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At death, Achebe still worries over the trouble with Nigeria

At death, Achebe still worries over the trouble with Nigeria

Today, March 21, 2022 marks nine years of the death of Chinua Achebe, the late Nigerian literary icon and one of the pioneers of African literature.

While alive, Achebe used his writings to reflect the society, its vices, as well as, called for the need for justice and even development that would impact the masses positively.

Now resting in his grave at Ogidi, his hometown in Anambra State, Achebe still worries over the state of the nation, which rather than getting better, is worsening.

He captured this in “The Trouble With Nigeria”, a short but pithy essay, which he wrote in 1983.

In the essay, Achebe identified a number of issues that had prevented Nigeria, despite its vast potential, from becoming the African superpower, which the late father of literature saw as Nigeria’s destiny.

About 39 years after the essay was published and nine years after the death of Achebe, the evils of corruption, tribalism, social injustice, indiscipline, arrogance, mediocrity, lack of patriotism, lack of national purpose, and, above all – and linking all of these – a lack of leadership, are still holding the country from achieving its destiny as ‘African superpower’.

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Achebe in the essay frowned at the election process in Nigeria, which he said were flawed and cited instance with Senegal where Léopold Senghor, a highly educated man and a poet, was able to lead the country into independence despite being a Christian in a Muslim dominated country.

According to Achebe, Senghor did not get there by rigged elections, but simply by making the Senegalese feel safe and not threatened by religion or by ethnicity. He prescribed the same selfless model to Nigerian politicians for true leadership and development.

According to the essay, the country has not progressed as much as it should today because of the lack of leadership, someone who will come out and declare the stand that all Nigerians are his people and be credible in his dealing, not regarding ethnicity or religion.

Recognising the importance of education in the development of the country, Achebe suggested in his essay that education should not be merely to acquire the ability to read and write but to move to the next stage of humane and progressive awareness of what makes a civilised society work.

In his recommendations for a better Nigeria, Achebe said whatever will remove the almost obsessive hold that power has for the leader is welcomed, as well as anything that downgrades the importance of the presidency.

“It is not the president that is the centre of life in the country, it is the people. Therefore anything that makes the office of the president less attractive, I welcome”, he said in an interview he granted in 2007.

But the late literary icon was not all worries, he suggested in the interview, “We should celebrate moments of success in this experiment called Nigeria.

“I don’t go as far as some people who have virtually come to the conclusion that Nigeria should be dissolved.

“I come close now and again but I like to think that we shouldn’t really fail because the experiment does not seem so difficult – just respect your next-door neighbour, be fair, don’t carry the wealth of the nation and send it abroad, outsourcing Nigeria’s wealth.

“Put in place a few fundamentals – we should not give up yet.”

Achebe, who died on March 21, 2013, at 82 years, would have been 91 this year, but he lives on through his evergreen writings that are accessible across the world.