Opinion: A tribute to the man in whom the spirit of Okonkwo lives

by Ojay Kaikai


To the man that gives life to African literature, to the man that insisted that Nigeria must be better before he will accept any honour, to the man in whom the spirit of Okonkwo lives, to the man of the people, I say, ‘Bon Voyage’, safe journey.

The dominant personality of Chinua Achebe is like the presence of an Elephant or an Iroko tree in the forest, which can never be ignored. Nigeria had lost a gifted hand, Nigeria had lost one of her greatest writer ever, the world has lost an icon.

The award winning African best selling novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, was not only successful in book but also as video, you will remember the film where Pete Edochie starred as Okonkwo? It did not only shoot the actors into limelight, it was a turning point in the Nigeria home video history. Achebe had to prevent the American rapper, 50 Cent from adapting the title to a film too, which he later alter to ‘All Things Fall Apart’.

That is not the only aspect where Chinua Achebe affected this country, he was the Editor of the Heinemann African writers series, which was the spring-board for most post-colonial Nigeria authors and by extension Africa. His role was not limited to being an editor alone, it became revolutionary when the series was used to bring to notice the wrongful incarceration of Wole Soyinka by General Gowon. Soyinka’s prison memoir, ‘The Man Died’ was smuggled out of prison and published.

‘Come I to bury Achebe not to praise’, Achebe is not a saint, that quality is reserved for the men in the Bible, but he stands out as a literary icon, when he reconstructed from the debris left by colonialism of African culture and art. The West claimed that Africa plays noise for music, simply because they could not wipe out our music, and Africa had no literature and visual arts, because we have no writing culture.

He was the megaphone that resurrected African literature, by making bare the lies. He narrated fiction with deep African proverbs to prove that we have a culture and art not only equal but more sophisticated to any culture on earth.

This is not a time for Nigerian to debate the merit or demerit of Achebe’s life, rather, all well meaning Nigerian should immortalize him, it is time to celebrate an achiever.

Shakespeare, and Stephen King, were renowned because they were so branded by their country, Nigeria can do the same, we should not limit all this hype to burial sensation, it should continue in annual lectures in his memory, the ANA should name one of her prize after him, and probably the national secretariat under construction. The Anambra government should name a monument after him, the University of Nsukka and Ibadan, should not let his contribution pass without a worthy compensation.

The Nigerian government might not exert her presence in the euphoric burial as expected but that should not deter the Federal Government from naming a monument after him, and a national Library will be in order, especially the National Library at Abuja. If we let this opportunity pass, Nigeria would have given up the chance for more research into Achebe’s works and by extension the expansion of Nigerian literature worldwide.

Farewell to the man who gave life to African literature; to the man who insisted that Nigeria must be better before; to the man in whom the spirit of Okonkwo lives; to the man of the people.


Ojay Kaikai writes from Akure. He tweets from @kaikaiojay.


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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