CHINUA ACHEBE BEYOND HIS WRITING
Since the death (16th November 1930 – 21st March 2013) of Prof. Albert Chinualumogu
Achebe, the world has practically stood still. This not surprising. He was a man who
effortlessly commanded universal respect. His trailblazing attempt at elevating
African prose and storytelling onto international academic discourse have pushed him
to international consciousness.
It is known that before Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the western world knew little or
nothing about our traditional mode of governance. No, they did but pretended not to
notice. It felt very cool for them to refer to Africa as the dark Continent where
little or no organized life existed. Achebe shattered such neo-colonialists thinking
to pieces by showing that prior to the white man’s sojourn here, we had fairly well
developed traditional systems with effective adjudicatory systems.
Achebe showed through his works that essential feature of the African man…that
link between man and spirit, that link between the living , and the dead, between
man and his ancestors. He showed that in the traditional African system, hard work
remained the only leeway to the attainment of prominence.
He showed that Africa loathed laziness and had zero tolerance for any form of vice.
However, to my mind, Achebe’s greatest legacy lies outside of his writings. They can
be found in his unwritten words…his body language! Achebe stands today as an
eloquent testimony that in an environment infested with petrifying corruption, it is
still possible to remain clean and attain universal acclaim. He has proved beyond
all shadow of doubt that professionalism pays…that integrity and self-worth can
pay dividends in the long run.
Achebe never held any political office. Indeed, the closest he came to a government
position was when he held office as Director of External Broadcasting of the then
Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. Even that was not a political position but purely
a professional post attained after years of growing through the ranks.
Achebe could be a Nigerian politician. His attempt to join Aminu Kano’s Peoples
Redemption Party in 1979 was met with frustration. He left politics after a brief
stint, never to go back.
Chinua Achebe, even in death towers above these “vagabonds in power” , apology to
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose understanding of power is a leeway to steal shamelessly
and engage in primitive accumulation of stinking and putrefying wealth.
Achebe was never a rich man but hugely contented.
When successive governments offered him national honours, he didn’t disappoint us
when he flatly turned them down and gave his reasons in public. How could Achebe of
all people stand on the same podium with men of moral straw and thieves to receive
The world celebrates a truly iconoclastic personality, a man who believed that
integrity is a desideratum!
Thank you Prof. for showing us the way. Thank you Prof. for proving that it is
possible to stay clean and attain the zenith of your chosen career. Thank you for
proving that the pen is mightier than the sword. Thank you Prof. for your exemplary
life of simplicity.
As you join the pantheon of great men that had passed on, please rest assured that
some of us intend to carry on with lofty ideals you preached and lived by. Adieu,