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NOW that the army of critics of Prof. Chinua Achebe’s new book: There was a Country are getting tired, it is appropriate to assess the psychology of these critics, their criticisms and the state of mind of the educated elite to the Nigerian project.
I have to own up from the on-set that I have neither seen nor read the book about which hundreds of thousands of both ugly and beautiful words, attacks and counter-attack have been heaped upon. As a resident in one of the numerous back yards of Nigeria where access to the basic necessities of life is a mirage and the desperate quest for daily sustenance, a consuming passion affair of such high intellectual magnitude may receive little or no attention. I, therefore, do not expect early access to the book. Our counterparts, who constitute the diminishing reading public resident in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt, might have read the work. You can be sure that by the time some of us lay hands on the book, one would be quarreling with his vendor about whether what one is having in his hand is the original copy from Heinemann (assumed publisher) or pirated copy from the enemies of copyright owners.
Written words are probably the most criticised of the ‘inventions’ of man. Imagine the mountain of criticisms that have been made on Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, Thomas Khun’s The Structure of the Scientific Revolution or Rashdie’s Satanic Verses. Even Chief Obafemi Awolowo reviled the forty-nine wise men that framed the 1979 Constitution and their product for having spent two years copying what took him six months to write. For the uniformed, the admirable chief was saying that the Constitution Drafting Committee headed by the late legal icon, Chief Rotimi Williams, copied or plagiarised his book: Thoughts on the Nigerian Constitution.
I am an ardent admirer of Achebe as an intellectual prodigy and Africa’s gift to the world that compares with established masters of English language and literature. I suspect you also admire him for his hard work. But certainly, I have also been a victim of his intellectual bravado whereby he cajoled Heineman into withdrawing the publishing right already given to translate Things Fall Apart, his magnum opus, into Igbo after the work has been rendered as Ihe Agbasaa by a publishing company in which I have financial interests.
From my reading of excerpts from There was a Country, Achebe has not said anything new on Biafra and Chief Awolowo’s place in that dirty interregnum on Nigerian history that has not been written between 1967 and 2012. And the literature on the subject is quite high. If scholars still write and reinterpret American Civil War, which occurred more than 200 years ago, Achebe has the right as a participant in the Biafra project, to write his recollections on such a recent event. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees him safe landing. And the platform is also safe for Ebenezer Babatope, an ardent Awoist, Femi Fani-Kayode, an emergency Awoist, and others.
It is to my mind, a good development that Achebe has written again at the age of 82. A leopard will never change its spots. And as usual, he has provoked the kind of reactions that his works have always generated. But any person that has got some sinews of Nigerianess in him should be worried that mere exhibition of such old data from a personal perspective would generate such huge ethnocentric invectives. It shows that the Nigerian intelligentia is irredeemably lost. Rather than being worried that the Cocoa House, architectural symbol of Awoism has been in decay; rather than being worried that no other stadium has been built in the Western Region after Liberty Stadium, Babatope and others are worried about data that Chief Awolowo acknowledged to be its author before his death. In Anambra State, I am worried that the only state-sponsored functional library is the one at Onitsha built by Dr. Michael Okpara, a political contemporary of Chief Awolowo, but commissioned by Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in 1967. I am worried that in 2002, Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju claimed he had built a state-of-the-art stadium at Awka when the nearest one to Anambra State is the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium at Enugu. I am worried that while Biafra, which is the subject of discussion, successfully operated two International Airports at Uga and Uli, Enugu Airport inherited from the Eastern Region has degenerated so hopelessly that sometime ago, the Sam Mbakwe Airport at Owerri built through community effort in 1980, has been the saving grace for air travelers in the entire Igbo region. I am worried that Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s own state, Plateau, is an isolated illustration of a failed ‘state’ where life has been short and brutish, forty two years after his so-called war to keep Nigeria one. I am worried that while Biafran scientists refined their own petroleum, invented ‘shore batteries’, self propelled bombs (ogbunigwe) etc and sustained the struggle for self-determination for three long years, today, Nigeria cannot satisfy the petroleum needs of its population.
For some of these writers to heap insult on Achebe and charge the atmosphere with anti-Igbo sentiments and ethnocentrism seems to be a continued portrayal of Nigeria as the ‘mistake of 1914’, which one would expect the Civil War to have corrected. I neither twit nor blog but I am informed that one blogger suggested that Things Fall Apart be banned in schools after he had exhausted his gangrene of tribalism on the Igbo. The corrective intendment of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) on the intellectual windsowers, whose primary and secondary allegiance has been to their tribe, is still lost as evident from anti-Achebe writings.
The Yoruba no doubt rightly hold Chief Awolowo in high esteem on account of his seminal works that started with the construction of Yoruba unity from the time he founded Egbe Omo Oduduwa through massive social and economic development efforts in the old Western Region. But for the attackers of Achebe to allude sainthood to Awolowo is to emulate a man who through the intrigues of cross-carpeting in 1956, elevated ethnicism to a standard policy. Achebe merely pointed to the Yoruba house with his right hand; he did not use his left.
The defenders of Achebe from the ‘East from whence I come’ have as usual fought back to prevent their kinsman from intellectual annihilation. The defence line is quite long - from both sides of the Niger shoreline to the littoral front of Igwocha (Port Harcourt). I doubt if I have come across any Yoruba writer that has called for a truce. From the Igbo side at least, I have read Dr. Anthony Nwaezeigwe simmering along that line. Prof. ABC. Nwosu’s detailed expose, which I suspect are excerpts from a forthcoming book on the same subject ‘I Horatio’ is authoritative and detribalised. We are waiting for I Horatio hoping that its production will not be encumbered with the mentality of publishing abroad.
• Ogechukwu Ezeajughi wrote from Awka.
Why Hausa-Fulanis, Yorubas Hate Igbos – Achebe
Africa’s literary giant and celebrated writer Chinua Achebe, has claimed that Nigerians, especially the Hausa/Fulanis and the Yorubas, do not like the Igbos because of their cultural ideology that emphasizes ‘change, individualism and competitiveness.’
He made this claim in his new book, There was a Country, which has generated controversy for his onslaught on the role of Obafemi Awolowo as the federal commissioner of finance during the Nigeria civil war. He accused Awolowo of genocide and imposition of food blockade on Biafra, a claim that has drawn rebuttals and contradictions of emotional intensity from some southwest leaders and commentators.
“I have written in my small book entitled The Trouble with Nigeria that Nigerians will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo,” he wrote under the heading, A History of Ethnic Tension and Resentment. He traced the origin of “the national resentment of the Igbo” to its culture that “gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society.”
He observed that the Igbo culture’s emphasis on change, individualism and competitiveness gave his ethnic group an edge over the Hausa/Fulani man who was hindered by a “wary religion” and the Yoruba man who was hampered by” traditional hierarchies.”
He therefore described the Igbo, who are predominantly Catholic, as “fearing no god or man, was “custom-made to grasp the opportunities, such as they were, of the white man’s dispensations. And the Igbo did so with both hands.”
He delved into history with his claim, asserting that the Igbo overcame the earlier Yoruba advantage within two decades earlier in the twentieth century.
“Although the Yoruba had a huge historical and geographical head start, the Igbo wiped out their handicap in one fantastic burst of energy in the twenty years between 1930 and 1950.”
He narrated the earlier advantage of Yoruba as contingent on their location on the coastline, but once the missionaries crossed the Niger, the Igbo took advantage of the opportunity and overtook the Yoruba.
‘The increase was so exponential in such a short time that within three short decades the Igbos had closed the gap and quickly moved ahead as the group with the highest literacy rate, the highest standard of living, and the greatest of citizens with postsecondary education in Nigeria,” he contended.
He said Nigerian leadership should have taken advantage of the Igbo talent and this failure was partly responsible for the failure of the Nigerian state, explaining further that competitive individualism and the adventurous spirit of the Igbo was a boon Nigerian leaders failed to recognize and harness for modernization.
“Nigeria’s pathetic attempt to crush these idiosyncrasies rather than celebrate them is one of the fundamental reasons the country has not developed as it should and has emerged as a laughingstock,” he claimed.
He noted that the ousting of prominent Igbos from top offices was a ploy to achieve a simple and crude goal. He said what the Nigerians wanted was to “get the achievers out and replace them with less qualified individuals from the desired ethnic background so as to gain access to the resources of the state.”
Achebe, however, saved some criticisms for his kinsmen. He criticised them for what he described as “hubris, overweening pride and thoughtlessness, which invite envy and hatred or even worse that can obsess the mind with material success and dispose it to all kinds of crude showiness.”
He added that “contemporary Igbo behavior (that) can offend by its noisy exhibitionism and disregard for humility and quietness.
Centred on the Biafra secessionist war that nearly wrecked Nigeria, the memoirs, titled There Was a Country: a Personal History of Biafra, focus on Achebe’s experience during the civil war that saw his Igbo-dominated native eastern Nigeria secede as the Republic of Biafra, a development Achebe assiduously supported.
That four and a half decades later Achebe is still ruminating on that particular event in the history of his country amply confirms the extent to which leading African writers like him, Wole Soyinka and Ngugi wa Thiong’o have been affected by war and other forms of turbulence in Africa.
Coming hot on the heels of Ngugi’s Dreams in a Time of War, a recollection of Ngugi’s childhood that includes his growing up in the shadow of the liberation struggle in Kenya, Achebe’s memoirs also fit into a growing collection of long-awaited historical reflections by globally revered writers, including Wole Soyinka, who made history by becoming the first African to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Also known as an indefatigable political activist, Soyinka in 2007 published the now widely acclaimed You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir.
That widely-acclaimed major work joined the Nobel laureate’s earlier Ake: The Years of Childhood in chronicling the turbulence of his life in a perennially troubled country.
Going by their most recent memoirs, it becomes amply clear that Achebe, Ngugi and Soyinka, all acknowledged pioneers of African writing, have to a major extent been preoccupied with their own life experiences.
Evidently – and logically – their works have been inspired by the turbulence, suffering and wars that have bedevilled Africa over the centuries, and which they witnessed firsthand during their lifetimes.
But these major African writers are by no means the only ones whose worldview and literary consciousness have been heavily influenced by the widespread general havoc that has marked Africa’s history from the colonial times and persisted well into the continent’s post-independence era.
On the contrary, a close reading of the African literature produced over the decades reveals that African wars of the last century were always a great source of inspiration for many of the continent’s writers and poets.
Not surprisingly, themes relating to these devastating wars have for years provided material for the continent’s creative minds.
Margaret Dickinson’s anthology, When Bullets Begin to Flower, for instance, showcased the greatest poets from Portuguese-speaking Africa.
With almost all the writers and poets of the former Portuguese dominions drawing their themes from the protracted anti-colonial armed struggles in the former Portuguese colonies, collections like Dickinson’s inevitably became classics of resistance literature.
From Mozambique and Angola to Cape Verde and Sao Tome, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea, the creative consciousness of the colonised was inevitably fired by the sheer brutality of the colonial situation and the protracted armed struggles it gave rise to.
The same had happened earlier in Kenya and Algeria, where the armed struggles for independence captured the imagination of top writers, including Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Meja Mwangi in Kenya, as attested to by their focus on the Mau Mau war in their earliest literary works.
At the same time, the wars in both Kenya and Algeria captured the interest of non-indigenous writers like Graham Greene and Robert Ruark in the case of Kenya and Albert Camus and Frantz Fanon, the Martinique-born French-Algerian psychiatrist in the case of Algeria.
As for pre-independent South Africa, apartheid and the armed struggle it elicited provided crucial material for the country’s literary set, whether black, white, coloured or Indian.
It is indeed practically impossible to conceive of an authentic South African body of literature had the spectre of apartheid not catalysed the country’s creative minds into action.
The same cannot be said about the secessionist crises in the Congo and later in Nigeria, where the Katanga and Biafra flashpoints captured the attention of the local intelligentsia while not necessarily providing the germ for the regions’ literary traditions, which had existed and even crystallised long before the secessionist raptures.
Nonetheless, in Nigeria, the aftermath of the Nigeria-Biafra war was poignant in its almost total arrest of the attention of Nigeria’s creative fraternity, whatever side of the political divide they found themselves on before, during and after the devastating conflict.
As it happened, Biafra was also the home of leading Igbo intellectuals like Chinua Achebe, who doggedly espoused the Biafra cause.
The price he had to pay was that, together with members of his immediate and extended family, he was among those directly affected by the war, particularly after his house in the eastern city of Enugu was bombed.
Earlier, in Lagos, the perilous situation had forced Achebe to send his pregnant wife Christine and two of his children, Chinelo and Ikechukwu, to his Ikenga village in Ogidi, his hometown.
In the meantime, according to Ezenwa-Ohaeto, an earlier biographer, the writer himself continued to take refuge in the home of Frank Cawson, the then British Council representative in Lagos.
Fearing for his safety in Lagos, Achebe later fled the capital and joined his family in the village soon afterwards.
Other Igbo writers marooned in the secessionist state included the poet Christopher Okigbo, who fought as a major in the Biafra army and eventually died in action during the civil war.
It was that renowned poet’s tragic decision to become actively engaged in the Biafra cause that was to inspire Kenyan political scientist and writer Prof Ali Mazrui’s famous book, The Trial of Christopher Okigbo.
In that book, Mazrui questioned the rationality of writers and poets taking up arms and laying their lives on the line for whatever political causes they might espouse.
But however audacious or foolhardy Okigbo’s move was, other Igbo writers based in Biafra during the civil war certainly did not follow suit.
Apart from Chinua Achebe, among those based inside the secessionist state were already well-known writers like Flora Nwapa, Cyprian Ekwensi, John Munonye, Chukwuemeka Ike, Gabriel Okara and other many if lesser writers.
Although not going as far as to replicate Okigbo’s direct engagement in the conflict, many of these writers embraced the Biafran cause, and in fact met regularly to strategise on how to concretise support for it.
In fact, as things turned out, in later years many of them would write books on the conflict, describing its horrors in the most vivid terms.
Apart from Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, numerous other books – both fictional and non-fictional – sprung from the Biafra war.
Among the works of fiction inspired by the war were the late Cyprian Ekwensi’s Survive the Peace, Eddie Iroh’s Forty-eight Guns for the General, Flora Nwapa’s Never Again, Andrew Ekwuru’s Songs of Steel and Chukwuemeka Ike’s Sunset at Dawn.
As for later generations of Nigerian writers, they were to continue struggling with the Biafra genie many decades later.
Many of their works were to focus on the war and the rapture it wreaked on Nigerian society.
That preoccupation with the Nigerian civil war is particularly salient in the case of Chimamanda Ngozi Andichie’s award-winning novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.
“I wrote this novel because I wanted to write about love and war,” she told one interviewer, “because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra, because I lost both grandfathers in the Nigeria-Biafra war, because I wanted to engage with my history in order to make sense of my present.”
She added that in her opinion many of the issues that led to the war remain unresolved in contemporary Nigeria, and explained: “Writing Half of a Yellow Sun has been my re-imagining of something I did not experience but whose legacy I carry. It is also, I hope, my tribute to love: the unreasonable, resilient thing that holds people together and makes us human.”
The spirit of combat had however captivated older writers like the then already internationally renowned Achebe.
During the crisis, the denizen of African literature had become an avid roving ambassador for the rebel state, and had in person proclaimed its legitimacy from Dakar to Kampala to London, New York and elsewhere.
However controversial his stance became, Achebe remained unapologetic to the end, and openly distanced himself from the Nigerian federal entity that had been his motherland before the birth of Biafra.
Having throughout the conflict been categorical about where his loyalties lay, he indeed did not mince words when responding to a letter in the British paper, The Times.
In that letter Dame Margery Perham, the famous British scholar famed for assisting people like Kenya’s populist politician the late Josiah Mwangi Kariuki – who was later assassinated – had called on the Biafran secessionists to surrender.
In her view, the move was necessary if they were to stem the brutal repression directed at them by the federal forces and their western backers.
Irked by that call by Dame Perham, who had at first supported the Biafrans but later changed her mind, and whom Achebe referred to as a person he had hitherto considered to be “a powerful friend of the Biafrans”, the writer was unremitting in his renunciation of Federal Nigeria and support for the Biafra cause.
“I was a Nigerian and a great believer in Nigerian unity,” he wrote under right of reply in the same British paper, and categorically added: “I knew and loved Nigeria. Now I do no longer.”
That stance put Achebe on a collision course with anti-secessionist non-Igbo intellectuals like the writer, playwright and poet John Pepper Clark, probably best known for America, Their America, his fiery anti-imperialist treatise.
As it became obvious, Achebe’s and Clark’s views on the Biafra question were so disparate as to cause a harsh exchange of words when the two erstwhile close friends and associates met face-to-face at the London offices of Heinemann, their publisher.
Recalling the encounter later, Clark described it as “one of the most chilling experiences” and added: “Achebe felt that I had betrayed him and Chris [Okigbo]”.
"Controversy surrounding the new book written by Prof. Chinua Achebe deepened yesterday with South West and South East leaders drawing sharp divisions over the aptness of claims in the book that Chief Obafemi Awolowo implemented genocidal policies against Ibos during the Biafran war." -OKEY NDIRIBE, GBENGA ARIYIBI AND CHARLES KUMOLU
"Achebe living in the past "
"Chinua Achebe is a frustrated person. He feels that attacking noble people like Awolowo is right. Awolowo has a reputable place in Nigeria's history. The trio of Awolowo, Sardauna and Zik were leaders who did well for this country, hence their quality legacies should not be smeared in anyway. Achebe is living in the past."
"Ibos no longer care about such lamentation, what the Ibos are interested in is how they can be more relevant in the mainstream of Nigerian politics. So, Achebe's attack on Awolowo is not in the best interest of the political aspirations of the Ibos in today's Nigeria. What he has done is to distort history."
- Dr. Fashehun
"Achebe, not happy that a Yorubaman emerged Nobel prize winner. "
"With due respect to the erudite professor it appears Achebe has not been able to come out from a deep frustration of the fact that a Yorubaman emerged as the first winner of the highest literary award, Nobel Prize in literature.
"It was on record that Awolowo checkmated Ojukwu from invading Yorubaland in his expansionist ambition when he was matching his troops to Lagos. He met his waterloo at the battle of Ore."
"Achebe has only said the truth . "
"What Chinua Achebe has written in his new book concerning the role the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo played during the civil war is the truth. However, the truth is always bitter. In fact, Achebe was even diplomatic. If I am to write on the same subject I would say more than Achebe did.
"Those who are attacking Achebe over what he wrote are expressing their own views; I am neither condemning them nor am I praising them."
- Gen. Madiebo
"What Achebe wrote in his new book is a fact. Those who witnessed what happened during the civil war can attest to the historical fact that Achebe recorded in his book. As the Minister of Finance and Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council under the military regime headed by Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd.), Awolowo implemented those policies during the Nigeria civil war and immediately after.
-Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, former National Chairman of the People's Democratic Party, PDP
What Achebe wrote was a fact. "Despite the fact that I had a lot of respect for him as one of the nation's foremost nationalists who fought for Nigeria's independence, we cannot forget that those policies were injurious to the Igbos. Those policies were a violation of the fundamental human rights of our people."
"My response to those who have attacked Achebe for stating the truth is that any country that cannot look at its history and learn lessons from it cannot survive. "The people of every nation have to learn from their history in order to avoid mistakes of the past. It is because Nigerians have refused to learn from history that we find ourselves where we are today in this country."
- Chief (Dr.) Nwodo
“I have not read the book. I don’t want to speculate. During the civil war, I was studying in the United States of America. However, I have absolute confidence in Prof Chinua Achebe. He is an acclaimed international scholar and figure; whatever he says about the civil war should be taken seriously.”
"Go to court if you don't like what Achebe wrote. "
"Nobody can question or doubt the credentials and scholarship of Chinua Achebe, especially when it comes to his special area of political literature. He has been adjudged as number one in the world. It seems to me that what Achebe did amounted to an exercise of his constitutional right of freedom of expression which cannot be abridged but can only be subjected to libel or defamation of character, which is actionable in court."
" Anybody who doesn't like what Achebe has written could go to court and file an action against Achebe for libel". Mbadinuju further expressed hope that the on-going debate would not hamper the new spirit of cooperation prevailing in the south.
"The three southern geo-political zones of South-East, South-West and South-South have just resolved to come into a new political alignment for the future. And it is now that the devil is creeping in to dislodge the political programme of the South. The implication is that our friends and brothers in the South-West may now begin to develop cold feet and go into opposition again just because of one book by Chinua Achebe. Since I wouldn't want anything that would jeopardize this new spirit of cooperation in the South, I pray to God that all groups or persons who feel aggrieved by Achebe's new book should have a change of heart to avert this brewing misunderstanding in order to enable Nigeria move forward. This is necessary in order to prevent another rift that may snowball into a fresh round of crisis of confidence."
-Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, former Governor of Anambra State.
"Although, we shouldn't speak ill of the dead, this does not mean that historical facts cease from being facts or must not be mentioned. Facts are facts but their emotional or subjective interpretation may depend on the perspective of the user. I hope the Igbo and Yoruba are not anxious to go back into their situation of parallel lines and parallel slaves in Nigerian politics. Awolowo didn't join the war against Nigeria, but he didn't start the war against the Eastern region. He eventually joined Gowon."
- Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former Governor of Anambra State
:"Although, I was a teenager during and after the civil war, I was old enough to father a child. Those Federal Government policies against Biafrans which were ascribed to Chief Awolowo at that time came to be as uncharitable and wicked. However, 42 years after the war, my attitude now is to consign all that to history."
"I recommend the book to every patriotic Nigerian and not just students of history. Achebe must not be crucified for saying the truth."
- Dr. Sam Nkire, National Chairman Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA
“The new write-up is another rehash of the perverted intellectual laziness which he had exhibited in the past in matters relating to Awo when Achebe described Awo as a Yoruba irredentist. What he expected was that Awo should fold his arms to allow the Igbo race led by Zik to preside over the affairs of the Yoruba nation. The fact that the Yoruba people in their wisdom, having found out that the NCNC through Zik and Okpara had established a government of their choice and then wanted to follow up with the appropriation of the Yorubaland as their catchment area. It is a demonstration of the contempt of Achebe and his ilk for the Yoruba nation."
- Mr. Ayo Opadokun, A political activist and convener of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER)
"Chinua Achebe find it convenient to pick Awolowo as a scapegoat of all that happened to them during the war.” He asked, “did awo start the war? He was just the Federal Commissioner for Finance with responsibility for coming up with appropriate fiscal and monetary policies. He was not at the battle field and could not therefore be fairly charged with genocide..” The former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives also challenged anyone to come up with any publication where Awo said starvation should be regarded as a legitimate weapon of war. “Neither in any of the books written by him nor on him was any such thing said. It is the work of those who hated his guts. It is not factual. It must be remembered that even when he was not in the cabinet, he tried to prevent the war, but as soon as it broke out, it was between Nigeria and Biafra. He had to come up with policies that would end the war quickly. Those who are peddling this line have forgotten that Awo was in prison when the crisis started.”
- Chairman of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Wale Oshun
“I do not agree with Prof Achebe on the statement. It is not true that Awo’s civil war role smacked of even an iota of selfish political aggrandisement. I was his biographer and I can state authoritatively that, though he did not penetrate the North, he had a firm belief in the unity of Nigeria and that was why he wanted to govern the country as an indivisible entity. All the governors and other close associates of his would attest to the fact that he was a believer in the oneness of Nigeria which was why he wanted to govern the entire country for the overall benefit of her entire citizenry."
- Prof Moses Makinde, Awolowo’s official biographer, who heads Awolowo Centre for Philosophy, Ideology and Good Governance, Osogbo, is the author of ‘Awo
“One is still trying to come to terms with the sense of disappointment about the person who wrote what is now a brewing controversy in the country. “While a formal statement responding to the offensive comments of the writer is being prepared by the family all I can say for now is that I feel so disappointed”.
- Dr Awolowo-Dosunmu speaking to Sunday Vanguard
Nigerian author Chinua Achebe rejected the title of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic from his home country, saying he would not accept it because he disagreed with the government.
Achebe, who is the author of the classic 1958 novel “Things Fall Apart" among others and lives in the US, had refused the same award in 2004, citing similar reasons.
“The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved,” the author, who last visited Nigeria in 2009, said in a statement. “It is inappropriate to offer it again to me.”
Reuben Abati, a spokesperson for the country’s president Goodluck Jonathan, said in a statement that Achebe’s refusal to accept the prize surprised Jonathan. Abati said that “politically, Nigeria cannot be said to be where it was in 2004 as the Jonathan administration has embarked on extensive electoral reforms.”
Abati said Achebe must not know what’s really happening in Nigeria.
“The president continues to hold Prof Achebe in very high esteem in spite of his regrettable decision... and hopes he will find time to visit home soon and see for himself the progress being made by the Jonathan administration,” he said.
When he first refused the award in 2004, Achebe mentioned particular problems in his home state of Anambra in Nigeria when he wrote a letter to the president.
“[A] small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom,” the author wrote in his letter. “I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.”
Abati said in his statement that Jonathan considered Achebe to be “a national icon, a Nigerian of high attainments, indeed one of the greatest living Africans of our time.”
Jonathan won elections in April that the international community said were conducted fairly, but violence in the northern area of the country erupted after an opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change party, said the election results were fraudulent. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands were forced out of their homes.
Source: Christian Science Monitor