Anambra State Government on Tuesday said four Heads of State and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev. Justin Welby, would be attending the burial of the literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, at Ogidi.
The burial of Achebe, 82, who died in the United States on March 21, holds on Thursday.
Secretary to the Government of Anambra State, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, confirmed the coming of the foreign dignitaries on Tuesday while briefing reporters on Achebe’s burial arrangements.
Obaze said President John Mahama of Ghana would be joining President Goodluck Jonathan and two other heads of state, whose attendance has been secured but awaiting final confirmation at the burial.
Although the state government had not declared a public holiday for the burial, Obaze said it was mandatory for civil servants to attend the ceremonies slated for the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka on Wednesday.
Obaze said, “The whole effort is to give Prof. Achebe a burial that he deserves as a literary icon and a great Igbo hero. He was an international citizen.”
Achebe’s body, which arrived in Enugu on Tuesday, will be received in Awka on Wednesday (today).
Meanwhile, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim, on Tuesday joined other stakeholders to receive Achebe’s corpse at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.
Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi; Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo; and the National Chairman, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Dr. Ogobonaya Onu, were among eminent personalities at the airport to receive the corpse.
The British Airways aircraft, that conveyed his corpse, touched down at the airport about 4am.
The corpse, which was prayed for by an Anglican Bishop, was driven from the international wing of the airport to the local wing in a Mercedes Benz ambulance with number plate CHINUA ACHEBE.
Different Igbo cultural groups were at the local wing of the airport to welcome the renowned author of Things Fall Apart.
Anyim, who said Achebe left an outstanding legacy, urged his family to bear the loss with fortitude.
Obi, who represented other governors, said Achebe was a man of truth.
He said, “I am representing the governors here. Achebe led a life of truth and humility. He tried to preach truth that will make us a better nation.”
Ike, the eldest son of Achebe, said his father worked tirelessly for the good of humanity.
He said, “My father, as you know, was a writer, social critic, family man and one who worked tirelessly for the uplifting of his people. The definition of his people is actually very broad. It is for those who do not have a voice; it is for those who are oppressed and for those who are not really favoured. He stood against corruption and government oppression.
“However, as a family, we will miss his presence and I will miss his guidance and advice. But it is not really a time for mourning. We are celebrating a remarkable man, who lived a remarkable life. And we are very grateful that the world is better because Chinua Achebe was here.”
Achebe’s corpse, which arrived in Enugu about 12.36pm aboard a private aircraft, Overland Nigeria, marked 5N-BPE, was accompanied by his wife, Christy and children.
The author’s elder brother, Augustine, family members, Secretary to the Enugu State Government, Mr. Amechi Okolo, and commissioners were among personalities that were at the airport to receive his body.
Okolo, who represented Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, said the deceased would be missed by all.
“We are mourning Achebe today because he was part of the state,’’ he said.
President of Ogidi Union Nigeria, Chief Obi Okaro, said Achebe exhibited true leadership qualities in the union, adding that the community would immortalise him.
A university teacher, Prof. Ike Ndolo, canvassed that a national monument be named after the literary icon.
Ndolo, who decried the poor reading culture in the country, called for a collaborative effort to fight the menace.