The Late Prof. Achebe, His Kinsmen and Dreams!

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised” quote Mr.Albert Chinualumogu Achebe; a veteran journalist who edited and inspired my book “Ndigbo That Agitates” published August 2005 then his newest book “There Was A Country!”. These books reiterated what Igbo man was involved in or rather how he was defeated in the Civil war, that he cannot mobilize to demand his full reinstatement in the Nigerian mainstream and that he can be easily mobilized to tear himself down are all faulty arguments to advance in justification for his continued marginalization. The Igbo people are not the first people in the world to be defeated in war. In pre- colonial Nigeria the Yoruba civil wars were fought, won and lost. Today the winners and losers of those terrible wars happily live together without any strings attached. The eleven confederate states that lost the American civil war were granted soft peace by President Lincoln. They have been fully readmitted in the American mainstream and happily live to actualize the great American dream.

It surround the details of Mr. Achebe’s most recent book; “there was a country!” If Mazi Isaiah Okafo Achebe who gave birth to Mr. Chinua Acbebe was alive today,such a moment of despair, we have in front of us may become a mirage and had Ezinne Janet Anaenechi Iloegbunam Achebe refused to marry Okafo Achebe, Chinua Achebe, regardless of hispolitical ideology, might not become such a fauna from Igbo extract.In 1936, Achebe entered St Philips’ Central School. Despite his protests, he spent a week in the religious class for young children, but was quickly moved to a higher class when the school’s chaplain
took note of his intelligence. One teacher described him as the student with the best handwriting in class, and the best reading skills.He also attended Sunday school every week and the special evangelical services held monthly, often carrying his father’s bag. A controversy erupted at one such session, when apostates from the new church challenged the catechist about the tenets of Christianity. Achebe later included a scene from this incident in Things Fall Apart.Achebe has paid his dues to Nigeria. He has nothing up his sleeves against Nigeria. And in line with his commendable belief in the continued corporate existence of Nigeria, he values onscience and charisma above politics. He did not reflected the Ekwuemes , the Onohs , the Okparas, the Okadigbos, the Ojukwus the Mbadiwes, the Onyiohas , and the Collins Obis who left their son Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe naked and pitched camp with the defunct National Party of Nigeria,( NPN) in the second republic. That was why the Orji uzo Kalus, the Nwobodos, and the Okadigbos all supported Chief Obasanjo in the race for the Presidential nomination of the PDP in Dec.1998 instead of Chief Ekwueme, their kinsman. Obviously the skepticism clouding the Igbo presidency will pale into insignificance when correct answers are provided to these questions:

Who punctuated Nigeria’s match to the promised land of Democracy by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari? Who annulled the freest and fairest presidential election so far conducted in the history of Nigeria? Who were the leaders of the two political parties –The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC) who stood impotently by as the powers that be buccaneered our democracy in the 1990s. Who overthrew the Interim Government of Chief Ernest Sonekan? Which head of state has been repeatedly accused of unilaterally making Nigeria a member of the Organization of Islamic Countries? How many Nigerian Heads of state have unsuccessfully plotted to succeed themselves in office and where are they from? Why did the out gone Police chief, Mr. Ehindero localize all his investments only in the South Western part of the country? Why was President Obasanjo uncommunicative when the senators he inaugurated in 1999 were given Five Million Naira (#5,000,000.00) each as their furniture allowance in lieu of the three million and five hundred thousand Naira (#3,500,000.00) that Nigerians knew about?

At the age of twelve, Achebe moved away from his family to the village of Nekede, four kilometres from Owerri. He enrolled as a student at the Central School, where his older brother John taught. In Nekede, Achebe gained an appreciation for Mbari, a traditional art form which seeks to invoke the gods’ protection through symbolic sacrifices in the form of sculpture and collage. When the time came to change to secondary school, in 1944, Achebe sat entrance examinations for and was accepted at both the prestigious Dennis Memorial Grammar School in Onitsha and the even more prestigious Government College in Umuahia.Modelled on the British public school, and funded by the colonial administration, Government College had been established in 1929 to educate Nigeria’s future elite.It had rigorous academic standards and was vigorously elitist, accepting boys purely on the basis of ability.The language of the school was English, not only to develop proficiency but also to provide a common tongue for pupils from different Nigerian language groups. Achebe described this later as being ordered to “put away their different mother tongues and communicate in the language of their colonisers”. The rule was strictly enforced and Achebe recalls that his first punishment was for asking another boy to pass the soap in Igbo.

Once there, Achebe was double-promoted in his first year, completing the first two years’ studies in one, and spending only four years in secondary school, instead of the standard five. Achebe was unsuited to the school’s sports regimen and belonged instead to a group of six exceedingly studious pupils. So intense were their study habits that the headmaster banned the reading of textbooks from five to six o’clock in the afternoon (though other activities and other books were allowed).

Just like martin Luther King, Achebe started to explore the school’s “wonderful library”. There he Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery (1901), the autobiography of an American former slave; Achebe “found it sad, but it showed him another dimension of reality”. He also read classic novels, such as Gulliver’s Travels (1726), David Copperfield (1850), and Treasure Island (1883) together with tales of colonial derring-do such as H. Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain (1887) and John Buchan’s Prester John (1910). Achebe later recalled that, as a reader, he “took sides with the white characters against the savages”[22] and even developed a dislike for Africans. “The white man was good and reasonable and intelligent and courageous. The savages arrayed against him were sinister and stupid or, at the most, cunning. I hated their guts for his first novel and magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, which is the most widely read book in modern African literature breathed his last in a Boston hospital Tuesday evening at the age of 82.Born at Ogidi in southeast Nigeria on Nov. 16, 1930, Achebe was the son of a Christian evangelist.

In May 1967, the southeastern region of Nigeria broke away to form the Republic of Biafra; in July the Nigerian military attacked to suppress what it considered an unlawful rebellion. Achebe’s partner, Christopher Okigbo, who had become a close friend of the family (especially of Achebe’s son, young Ikechukwu), volunteered to join the secessionist army while simultaneously working at the press. Achebe’s house was bombed one afternoon; Christie had taken the children to visit her sick mother, so the only victims were his books and papers. The Achebe family narrowly escaped disaster several times during the war. Five days later, Christopher Okigbo was killed on the war’s front line. Achebe was shaken considerably by the loss; in 1971 he wrote “Dirge for Okigbo”, originally in the Igbo language but later translated to Engl


As the war intensified, the Achebe family was forced to leave Enugu for the Biafran capital of Aba. As the turmoil closed in, he continued to write, but most of his creative work during the war took the form of poetry. The shorter format was a consequence of living in a war zone. “I can write poetry,” he said, “something short, intense more in keeping with my mood … All this is creating in the context of our struggle.” Many of these poems were collected in his 1971 book Beware, Soul Brother. One of his most famous, “Refugee Mother and Child”, spoke to the suffering and loss that surrounded him. Dedicated to the promise of Biafra, he accepted a request to serve as foreign ambassador, refusing an invitation from the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University in the US. Achebe traveled to many cities in Europe, including London, where he continued his work with the African Writers Series project at Heinemann.

Achebe was one of the lead vocals against the military rules of the late Sani Abacha and the rest military junta. Achebe snubbed Obasanjo’s greek-gift national award citing critical issues and the big poser in Anambra crisis that Nigerians appear not to have answered satisfactorily. He recalled the event of July 10 2003, abduction, in real sense of it. With less than two months to the end of the tenure of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, the late, Professor Chinua Achebe, said the president has taken Nigeria “as low as she has ever gone.”The late Professor Achebe wrote from his New York residence as followed,, “The clouds are gathering,” all the talk about the administration’s fight against corruption was nothing short of a myth.In Achebe’s words: “President Olusegun Obasanjo has taken Nigeria as low as she has ever gone. This will surprise foreign ‘friends’ of Nigeria who may believe the myth that Obasanjo has been fighting to end corruption in the country and to bring democracy to its citizens. Nigerians know better.“President Obasanjo has had the opportunity to rule Nigeria for three years (1976-79) as an unelected military dictator and later for two terms of eight years as a retired general/civilian (1999-2007). People don’t exactly remember what Obasanjo did in his first civilian incarnation. His second coming, however, was a different matter. He unfolded a gigantic scheme for staying in power beyond his tenure.

He set up agencies with long titles like the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent National Electoral Commission. It soon became clear, however, that these devices were not intended to curb the crimes they enumerated but to go after people who disagree with the President, especially on his desire to extend his tenure.“Perhaps the strangest of these events took place in my own state, Anambra, where a governor was kidnapped by a criminal gang who claimed that they had ‘fixed’ the election and earned the right to receive the state budgetary allocation.Whatever the merit of this bizarre story the governor refused to turn over the allocation to these thieves and began to spend it on building roads and bridges which nobody had done in decades. He began to pay pension to retired civil servants who had not been paid in years.Anambra State was transformed overnight. No where else in Nigeria had such a change happened. Ex-Governor Ngige became the people’s governor.“One would have thought that our anti-corruption Ex-president, Chief Obasanjo, would have embraced Governor Ngige as a fellow fighter against corruption. But no. The fellows demanding the state revenue were Obasanjo’s friends who in anger set about burning down and destroying state property while the Police stood at a distance, watching.“I have told this story again although we all know it. I am retelling it because as it goes with Anambra, so will it go with Nigeria.“As Nigeria gets ready for the election of Governors, Anambra State is in a quandary. Ex-President Obasanjo’s hatchet man for elections is determined that only one candidate will be allowed to run in the state and has gone ahead to disqualify everybody else so that the President’s favourite man will be alone in the field. If this plan goes through, it would amount to nothing less than the disenfranchisement of the people of Anambra State.“I must congratulate the Judiciary on the tough battle many of its members are waging for the soul of Nigeria. The Senate came ever so close to snatching Nigeria out of the fire, and then… That was a historic moment lost. What a pity.”

And again when President Jonathan recalled his recognition; Achebe cited Wholesale theft, robberies per home invasions, robberies and murders on the gutted and cratered highways, no lights, no water, and polluted when it flows from the taps, gangsters in government who engage in open and brazen robbery, so people turn to the phoney imported cults of cultures confusing Islam religion into religio-political permutation to bring about Gboko Haram governable agitation Most of our religion don’t work except for the cunning clerics who get rich preaching nonsense for the gullible. Federal roads and bridges linking the Igbo with the other peoples of Nigeria have been constructed and “regularly maintained”. The Igbo man was the Vice President and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives during the second Republic; the Chief of General Staff, albeit shortly during Babangida’s administration ;the Chief of Naval Staff during part of Late Gen. Abacha’s regime; the Senate President during Obasanjo’s administration ;and the present deputy Senate president. Agreed .President Shehu Shagari granted the ex- Biafran warlord Chief Emeka state pardon in the early 80’s.Agreed Chief Obasanjo authorized the payment of gratuity and pension to those servicemen who fought on the side of Biafra during the crisis. But the Igbo man has never been the Chief of Army staff, Chief of Air staff or Minister of Defence or the Inspector General of the Nigeria Police force. The presidency has not been an equal opportunity Employer to him. His effective right to the Nigerian presidency has not yet been guaranteed. Yes, even with the on going rotation of the key federal positions among the six geo political units. In 2000 a senior friend of mine from the Ogoja-Obudu area of Cross River state (A staff of the Federal College of Education in that area) told me that the Igbo are the problems we have in Nigeria because they are too “clever”. In the summer of 2003 one Mr. Adesina told me in Manhattan New York City that the Igbo man cannot and will never be the president of Nigeria. And General Obasanjo has been quoted to have called the Igbo a ‘conquered people’ during his presidency. This sense of nervousness about the Igbo and his right to the presidency also exist among the Northerners.

People began to turn to self-help and business books owing to availability of few indigenous firms in Nigeria to hire us. And the government which should help is run by robbers and gangsters so there are no jobs for the many. Hence people read about how they can start a business to help themselves. That Achebe become a renowned novelist never portray Nigerians don’t read fiction? They do–with all those Bible readers and Koran reciters.

The reasons for this are not farfetched: The British colonialist suppressed Nigerian indigenous heroes and heroines by effectively demeaning their values. Post-independent Nigerian elites effectively failed to refer to their ancient heroes and heroines in the larger progress of the 250 ethnic group that make-up the Nigerian. Of prominent failure are the post-independent education system and the various national civic organizations, one which was chaired the late Prime Minister Tafawa Belewa, not featuring the various heroes and heroines of the 56 ethnic groups that formed Nigerianas part the country’s civic v

irtues. This has impacted negatively on Nigeria’s progress, weakening the growth of sense of nationalism, confidence, trust, spirituality, self-worth, morality and role modeling.

While Nigerians may learn and quote other non-Nigerians, Nigerians, as the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, argued, should not only learn “about the history of past heroes” and heroines but, more seriously, “emulate their good examples to enhance the country’s development,” as a means of enhancing national development. The learning and the emulation should be done more through the education system, which lack broader teachings of Nigerian heroes and heroines, and about peace and unity as in-scripted on our coat of arm, which have to remind Nigerians constantly that their progress rest on onesness,fairness and accomodating tribes like one of us will remain key sense of self worth.Remember Igbo presidential slot was deferred in 1999,then 2003 tilll 2007. Traded for peace in 2011. now what happen in 2015? Our ordeal continues despite all!

The recent Kano Luxurious Bus bloodshed and bombing was meant to deliberately provoke Ndigbo to revenge and kick off mayhem that could lead to an uncontrollable conflagration but ndigbo rebuff. Precisely on June 8, 2005, Nigerians, indeed the entire Igbo nation woke up to the reality of an ugly espectacle culminating from already known campaign, exterminate the Igbos, when some policemen in the Federal Capital Territory conspired to gruesomely muder six young Igbos (five boys, all motor spare part traders at the Apo Mechanic Village and a lady) without any reason whatsoever. Having worked so hard in the day to earn a decent living, the victims, ostensibly, had taken time off that night clubbing. On their way back, they ran into a road block mounted by the police, who are suppose to be their friends, but who as always turned out to be their worst enemies. That was the beginning of the sad story that transfixed the Igbo Nation and appalled all decent minds the world over. The six young people were summarily executed. That won’t be the first time policemen of the Northern element with the instructions from their supperiors would, wantonly, waste the lives of innocent Igbo civilians in the Northern part of the country. In fact, it was not the first time that they would kill such number of innocent Igbos in one fell swoop, but there was something about the killing of these six that came to be known as “APO SIX” The deliberateness of the action was confounding, the killings were slow, careful and methodical. It was about the episod of needless and criminal blood letting that I have heard in my 56 years of life. So bestial was the act that the Igbos, a nation with a soul long deadened by all manners of actrocities, brutal suppression and denial of justice was once scandalized ..Ekene Isaac Mgbe, Ifeanyi Ozor, Chinedu Meniru, Paulinus Ogbonna,Anthony Nwokike,Augustina Arebum were victims.

On September 7, 2001, violence erupted in Jos between Hausa and Fulani “settlers” from the North and the indigenous volks of Berom, Afisare and Anaguta. Some days later, to be precise, on the 12th of September, the dynamic changed when after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, the Muslim residents, mainly Hausa and Fulani took to the streets and celebrated the victory over the United Stated. During this demonstration, while chanting anti-American slogans, Igbo traders were attacked and their wares looted. At the end 3000 people died and most were buried in a mass grave. In December 1996, a Christian Igbo trader, Mr Gideon Akaluka was beheaded by the Muslim youths in the Northern city of Kano. According to eye witness report, Mr Akaluka’s wife was said to have torn a piece of the Islamic holy book, but some Muslim youths in the city went after the husband, who ran into a police station. But these fanatics went there and after brief chats with the Divisional Police Officer manning the station, he handed Mr Gideon over to them and watched with satisfaction how these fanatics helped by some policemen under his command hacked him down and consequently cut off the head, which they spiked along the streets of Kano in celebration. According to the accounts of the incident, it was a little almajiri boy begging for food or on an errand that discovered the sacrilege. Other accounts claimed that it was a’ mai ruwa (water vendor).

Charging the governments for doing little for the people has stalled inter-political relationship. Nigeria; a country where secularists and Islamists often compete for influence, but in the vast middle ground of their political world, identity politics serve the secular goals of capitalist wealth accumulation by mobilizing public passions around social and cultural issues and obscuring the inequality and deprivation that create the growing islands of urban prosperity which sustain mainstream middle class politics, around the world.The late Achebe said we get happiness through people service which even the crorepatis would not get. Never lived in the world of contemporary globalization, but he did provide the key to its potential to serve human well-being: he saw that religious ethical passions and reasoning could be mobilised in movements for social justice, equity, and democracy. Instead, however, religion has been deployed by mainstream politics to separate peoples along cultural and ideological lines, to prevent unified struggles and alliances among poor immigrants and their poor neighbors, to make national enemies of stranded Ndigbo in Rivers,Edo,Borno, Jigawa and Sokoto states , and poor migrants from everywhere in the world. The so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, defined substantially by religious difference, has been mobilized to oppress the poor people for whom the memory of Chinua Achebe just like mahanta, martins luther King and the living Nelson Mandela today ,could still serve as a beacon of hope.

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