Exit of a Literary Icon

Chinua Achebe
Achebe

The world moves to Ogidi, Anambra State, as Chinua Achebe, a literary icon, is buried in his home town

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

Achebe, going home in style
Achebe: Going home in style

OGIDI, a sleepy town in Anambra State was agog with activities on Thursday, May 23, when family, friends and dignitaries from various parts of the world converged to pay their last respect to the Africa’s literary icon, Chinua Achebe.

The body of Achebe who died on died on the March 22, in Boston, US, at the age of 82 was flown into the country on Wednesday when the funeral rites began. He was buried in a Mausoleum in his country home on Thursday after an elaborate church service at St. Philips Anglican Church which was attended by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, Peter Obi, governor of Anambra State and a host of other dignitaries.

Achebe's Masoluem
Achebe’s Masoluem

A huge crowd of mourners adorned in customised clothes bearing portraits of the renowned author thronged the church and his home to be part of the celebrations. Speaking at the church service, Jonathan described the Things Fall Apart author as a great man who inspired leaders with his writings. Although he expressed his regrets about not knowing Achebe personally, he acknowledged that he was one of his many admirers and called on Nigerians to work together in order to sustain his legacies.

“Now that he has departed us, all of us must work together so that our children will know there is a country”.

Chidi Achebe
Chidi Achebe

It was not only the high and mighty who paid tributes to Achebe. Some of his close relatives and ordinary folks in the community also had good things to say about him. Obi Achebe, one of Chinua Achebe’s nephew, told Realnews that his uncle was a kind hearted and very warm personality. He added that in spite of his sterling achievements and global acclaim, the late Achebe had had time for everyone in the family. “It is sad to see him go but we are glad because he lived a good life. He was such a wonderful man and had time for everyone in this family. You will think you are the only one in the world when he is talking to you. My uncle was a great man in every sense of the word”.

Obi Achebe
Obi Achebe

Olu Ogundinmu, a professor at New York State University, described Chinua Achebe as a man of many parts. Ogundimu, who is married to one of Achebe’s daughters, said he was a wonderful father-in-law. “From the turn-out today, you can confirm that this man was a good man. It hurts to say goodbye to him but we are proud to have known him because he touched our lives in many ways.

Emmanuel
Obierika

Obierika

Asked if Achebe would have been greater if he had won the Nobel Prize, Ogundimu, who is also a lecturer, said the award is too insignificant to diminish Achebe’s stature as a writer. “The Nobel Prize is just another award and award no matter where it is coming from, does not make a man. That award cannot diminish Chinua Achebe because he was a great man in his own right who didn’t care about getting recognition. The quality of his intellect is what defines him, not the awards he won or didn’t win”.

Mbajiorgu
Mbajiorgu

Similarly, Greg Mbajiorgu, an author and lecturer at the University of Nigeria, said Achebe did not need a Nobel Prize to define his greatness. Mbajiorgu, who is also the president of the South East Zone of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, added that Achebe’s works will last  as long as humanity remains. It is unfair to even lessen the greatness of a man whose works have been translated into several languages because he didn’t win a prize from Sweden. The Nobel prize means absolutely nothing to Chinua Achebe. If the world says you are great, who are the organisers of the Nobel Prize to say you are not?”

Ogundimu
Ogundimu

For his kinsmen and members of Ogidi community, Achebe was more than just an author. He was a light bearer illuminating paths to an obscure village with his good works.

Emmanuel Obierika, one of the villagers, said Achebe was a hero who will live eternally in the minds of the people. “He lived a very good life and we are proud to be associated with him. He was a fearless and very honest man who was never afraid to say things the way they are. I met him in 1982, when my mother died. He attended the burial and took time to advise me and my brother on how we should live as children without others”.

Ogwa
Ogwa

Ngozi Ogwa, another villager, said Achebe put Ogidi on the global stage with his writings. “It is a big loss for us as a community but we thank God that he was our son. The whole world has gathered here today because Chinua made us proud, may his soul rest in peace”.

(L-R) Barth Nnaji, Emeka Anyaoku, Peter Obi
(L-R) Barth Nnaji, Emeka Anyaoku, Peter Obi

Achebe has not only brought the world to Ogidi by his death, indeed, he has also brought a blessing to the sleepy town. Both president Jonathan and Mahama had jointly announced at the burial that they had decided to immortalize Achebe’s name by reconstructing St. Philip’s Central School in Ogidi, which the deceased had attended.

Kingsley Nwokike, a youth in the community, said: “I have come to pay my last respect to this great man. I never met him but the fact that he is from my village just makes me proud.”

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