintessential teacher
whose simple diction was as easy as eating boiled
yam with palm-oil. He was a writer who used the
English language to describe a strange world the
Whiteman was never familiar with.
Achebe was an exceptional Poet who composed
his verses in the sonorous fashion of an African
Griot. He was anuncommon politician who had the
conscience to resist the allure and appurtenances
of power, and knew when to throw in the towel
rather than join the rat race. He was a philosopher-
king who applied logic to our illogical existence. He
was an iroko tree who stood solidly against
injustice and refused to be blown apart by evil
spirits.He was the irrepressible warrior who fired his
arrows at ungodly men and made sure they were
never at ease. He was the ultimate man of his
people, the Ndigbo, and defended their interests to
the very end.

I, like many of my contemporaries, was introduced
to Achebe in our early days. It was impossible in
those good old days not to have read all of
Achebe’s works. Literature had always been one of
my favourite subjects at St. John’s Grammar
School, Oke-Atan in Ile-Ife, where a Singaporean
woman, Mrs H Sutton took on us on a tour de force
of the literary world. We read voraciously as if
literature was going out of vogue. The beauty of
Achebe was in his simplicity which was also a
reflection of his personal gentle mien.
I must have read his classic, Things Fall Apart, half
a dozen times. I was permanently fascinated by the
manner he depicted the ancient tales of his people
like the master story-teller that he was. This novel
remains, probably, the most translated English
novel of all times. I was shocked yesterday when
my 15-year old son, who was brought back from
England to school in Nigeria, rated Things Fall
Apart as his most exciting literary work ever,
followed by Wole Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother
Jero. Such was the impact of Achebe’s writing
prowess on even the ajebota (butter-eating)
generation.

Achebe’s characters remain so vivid in real life, the
most famous being Okonkwo, who was embroiled
in the battle between tradition and the new
civilisation that threatened how people used to live
their lives. Obi, the grandson of Okonkwo, is the
tragic hero in No Longer at Ease, written in 1960,
about the time bribery and corruption sneaked into
Nigeria and has remained with us ever since.
Ezeulu, a Chief Priest of Ulu village, is the central
figure in Achebe’s third novel, Arrow of God,
published in 1964. The story is steeped in theclash
between Igbo traditional religion and the new
European Christianity that was introduced by the
colonial masters. Achebe’s amazing satire, A Man
of the People, published in 1966, has its main
character in Odili Samalu from a village called
Anata. The powerful story was a foretaste of the
impending doom and the conflagration that
accompanied the coup of Chukwuma Kaduna
Nzeogwu. The politicians were so stupidly careless
that only they did not have a premonition of the
danger ahead.

Achebe was such a clairvoyant prophet who saw
way ahead of most Nigerian leaders. He gave
sufficient warnings but no one heeded his loud
admonitions because they were dogs completely
deaf to the hunter’s whistle. He continued to ruffle
some feathers and never got tired of stirring the
hornet’s nests. His most recent, and last, gift to the
world was the controversial memoir, There Was a
Country: A Personal History of Biafra. This book
generated so much furore till the end. It was as if
Achebe had deliberately left this stupendously
daring work to be his parting shot to a country that
must have caused him undying trauma most of his
adult life.

Achebe would not only be remembered in terms of
personal achievement. He influenced so many
generations of writers at home and abroad. It was
Achebe who made African literature, especially the
novel genre, very attractive and addictive to
members of my generation. He cleared the narrow
path for others who came after him. Through the
influence of Achebe, we all began to devour the
beautiful works of Cyprian Ekwensi, Wole Soyinka,
Elechi Amadi, John Munonye, Gabriel Okara, John
Pepper Clarke, Christopher Okigbo, Kole Omotoso,
Chukwuemeka Ike and others. We soon migrated
to other African writers who were published under
the famous African Writers Series of Heinemann
Books.

Achebe was the benefactor who selected James
Ngugi’s (now Ngugi wa Thiong’o) first novel Weep
Not Child, 1964, for publishing. Ngugi has since
become one of the literary giants of Africa, with
such works as The River Between, 1965,A Grain of
Wheat, 1967, Petals of Blood, 1977 and Devil On
The Cross, 1982, among so many others.
We devoured the works of many African writers,
such as Kofi Awoonor, Ama Ata Aidoo and
AyiKweiAhmah, Sembene Ousmane, Mariama Ba,
Nuruddin Farah, Nawal el Saadawi,
NaguibMahfooz, Ferdinand Oyono, Mongo Beti,
MbellaSonneDipoko, Meja Mwangi,
YamboOuologuem, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Alex
La Guma, and other great African authors with
relish.

With the exception of the resoundingly versatile
Wole Soyinka, the Kongi of African Literature, it is
doubtful if any African writer enjoys the popularity
of Achebe on the global scene. There is no
argument that no African novel would have sold
half of Achebe’s copies. I always dreamt of a day
Chinua Achebe would join Soyinka as our second
Nobel laureate but he never realised that dream
despite winning all the other top prizes in Literature.
As painful as his death definitely is to his families,
friends and admirers, the world takes consolation in
his works as gifts to humanity. His departure must
not end with the usual eulogies and jamborees. We
must preserve his outstanding legacy by making
his books compulsory read in all our secondary
schools and universities. No Nigerian student must
ever escape owning a copy of Achebe’s work
before graduation. It is the least we can do to keep
his memory alive.

posted by @trends_ng. follow on twitter and instagram.

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