Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent: I am glad Achebe gave us Chimamanda

by Nwilo BuraBari Vincent

Achebe

Achebe played a vital role in placing Nigerian literature in the limelight. He gave attention to African writings. He founded the Association of Nigerian Authors. He would be missed, but his books will console us, I pray.

I grew up in a densely populated suburb of Port Harcourt called Ogbunabali. There, we had more natives than foreigners. The visitors were not rich people. They were people who could not live in the Government Reserved Areas, or other well planned parts of the Port Harcourt metropolis. Many of those who lived in my compound barely read a book. On the streets, the young people either embraced cultism, which seemed to put a youngster at an advantage when there was a quarrel or fight or hustled to meet daily responsibilities. Books, especially African literary texts were a scarce product, during my formative days.

[READ: Chimamanda Adiche pens an elegy to Chinua Achebe in Igbo [READ, TRANSLATION]]

I never had a closer feel of a novel until I was a secondary school student. My dad was not much of a reader. He never kept a book of literature. I had no elder sibling. I found my way through a literary text by sheer accident. I was once sent on an errand into a neighbour’s house. On the floor of the room was of a copy of Arrow of God, one of Chinua Achebe’s novels, without a back-cover, of course. I could not really read the content. I saw the rather queer illustrations and dropped it. It was a ‘substandard edition’ something produced in a makeshift printing press by mischief makers. My next meeting with Prof. Chinua Achebe was when I fully developed a love for literature. I was constantly requested by older friends to read the novel Things Fall Apart. The book which read like all story books until my days at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I understood that sometimes, a piece of story may not just be about evoking interest in a subject, but directing attention to standing issues. The book did to me what the Bible does to some Christians.

I am glad Prof. Achebe didn’t die in a car crash or a plane crash. The latter is like a part of the Nigerian aviation routine. Prof. Achebe grew older and then, retired home. I am glad he gave us Chimamanda Adichie, a beautiful woman with a beautiful pen, before he went home. I am glad he didn’t quit in his quest to informing us of his unwavering support for Biafra. Achebe was a stubborn writer whose ideals were not abandoned even when he suffered serious injuries which put him on wheelchair. Achebe played a vital role in placing Nigerian literature in the limelight. He gave attention to African writings. He founded the Association of Nigerian Authors. He would be missed, but his books will console us, I pray.

Maybe this is a time to urge ‘wannabe writers’ to hold on to something solid. Maybe a correctional notion. Maybe a farce, popularised by the West about the inglorious, stupid Africa. Maybe a stereotypical ‘bullshit’. Maybe an idea of hearing both sides of a story instead of championing a single story.

May the spirit of Achebe keep alive.

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Nwilo Bura-Bari Vincent is of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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