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Monday, December 11, 2023

Immortalizing Achebe, Best Independence Day Gift to Us — Anambra Writers



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By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu

Young Writers in Anambra State, under the umbrella of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers (SYNW), Anambra State Chapter, have expressed their heartfelt appreciation to Governor Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo for his decision to immortalize the late Nigerian literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe.

The commendation is coming few hours after the Governor made the historic announcement of immortalizing Achebe, during the Independence Day celebrations on October 1, 2023, at the Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, during which he announced the renaming of the Anambra State International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, after Achebe.

Reacting to the decision, the Coordinator of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, Mr. Izunna Okafor, in a statement issued on Sunday, said the news was met with joy and admiration by the young writers of Anambra State, adding that the Governor’s decision signifies a significant recognition of the enduring importance of literature in society.

Mr. Okafor recalled that the young writers in Anambra State had, for years, been advocating for the immortalization of Achebe, through their annual event, the Chinua Achebe Literary Festival and Memorial Lecture, which was initiated in 2016. This event, held annually at the Anambra State Central E-Library in Awka, also features the unveiling of an international poetry/essay anthology known as the Chinua Achebe Poetry/Essay Anthology, which the young writers annually publish in honor of Achebe.

He also revealed that the the 8th edition of this anthology, while usually receives entries from writers from different parts of the world would be unveiled during with the 2023 Chinua Achebe Literary Festival and Memorial Lecture, slated for November 16.

According to Mr. Okafor, for years, the young writers have passionately appealed to the government to immortalize Achebe, highlighting the disparity in recognition between literary figures like Achebe and politicians and wealthy individuals. They emphasized the negative impact this had on emerging writers and the youth’s morale.

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He said, “Each year during the Festival, we passionately reiterated our call for the government to immortalize Achebe, emphasizing the injustice of neglecting such a world-class intellectual. We lamented the demoralizing effect this had on upcoming writers and the youth. We observed that while politicians and moneybags were celebrated and immortalized, literary champions like Achebe had not received the recognition they deserved.

“In recent editions of the event, we re-echoed this same call, urging the Anambra State Government to rename the Anambra State International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, after Achebe, and to establish an International Writers Residency in his honour, since there are just two (even privately-owned) writers residencies in Nigeria, and given that Anambra, being a home and cradle of many world-class writers, ought to have, at least, one writers residency.

“Despite our persistent appeals, our pleas fell on deaf ears until the conclusion of the immediate-past administration of Chief Willie Obiano. However, we remained unwavering in our quest, even during the tenure of Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo.

“Today, we express our deepest gratitude to Governor Soludo for heeding our call and fulfilling one of our requests to immortalize Achebe. This act is not only a precious and best Independence Day gift to Anambra writers, but to writers nationwide and beyond. By granting this request he has won our hearts and support as young writers here in Anambra State. We cannot thank him enough for this profound gesture.”

While expressing their appreciation, the young writers also respectfully call upon Governor Soludo to consider fulfilling the second part of their request, which is the establishment of the Chinua Achebe International Writers Residency in Anambra State.

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Okafor, an award-winning writer and journalist, said, “This residency would be of immense importance and impact. Many of us have been fortunate to participate in writers’ residencies across Nigeria and worldwide, and we long for such a prestigious institution in our beloved state. As we prepare for the 2023 Chinua Achebe Literary Festival and Memorial Lecture scheduled for November 16th this year, this additional announcement from our dear Governor would be a dream come true.”

“Governor Soludo’s decision to immortalize our role model, Prof. Chinua Achebe, demonstrates that being an intellectual is a noble virtue deserving of recognition. He has broken the jinx and inspired us to follow in Achebe’s footsteps. By solving and granting this our age-old request, the Governor has proved to us again that Solution is here. This legacy is already etched in the sands of time, and posterity will forever remember him for such historic act,” he concluded.

On his own part, the National President of the Society of Young Nigerian Writers, Mr. Wole Adedoyin, described Achebe’s immortalization in Anambra as a dream come true, especially for young writers in the State, whom he attested, had been on the forefront of the call for such honour to be done to the literary champion.

Mr. Adedoyin, while commending the Anambra young writers for sustaining the call through their annual activities, also hailed Governor Soludo for granting this request in less than two years of his administration.

“It is very great news, and Governor Soludo has done marvelously well,” Adedoyin added.

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