21st May, 2013
By Joe Igbokwe
All roads lead to Ogidi in Anambra State , Nigeria the home town of the late (Ugonabo) Professor Chinua Achebe on Wednesday 23 May, 2013 for the sage’s final burial. People from all walks of life will be heading to Ogidi to mourn the one they loved so much, the former life president of Ogidi Town Union, Professor of Letters, Leader, Thinker, Humanist, Author of Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, The Trouble With Nigeria, There Was A Country, Man of The People, No Longer At Ease, etc. Ugonabo Chinua Achebe, the pride of Igboland, Nigeria and Africa died as an accomplished man, accomplished author, accomplished father, accomplished teacher and an accomplished family man.
His book: Things Fall Apart made me to fall in love with Literature in my Form 3 in secondary school until I came in contact with Merchant of Venice and Macbeth. I could not understand the language of these two books. Compared to Things Fall Apart, the two books became a no go area for me. In form four, I abandoned Literature for Science subjects. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart brought Igbo culture and tradition to the front burner. As we read it in our school in those days, you would think the events are happening in your backyard. You could feel it, you could imagine it, you see it, you celebrate it. We sang Things Fall Apart like songs. Things Fall Apart is un-putdownable, a masterpiece and a must read. It is one of Achebe’s greatest gift to humanity. It is this book that taught me how to put words on paper. It was this book that helped to prepare me as an author and writer today. I thank Achebe for this.
Now, if Things Fall Apart prepared me to be a writer, what did the small but mighty book, The Trouble With Nigeria do to my life as a Nigerian? I read the heavily loaded book in 1995 when I wrote my first book, Igbos:25 Years After Biafra . In that small but prodigious work Ugonabo Chinua Achebe gave us summary of the problems facing Nigeria as a political entity which he traced to failure of leadership.
Today, 31 years after, Nigeria is still being saddled with mediocrity in leadership. Nigeria’s repeated failures in the age of success helped in no uncertain terms to speed up the great man’s journey to the end. The failure of Nigerians to help the country to join the comity of great nations on earth in the midst of plenty led the sage to reject National Honours both from former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan. To make matters worse, Nigerian leaders either by acts of omission or commission, fail to redress the injustice repeatedly meted out to a vital and significant section of Nigeria since the end of the Civil War 43 years ago. Achebe waited for 43 years for Nigeria to do some growing up and remove the kid gloves but Nigeria will not change. Ugonabo Ogidi responded with his latest work, There Was A Country. We all saw and read the controversies and dusts raised by this yet another great work from the man of letters. Nigeria cannot change her national bad habits. No wonder he cried out in the Trouble With Nigeria : “No one can do much to change the weather, we must accept it and live with or under it. But national bad habits are different matter, we resign ourselves to them at our peril”
Odenigbo, Chinua Achebe left Nigeria a very sad man and this has always been the trend. Honourable Nigerians die leaving Nigeria worse than they met it. Critical mass of Nigeria must join forces together to stop this mess.
As the king of birds, the elephant, Ugonabo (a red cap chief with two eagle feathers) Ikenga Ogidi, Dike nammuta Ndigbo, Eze Akuko Ndigbo, Odeakwukwo mahadum Ndigbo goes home, let us hope that Nigeria will learn from the immortal words of our Professor Chinua Achebe who saw and did something for humanity.
As Ugonabo goes home to meet his Creator let us hope that Nigerian leaders will rise above primordial sentiments to get Nigeria out of trouble. As Ugonabo goes home to rest, let us hope the lessons of Achebe’s life and times will be ingrained and do something quick to arrest the drift of the Nigerian state. Time is not on the side of Nigeria. Go in peace Ugonabo.
•Igbokwe, Publicity Secretary, ACN wrote from Lagos.