The remains of Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, who died on March 21, 2013 in faraway United of States of America at the age of 82, will today be committed to mother earth.
Today, people from all walks of life will gather at Ogidi to pay their last respects to the erudite writer. All manner of adjectives from men and women of letters will be employed to describe the man. Federal and state governments’ delegates will couch their speeches in such a way as to draw tears from the tear glands of mourners. But beyond the eulogies, what else?
While alive, Achebe had on various occasions expressed his disappointment over the state of affairs in the country. In his book The Trouble with Nigeria, he said bad leadership was at the core of the trouble.
Since the announcement of his death, preparations for his burial had included various forms of consultations, special sessions at various government institutions, service of songs, and many more.
As his remains are interred today in his hometown of Ogidi, Anambra State, it must be noted that Achebe died an unfulfilled man. Although he rose to the zenith of his aspirations in his field of endeavour, married and had children, the state of affairs in his beloved country gave him a serious concern.
Before he joined his forebears, he wrote a last book, There was a Country, in which he sought to remind his compatriots of the need to remember the dreams of the founding fathers, and also the need for the leadership of the country to right the wrongs that have continued to hold down the country. But, sadly, he was largely misunderstood.
Against the backdrop of the demands for a posthumous recognition for Achebe, who in his lifetime rejected such recognitions as a protest for consistent maladministration in the country, Wole Soyinka noted that Achebe deserves more than wishy-washy recognition. “Chinua is entitled to better than being escorted to his grave with that monotonous, hypocritical aria of deprivation’s lament, orchestrated by those who, as we say in my part of the world, ‘dye their mourning weeds a deeper indigo than those of the bereaved’. He deserves his peace. Me too! And right now, not posthumously,” Soyinka said in a recent interview.
In 2004, during the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo, Achebe rejected a national honour offered him. His grounds of rejection were the crisis-ridden political situation in Nigeria and the political bickering and imbroglio in his home state of Anambra, which he said had the signature of Abuja.
In 2011, the writer was among the 360 awardees selected for the award of different categories of the national honours, but he again rejected the gesture. Achebe expressed his grouse thus: “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must, therefore, regretfully decline the offer again.”
One of the greatest regrets of the cerebral African was that despite his campaign for real democracy and a better Nigeria, the powers that be remained recalcitrant. He was appalled that in the political, social and economic drives of the country, there was neither movement nor motion.
So, rather than pouring half-hearted encomiums at Achebe’s graveside, we believe that, even beyond naming national monuments after him, the best way to immortalise this great African would be for the government of the day to address those very ills for which he twice rejected the national honours.