The death, Friday, of Albert Chnualumogu Achebe at the age of 82 came to Nigerians as a rude shock.
While we join his immediate family members, literary colleagues and numerous admirers to mourn his painful exit, we are, however, satisfied with the quality of life he lived.
Achebe was an internationally celebrated Nigerian author and statesman. He lived through and helped define revolutionary change in Nigeria, from independence to dictatorship, and to the disastrous war between Nigeria and Biafra in the late 1960s.
Until his death, the Ogidi, Anambra State-born novelist was really concerned about the maladministration in Nigeria. In his The Trouble with Nigeria, published in 1984, Achebe identified the trouble with Nigeria as “simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. Thereafter, he never hid his disappointment with successive governments that offered no hope to the suffering masses of Nigeria.
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 United States of America-based writer was among the 360 awardees selected for the award of different categories of the national honours, but he again rejected the gesture. Achebe’s grouse was that “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.”
In response to the presidency on his rejection of the national honour in 2011 and the claim that his refusal “clearly flies in the face of the reality of Nigeria’s current political situation”, Achebe said: “A small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.”
One of the greatest regrets of the cerebral African is 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’s neither movement nor motion. He continued to see lack of will and inefficiency in governmental exertions, insincerity, injustice in certain parts of the country, the total strangulation of the poor and lopsidedness in the scheme of things.
On the literary scene, Achebe’s books have continued to elicit debates across the globe, the most recent being the controversial book There was a Country, which dominated discourse on the pages of the nation’s dailies and magazines.
A great storyteller by all standards, author of numerous world-class novels including Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of the People, Anthills of the Savannah, among others, Achebe will be remembered for his resoluteness in pursuit of what he believed in rather than pandering to the whims of any government in power. His life is a great lesson.