Awka, the capital of Anambra State stood still, yesterday, as the body of the literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe arrived the state for its final journey to Ogidi, his home town, in Idemili North Local Government Area. His remains will be interred later today.
The famous writer of Things Fall Apart, who died in Boston, United States of America, USA, was flown into Enugu from Abuja and was finally brought to Awka, at exactly 1.07pm.
Early morning rains which started at about 6 am had welcomed the body of the late literary giant, to Anambra State as the people prepared to troop into the Alex Ekwueme Square in the state capital to attend ceremonies lined up for him by the state government and the burial committees. By 7.00 am, a large number of security operatives had taken positions while members of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, were already directing traffic to appropriate places.
The remains of late Achebe was brought in a motorcade to the expansive Alex Ekwueme Square Awka, into the waiting hands of his kinsmen, friends, colleagues and high profile delegates from governments across the world.
Obi, Ngige lead mourners
Governor Peter Obi and the senator representing Anambra Central in senate, Achebe’s senatorial zone, Dr. Chris Ngige received Achebe’s body at Amansea border between Enugu and Anambra states to a waiting crowd comprising civil servants, politicians and journalists. The entourage headed straight to the Alex Ekwueme Square where prayers and tributes were offered.
The body lay in state at the middle of the square and was surrounded by Achebe’s kinsmen wearing traditional attires with red caps to match.
On ground to witness the solemn moment of tribute anchored by actor Bob Manuel Udokwu were Chris Odom, Professor Joneta Cole, Director of Smithsonian Institute, Washington; Prof. Scott Meyers of Penguin Books, and Professor Justin Whelan of the University of Cambridge, who represented the Arch bishop of Canterbury.
There were also members of the Achebe family comprising his widow, Prof. Mrs. Achebe, and his children- Dr. Ike Achebe, Prof Chinelo Achebe, Dr. Chidi Achebe and Prof. Nwando Achebe.
In his glowing tribute to Achebe, the Director of Penguin, Scott described the late writer as a very great man of letters, whose works have had a succession of influence across generations of writers.
He noted particularly the influence of Achebe’s first three books; Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God and No Longer At Ease, which he described as a “ trilogy of African literature, stressing that “I have not seen others’ books or writers that have been so studied and reprinted like Achebe and his works.
Among other personalities that witnessed the Awka ceremony were Senator Ndoma Egba, senate leader who led other senators namely, Senators Uche Chukwumerije, Mohammed Magoro and Chris Ngige to represent the senate.
Anglican Bishop of Awka, Rt. Rev Alex Ibezim, in his opening prayer said that with the death of Achebe, things have fallen apart and what Nigerians should pray for is the mercy of God.
According to the Bishop, “Achebe’s death is a celebration of life because he achieved so much for humanity. It is, however, mourning in a way because we will no longer see him and this is painful.”
To the traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu, Eze Professor Chukwuemeka Ike, himself a renowned author, Achebe neither benefitted from any godfather, nor participated in the looting of treasury, but worked hard to become an international figure.
Chairman of Anambra State Association of Town Unions, ASATU, Dr. Innocent Onwubuya described Achebe as both a traditional person, having been the president general of Ogidi Town Union and an academician who had done the nation proud.
Others who paid tribute to Achebe include Igwe Prof Laz Ekwueme, president of Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Prof Remi Raji; Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe Univerisity, Professor Boniface Egboka; former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili; Mr. Chike Momah, who was Achebe’s classmate at both Government College, Umuahia and University College, Ibadan.
Governor Peter Obi, in his speech, commended Nigerians for according the literary icon a deserving respect.
He said that Achebe’s personality towered so high that no fewer than 12 heads of state sent condolence messages to him after his death and urged Nigerians to emulate his lifestyle.
To the governor, the writer had done his beat and that if there is indeed heaven, ‘Achebe will definitely be there because he did his race so well.’
Ndigbo will miss him — Ohanaez
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said yesterday, that the departed literary giant, Professor Chinua Achebe whose remains would be finally laid to rest at his Ogidi country home in Anambra State today, would be missed for a very long time.
The umbrella Igbo organization said Achebe’s departure has left a yawning gap in the horizon of the Igbo nation.
Secretary-General of Ohanaeze, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, who spoke with Vanguard on the demise of the renowned author, said that the organization viewed Achebe’s exit as “very tragic” and would not be forgotten easily.
He said: “Achebe’s departure is a traumatic blow to Ndigbo and indeed Africans. Though 82 is a ripe age, we would have wanted him to live forever. His demise has left a yawning gap in our horizon. We will miss him a lot and for a long, long time. He cannot be forgotten too easily because he is the man who put our essence into sharp focus with his magnum work- Things Fall Apart. Therein he re-established the long damaged self confidence and psyche of the Africans who had been plummeted by colonial powers into seeing themselves as less than human.”
“Achebe showed that the African has history, religion, philosophy, government (law and order), art, good music and all fabric of a civilized society. Thereafter no one could see the African from colonial eyes only nor could anyone write about us for us.
“Achebe has started renaissance or rebirth. Africans could now tell their real story by themselves confidently. He was a genius and among his peers he was a colossus.
“We are extremely happy and proud that this titan was of Igbo stock. He has done the continent proud and he has lit a light that will beam everywhere. His memory will remain evergreen in our hearts, Ndigbo wish Achebe, the guru, peaceful repose in the bosom of our Lord.”
To the young generation of Ndigbo, Nwaorgu said they should emulate Achebe as role model known for maintaining core Igbo values, justice, equity, courage and enterprise or resourcefulness.