Prof. Albert Chinualumogu Achebe: He was more than a griot‏ – By Igboeli Arinze Napoleon

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It was a normal Thursday morning as I had risen earlier than I
normally do, with the intention of running a content analysis research
to some work before me, hours did seem to fly as I battled with one
file of papers and then another, going through the normal routine of
work as I am used to, nothing seemed to be spectacular about the day,
for I had seen no comets blaze that day, nothing of immense
significance to signal the exit of a titan. Hours later, I declared
the work finished and looked up my facebook messages, again nothing
sought to announce any alarm. However, a look at my news feed did jolt
me from one realm to another, from a state of calm to one of being
disturbed as a number of such news feeds were unanimous in announcing
the demise  of Nigeria’s finest griot,intellectual, and statesman,
Prof. Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, a man who symbolised the  voice
against  corruption, injustice and sychophancy  within the Nigerian
nation, through his books, treatises and statements.

Coming at a time when I had just reread Prof’s last published
work,’ There Was A Country’ Achebe’s demise did seem to me a big blow
to the moral reconstruction of this country, since he did not live to
see Nigeria return to the glorious paths he yearned for. Achebe indeed
must have died fulfilled yet I can state that he must have died a sad
man since his nation Nigeria through its leaders represented and did
the very things he, Achebe stood against.


As a writer, Professor Achebe created a vista where African works of
literature  commanded attention from the western world, prior to this
era, the white man and even some of our black folk believed that the
black man had no literature to write, we see this in the initial
rejection of his first book and best seller ‘Things Fall Apart’, which
is said to have sold over eight million copies at present day count.
One can then proudly say that he was one of the very architects  of
African literary renaissance, an era that largely gave Africa its own
voice in a world that was largely monopolised by all that is western,
though it is sad that owing to the fear of the African intellectual
and the suppression that followed the  succession of draculas who by
chance, force and foreign help came to the reins of power in the
various nations that make of the African continent and also  the
caving in of the same  African writer to the whims and caprices of
these ogres, African  literature has rarely thrived.
Like every genuine intellectual, genuine owing to the fact that most
of our intellectuals are more or less of the pseudo kind, Achebe
distinguished himself in all ramifications and believed that every
intellectual had an obligation to put society first before art and
this he very much sought to do. In his writings were simple but
valuable truths and unlike the band of pseudo intellectuals he never
hid behind the intellectual cloak as some did  to lay claims to
cultural and ethnic superiority, all men and tribes received  their
stripes from Achebe’s cane and like some headmaster of yore, Achebe
was firm in delivering his written strokes.

Some might question the last paragraph by pointing to his last work ‘
There Was A Country’ a work that did pit a section of Nigeria against
Achebe owing to his exposition on Obafemi Awolowo’s actions, which he
(Achebe) believed were aimed at the suppression of the Igbo people
then fighting a just war, waged against them by the Gowon led Federal
Government of Nigeria. Achebe believed that with Awo’s prodding that
certain atrocities and unconventional acts of the war were carried out
majorly against the Igbo. Naturally this got the very section
mentioned to begin hauling verbal javelins at Achebe, some had a right
to do it, while others only did it for the selfish reasons since to me
these same Awo champs had in one way or the other insulted the very
legacy, Awo stood for in his life. Achebe’s people not wanting to be
outdone in the media war that greeted the review of the book by the
Guardian, London joined the fray by giving it back to the Awo champs,
it was honestly one mad affair arising from the tendency  of the mad
horde involved to see everything from the veil of tribalism. It is
even believed that while the brickbats were been thrown many of those
who threw it had not even read a page of the book!

Some other persons however took a stranger turn and denounced Achebe
for evoking the spirits of the past by publishing the book,like it was
making a fresh case for war, what nonsense! One writer, a columnist
for Thisday Newspapers said that Achebe had ignored the positive
developments that had taken place since the end of the civil war such
as the emergence of Ekueme and Ume Ezeoke as Vice President and
Speaker respectively in the Second Republic,Ebitu Ukiwe in the
Babaginda Regime and a long list of Igbos who had served or were
serving in positions of office. However  this writer forgot to tell us
how Ekueme’s boss Shehu Shagari was placed under house arrest in the
event of the December 31st Coup while his Vice, Ekueme was thrown into
Kirikiri like a common criminal. Also Ebitu Ukiwe was Chief of General
Staff to Babaginda but can we remember how he and the three out of the
five Senate Presidents of Igbo extraction were ousted?
Let me even state that as of today, more books are being written about
World War 1 and 2 (including the holocaust), should these authors then
have seized to write because both wars occurred exactly 99 and 74
years ago and close new insights into such  occurrences?

A man of consistency, Achebe was indeed the voice against the failings
of government. On more than one occasion, when many had lost their
voices to the carnage that rocked Anambra as a result of Ngige’s
refusal to share the commonwealth of the Anambra people with some
godfathers, who had the backing of the then sitting President Olusegun
Obasanjo, Achebe found his and condemned the exercise to make Anambra
ungovernable even rejecting the Commander of the Federal Republic
Award offered him by the Obasanjo administration. Again, he rejected
the offer in 2011 when the Jonathan administration sought to confer
the said award on him, Achebe again graciously rejected it with a
letter that stated that The reasons for rejecting the first offer
where still present and had not been addressed let alone solved. Thus
it was  inappropriate to offer it again to him.

In my tribute to Achebe I thanked him for five books(Things Fall
Apart, Arrow Of God, No Longer At Ease ,The Trouble With Nigeria and
There Was A Country  that had by and large had contributed to my
education as a boy and a man, I then went on to point out asides from
Achebe being a griot, he was also a literary icon, a social critic cum
activist and a statesman. In all of these, he Achebe was more than a
griot,he was indeed a man of honour.

Igboeli Arinze Napoleon is the Editor in Chief of the Pitch Magazine
and writes from Awka, Anambra State.

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