Politics of Achebe’s Burial

Uba arrives at church
Uba arrives at church

Anambra governorship aspirants turned Chinua Achebe’s burial in Ogidi, into a campaign platform to market themselves

By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Jun. 10, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

IT WAS supposed to be a somber occasion. A day set aside for family members, friends and well-wishers to mourn and pay their last respects to the departed. But the presence of political heavyweights who gathered in Ogidi, Anambra State on Thursday, May 23, ensured that the burial ceremony of a literary icon Chinua Achebe became a carnival and a battle ground for next year’s gubernatorial election in the state.

Ngige (middle)

Even though the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has not released the timetable for the election, the politicking and preparations for the election are in full swing. Aspirants from various parts of the state are seizing every opportunity to project themselves and leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of votes. At Achebe’s burial, a horde of aspirants seeking to succeed Peter Obi, the incumbent governor, were present. Notable among them were, Ifeanyi Uba, Uche Ekwunife, Andy Uba, and Chris Ngige. Although none of them made any political statement, it was clear that aside from coming to commiserate with the Achebe’s, they were there to covertly throw their hats into the ring, gauge their popularity and campaign for the forthcoming election.

The atmosphere at St. Philip’s Anglican Church, where the service held before Achebe was buried in his compound, was politically charged. Supporters of the various aspirants were dressed in customized attires and as soon as their candidates arrived at the church, they rushed to welcome them with songs and eye catching dance steps. Eager to see the aspirant part with some money, some of their supporters hailed them by shouting their names and traditional titles. As politicians are wont to, some of the aspirants got the massage and dropped some packs of Naira for the praise singers.

Of all the aspirants, it was Ifeanyi Uba, who stole the show. If posters and grassroots popularity were enough to win an election, he would be described as governor in waiting. In spite of the solemnity of the occasion, Uba did not hide his desire to occupy the coveted seat. His face was the most visible and he was one of the last guests to arrive at the church.

Campaign merchants
Campaign merchants

Right from the entrance of the town, his campaign posters flooded everywhere. Women and children adorned in shirts bearing a large image of his face were seen dancing through various parts of the town. On the road leading to Achebe’s house and the church where the service was held, his posters littered every wall. And right at the entrance of the church, he had a big poster of himself and welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan to the ceremony. When Uba finally arrived at the church, he was welcomed by a crowd of women and children singing, dancing and waving posters before him. He paused for a moment to acknowledge their greetings and take photographs before going into the church.

Although other aspirants made less dramatic entrance, they also had supporters singing and shouting their names. At the reception which held in Achebe’s compound, Ngige was the man of the moment. As soon as he came in, shouts of ‘onwa’, rented the air. Like a typical politician, he waved back at the people to acknowledge their greetings.

It is not just the politicians who are gearing up for the election; the people of Anambra are also preparing to elect a new governor. They want a governor that will deliver the dividends of democracy and make the state better. Kingsley Ikem, a youth leader in Ogidi, said even though all the aspirants continue to spend money on campaigns, the people of Anambra will only elect a leader who can make good his promises.

“You can see what all of them are doing instead of mourning Achebe. No matter how much they spend on campaigns, I can assure you that the people of this state will only vote for a leader who will keep his promises. Our people are wiser now and they know that politics in not just about money,” Ikem said.

Chioma Ndum, one of the women who welcomed Uba at the church, said she knows nothing about him but was asked to join other women at the church because the coordinator promised to pay. “They called us this morning and gave us this shirt that I am wearing. The coordinator promised to pay us N3,000 after the burial,” Ndum said.

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