By Dan Ugwu.
Today, March 21, 2022, is the 9th death anniversary of Chinualumogu Albert Achebe, a novelist, and essayist, a man of ideas who bowed to the invitation from the Elysian Fields at 82 on March 21, 2013, in Massachusetts, USA. Achebe died with the burden of a seer, a change agent whose literary pouch brims with warnings that can chart a new course for national rebirth.
As a man who lived and died in the service of humanity, the literary prodigy distinguished himself from his peers because of his uncanny knack for constantly peering into his country’s rabidly complex political and cultural milieu for churn out messages that illuminate the dark recesses of his fractured society.
So distraught was Achebe with the Nigerian system and those who run it that he chose not to connive with the ogres raping his motherland by rejecting the national honors conferred on him twice. Achebe used his works to point out the grey areas needing attention in our politics.
His writings served as an adequate revolution for him to articulate his people’s culture and help the African society regain its belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-denigration.
This is part of his contribution to the task of giving back to Africa the pride and self-respect it lost during the years of colonialism and seeking a way to repair the disaster brought upon the African psyche in the period of subjugation to alien races.
The first shot of this gift came in 1958 with the publication of his Magnus opus, THINGS FALL APART; the celebrated classic novel, which became the rave of the moment, enjoying fascinating reviews across the broad spectrum of literary critics in international journals and mainstream publications. It was the 1958 book that defined Achebe who has about 20 books to his credit as the father of modern African literature because he appeared to have told the African story with a native Igbo flourish.
Things Fall Apart was followed by a sequel, NO LONGER AT EASE published in 1960, originally written as the second part of a larger work together with Things Fall Apart and ARROW OF GOD which came in 1964, on a similar subject. Recall that Obi, the hero of “No Longer at Ease” is the grandson of Okonkwo, the tragic hero of Things Fall Apart.
The author further recreated a new setting for Arrow of God. There are both thematic and ancestral affinities among the troika. In Arrow of God, one notices the highlight of cultural attitude with a seemingly similar theme, setting, and characterization as in Things Fall Apart. Little wonder pundits regard Arrow of God as another Things Fall Apart.
In Arrow of God, Achebe filled the gap created in his first novel which he saw as necessary before moving into the contemporary scene. In doing so, he was able to portray the Igbo society under stress, a stress which is symbolically represented in the jealousy of Nwafo for Edogo, in the perennial quarrels between Ugoye and Matefi and similar actors.
Achebe completed his vivid portrayal of the beauty and rhythm of African life with Arrow of God and ventured into the contemporary Nigerian scene two years after in 1966 with the publication of A MAN OF THE PEOPLE, a searing political satire that stripped bare the stinking closets of the band of predators who masquerade as political leaders in an unnamed neo-colonial African country.
A Man of the People captured the recklessness of politicians and the endemic corruption in the nation’s political life. The book taught that individual honesty, integrity, and greater efficiency in public affairs can transform society when the system remains unchanged. But for refusing to heed to Achebe’s warnings in the book, what was Nigeria’s lot? Series of coups and successful military regimes punctuated her democratic rule.
Till today, the wounds of prolonged military rule are yet to fully heal in a nation where scars of an avoidable civil war that plagued it are open for all to see. The impossibility of abating Nigeria’s quagmire seemed to have led to the birth of THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA; a lucid book that excoriated the vulgarity of governance in the Second Republic during the exceptional inept administration of former President Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983.
“The trouble with Nigeria is squarely that of leadership,” says Achebe. Alarmed by this dishonesty, chicanery, and weakness of the political elite, Achebe in 1987 once more demonstrated his ability to predict correctly when he released the ANTHILL OF THE SAVANNAH; a novel about a military coup in Kanga, a fictional West African nation.
One thing stands the book out: expression of optimism in the ability of Africa to transcend its perennial limitations. Consequently, in October 2012, Achebe once again stirred the hornets net with the release of THERE WAS A COUNTRY: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF BIAFRA
This was his last offer to the Nigerian society in his lifetime, which tore open bitter controversies about some leading characters’ roles during the civil war. He did not intend to arouse animosity or open up old wounds, but rather to create awareness as he said, “for the unborn children.”
EIGHT years after Achebe’s death, much of his literary advice has remained unheeded as corruption and leadership remain the trouble with Nigeria. As vistas suffered from a high degree of exploitation; as a victim of internal colonialism, she has been reduced to a veritable paradox.
Unfortunately, the culture of impunity occasioned mainly by power aphrodisiac has opened the floodgates for plundering governments. There is widespread acrimony arising from visible inequalities and social disorder, intolerance, mistrust, bigotry, unhealthy propaganda, deepening hatred and hate speech, rapid deterioration of the relationships between the peoples of the different geopolitical zones, and other myopic sentiments.
All these could form a catalyst for a revolution; a revolution that will take a measure where the poor will demand their share of bread and commandeer it. The time to heed Achebe’s call is now. Rest in peace, Chinua Achebe.
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Dan Ugwu and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”