• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Farewell to ‘the Eagle on Iroko’


 It is quite unlike Chinua Achebe, emeritus professor, our revered man of letters, the literary giant, the Eagle on Iroko, to stay silent at the mention of his name.

For the avoidance of doubt, may I call his name just one more time: Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe! Truly, this is a solemn confirmation that the earthly sojourn of our revered colleague, Chinualumogu Albert Achebe, our compatriot who rose to become a citizen of the world, has come to an end. It is, therefore, with profound grief and regret that I preside over this special senate in his honour.

May I pause, therefore, to formally announce the passing of a highly revered colleague, a truly distinguished academic of international status and one of the finest academics that the University of Nigeria has ever produced. So, today, we are gathered for the primary purpose of paying our last respects to our colleague, Chinua Achebe, one of the best creative minds of our generation. I am talking about a man who told the story of Africa in over 50 different languages. In doing so, he brought various aspects of the political history and socio-political existence of Nigeria to the attention of the world. In the same vein, his association with the University of Nigeria continues to be a source of immense pride and inspiration to all of us.

In his lifetime he enjoyed a larger-than-life image as a world renowned literary giant. In addition to winning many literary awards, his creative works, which often had prophetic undertones, drew worldwide attention to African literature.

While the world mourns Achebe for his literary prowess, especially his contribution to the development of African literature, the country mourns him for his unwavering patriotism. It was this patriotism that drove him into being a social critic and commentator. His classic work, The Trouble With Nigeria, remains an unmatched commentary on the state of our nation. Here, at the University of Nigeria, we mourn him for his unique contributions to the development of our university and for the enormous visibility he brought to our university through his creative works, even in his 


death. Expectedly, his passing will leave a void in our hearts and in our university, where he is revered as a great academic and administrator. He will be remembered as a remarkable teacher, an astute administrator, a creative genius, a storyteller and author of extra-ordinary ability. In addition, our Institute of African Studies which he headed during a remarkable period of growth and the Okike journal, which he founded, will continue to serve as worthy and enduring monuments of the remarkable career of this great man at the University of Nigeria.

Since the formal announcement of his death, countless tributes, in which his many accomplishments were situated and highlighted, have poured in from virtually every corner of the globe. We could only read and listen with a feeling of pride and gratitude to be associated with a man of such intellectual accomplishments. He already occupies an indelible position in the minds of millions of men and women of all generations who have read and continue to read his creative works in different parts of the world. My brief tribute here will also serve to remind us of the dizzying heights of success attained by Achebe despite his very humble beginnings and the setbacks he encountered in his lifetime.

Here lie the remains of a man of extraordinary achievements, who had travelled the entire world for his ability to tell a story like no other. He may have been talented, but it is easy to see the place of hard work and dedication in his achievements. After suffering a near fatal accident, which confined him to a wheelchair for the last two decades of his life, he continued to work and make headlines for all the right reasons. His ability to deal with adversity, his sense of patriotism and his dedication to scholarship all leave us with inspiring examples to follow.

May we all find some comfort in the knowledge that Chinualumogu Achebe lived a truly remarkable life and, through his many creative works, left indelible footprints in the sands of time. He will, therefore, continue to live in the minds of tens of millions all over the world, whose lives he touched with his writings.

Achebe was also a devoted husband to his dear wife, Christie, and a loving father and grandfather to his six children and many grandchildren, respectively.

May our thoughts also go out to his grief-stricken family as they come to terms with the reality of the demise of their husband, father and grandfather. May they also be comforted by the inspiring memories of the exemplary life he lived. May Achebe’s soul rest in peace.

Fare thee well, great scholar, administrator, writer, poet and storyteller. Fare thee well, The Eagle on Iroko. Fare thee well, Chinualumogu Achebe. Fare thee well.

Extract of an address on the occasion of a special senate in honour of late Chinua Achebe, Emeritus Professor of English Literature of the University of Nigeria



Okolo is the vice-chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka 


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