Enigmatic Literally Icon Chinua Achebe has over the last couple of decades endeared himself into our literally consciousness and etched his name in gold in the history of African literature. As early as 1958, Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece-“Things Fall Apart” took the literally world by storm, signaling the literally prowess of Ogidi-born novelist. This trail blazer has over the decades, turned out to be the most widely read book in modern African literature as well as being the most translated African literature. This uncommon feat was later followed by “No longer at Ease”, Arrow of God”, “Man of the people” and “Anthills of the Savannah” written in 1960, 1964, 19966 and 1987 respectively.
It should however be noted that the erudite novelist is no stranger to controversy, if his antecedents are anything to go by. During the protracted Nigerian Civil War(1967-1970), Chinua Achebe was at daggers drawn with John Pepper Clark due to the Civil war divide, so much so that he controversially ordered the publisher of the “A Man of the People” to withdraw its dedication allegedly given to John Pepper Clark. He was again enmeshed in controversy when he took a fierce swipe at post-independence political and military rulers. Just as he criticized the contrived convocation of the people that make up Nigeria, blaming the colonial schemers and their stooges.
Apparently, in 1975, Chinua Achebe courted controversy again with his deft lecture titled “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” where he launched scathing attacks on Joseph Conrad as a “bloody racist”. His abrupt stint in Politics in the early 1970s was uneventful to say that least. Earlier on, in 1962, Chinua Achebe published an essay titled “Where Angels Fear to thread” in the issue of Nigeria Magazine, in which, he philosophically took a swipe at those who critique African writers from outside. This left the Ogidi-born novel Lord in the mire of controversy.
While in the post-war era, Chinua Achebe chaired a group, National Guidance Committee, charged with the responsibility of charting a new course for the war ravaged areas. Its document “The Ahiara Declaration” as well as his subsequent work with his contemporaries such as Cyprian Ekwensi and Gabrial Okara stressed the gory state of Biafra. After the Civil War, Chinua Achebe had his passport revoked due to his stout and unflinching support for the Biafra course. Though many scholars in the 1980s acknowledged the fact that Achebe literally prowess thrives smoothly on criticism of racial prejudice. So much so that Achebe’s criticism warmed its way into the mainstream of Conrad’s work. So much so that today, Conrad’s work cannot be mentioned without referrals to Achebe’s critique.
“There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra” by Chinua Achebe (October, 2012)
On August 1976, Chinua Achebe in an interview castigated the pattern of Nigerian intellectuals, who he claimed are mainly concerned about their “Status” and “Stomach”, this left him in the butt of criticisms from some Nigerian intellectuals. Furthermore, in his celebrated book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”, he attracted criticism again when he lambasted Nigeria failed leadership. In 1983, he lashed Nigerian politicians, claiming that they have “deteriorated” and as such cannot improve the lot of the country in a rather strained argument that almost resulted into a fisticuff with Bakin Zuwo, Kano State Governor-elect.
The catalogue of Achebe’s awards is endless. After bagging his first national honours, the over 30 honourary doctorate degrees recipient, has turned down the prestigious national honours of Commander of the Federal Republic in 2004 and 2011 respectively, in rather controversial circumstances. There are wide spread arguments that for his controversial criticism of Conrad’s work, his scholarly attainments and global significance of his literally works would have long earned him a deserving Noble Prize.
Nonetheless, his nascent book, “There was a country: a Personal History of Biafra” which captures his memoirs on the Biafran War has put the Ogidi-born novelist in the eye of the storm again. Achebe stirred controversy in an unprecedented dimension when he depicted the late nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as a man driven by overriding ambition for power at the expense of the Igbos. As well as his scatting attacks on Awolowo’s anti-igbos posture and policies. Remarks that have not gone down well with Awoists.
His comments in the book has ire many Yoruba leaders and scholars in no small measure. This literally misadventure, is in all its ramifications, seems to be straining the cooperation and integration of the Yorubas and Igbos. It seems to be hurting old wounds, burning a direly-needed bridge. The timing of this memoirs could not be so ill-timed as such a time the Igbos are yearning for other geo-political zones to support their deserving and equitable quest for state creation, presidency of Igbo extraction and a pragmatic responsive policy to the infrastructural decay and non-existence in the South-East.
These apparent imbalances emanated from the politicization of the civil war and post-civil war politics. These resentments have been taken too far and the fierce reactions seemingly overblown, whipping ethnic bigotry and conflicts that are least needed now. It was John Lennon who remarked that “holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, headache and sour jaw from clenching your teeth”. The primordial ethic conflict of the past must be underplayed in the face of the daunting challenges of governance in the contemporary Nigeria.