Written by Darlington Agomuo
In death, Achebe became more popular and great. That is the hallmark of true patriots and man of honour. The personality and achievements of Achebe have been given generous mention in the print and electronic media, but not that aspect that defines the Igbo spirit in him. The accident that sent Achebe to the wheelchair brought out the dogged Igbo spirit in him.
Whether the accident is natural or man-made, it brought to the fore the true Igbo spirit in him, because it was in this chair that Achebe became more critical and defiant to unjust rulership. He never wanted sympathy of anybody; neither did he play sycophancy in order to curry favour.
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr.Chris Ngige, said during the funeral service of Achebe in Awka , that it was only Achebe , of all the so-called Igbo elites and politicians, who stood up against the criminality and brigandage that pervaded his regime in Anambra State. It was on his wheelchair that Achebe rejected his national honours award because of what was happening in Anambra then.
Meanwhile, the rascals who perpetrated this evil and being sponsored from Abuja are regarded as “prominent sons of the state”
A prominent son that burnt down his father’s Obi Eze (palace), can only be a bastard son. A leader who enjoys inflicting pain on his subjects, is not only a sadist, but a psychopath. These are what Achebe stood against till death. And nobody has proved him wrong, including those who criticized him for rejecting the national honors award. These are people who love titles, even the ones they did not merit.
Achebe, like Julius creaser, never stood on ceremonies. Achebe chosed to distant himself from corrupt Nigerian government, because he knows that any intellectual or activist who works with such government and makes money will definitely compromise, because he cannot truly and sincerely escape from the pressure from all corners by favour seekers.
He may not have the moral courage to criticize such a government later because they have his dossier. Ask Prof. Wole Soyinka, late Tai Solarin or Faruk Lawan. If men of integrity and principle can reject appointment from such government, it will checkmate the government and Nigeria will be better for it. Those who burnt their fingers with Abacha and Babangida governments are still regretting it till today because of what those regimes did to this country and the scars are still with us till today.
I took time to observe those who eulogized Achebe in death. Some of them were embarrassed that a man they derided and lampooned in life could attract such national and international clout and sympathy even in death. No literally icon in Africa has received such honour in death.
I wonder if any of our so-called national honour holders could come close to Achebe’s status, even in death. That is what I call a man indeed. Like his son said, Achebe did not programme his life and writing to win Nobel Prize. So it means nothing to him. Only few people can handle genuine criticism, including the white man.
It is only a fool who will believe that there is no politics and sentiments in the award of Nobel Prize for literature. So when a Nobel laureate said Achebe is not the father of African literature, in spite of the opinion and verdict of African intellectuals and the world, I knew that envy knows no boundary.
I remember the controversy of Asiwaju and Iroko of African literature that followed the Nobel Prize award and how Achebe handled it like a man. Perhaps, with the criticisms of Nobel Prize award and the constitution of the board, it is time the committee begins a critical reform so that the true spirit behind the establishment of the award by Alfred Nobel will not be defeated.
If the only man whose novel has been translated into 50 languages world-wide and still counting, could not merit Nobel Prize, then something is wrong. It is an embarrassment to the Nobel committee, no matter how they try to defend it.
Having said the above, I must not fail to commend the Sun Newspaper once more. They did it during Ojukwu’s burial. They have done it again for Chinua Achebe’s burial. These are Igbo icons whose life and death would have remained unsung but for the Sun Newspaper. No Nigerian newspaper celebrated these Igbo icons like the Sun Newspaper. No wonder every effort was made by somebody to close down the paper but God is there watching over the Sun. I have never seen any force that can cover the Sun from shining. More so, a Sun that is the voice of the nation; the voice of the voiceless.
The thing is that where other papers try to downplay the achievements of Igbo icons out of sectional or political sentiments, the Sun will highlight it for the world to see. It is now clear to Nigerians and the whole world that Igbos are not only traders and businessmen, but intellectuals of international repute.
There is something about a man who is doing business with university degree. There is something about a man who entered the Nigeria Army with master’s degree from Oxford University in U.K, when the highest Army officer then was a standard six holder.
There is something about the same man who said unless Ogundipe is made the head of State, as the highest ranking officer after the death of Aguiyi-Ironsi, he will not obey any other officer. There is something about a man who sees every part of Nigeria as his home.
There is something about a man whose middle name is “industry and versatility” who refused to remain idle and helpless. There is something about a man whose property and cash were confiscated, but rose up from the ashes like a phoenix.
There is something about a man who did not enjoy massive free education, yet he is leading in every academic department. Several events have happened in this country which proved that the Igbo man has all it takes to liberate, unite, industrialize and elevate this country to enviable height.
So holding him down is like holding the country down. He who is holding a brave man on the ground is holding himself, so says the proverb. The life of Ojukwu and Achebe is a wakeup call for every Igbo man to excel in whatever legitimate endeavour he is doing. They should be the best in their fields and live a principled life of non-compromise. They should live life to be remembered beyond their immediate environment.
The life and death of Ojukwu and Achebe has proved that Igbos are a rare breed. They have proved that something good can come out of Nazareth, contrary to popular propaganda. Finally, while we wish Chinua Achebe farewell journey to his maker, the Igbos must try to re-invent the ofo na ogu (justice system) in Igbo land as a check against those who are bent on desecrating the land.
The Igbo Elders must devise a means of controlling the evil excesses of some people who want to destroy the Igbo culture through over-ambitious quest for wealth and power.
Mr. Agomuo writes from Lagos, Nigeria