March 22, 2013

Known worldwide as a great Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe acclaimed author of “Things Fall Apart” died at the age of 82, according to a release by his British publisher Penguin Books. When Achebe wrote “Things Fall Apart” 1958, it was the Colonial Era when Nigeria was under the British rule and little did he know it would become a masterpiece, recognized all over the world as one of the greatest literary work ever written.

Born in 1930, Achebe grew up in the village of Ogidi, known as the center of Anglican missionary work in Colonial Nigeria. He attended the University College, Ibadan, now University of Ibadan a premier Institution in his native Nigeria. Achebe began a career in radio that ended abruptly in 1966, when he relinquished his post as Director of External Broadcasting in Nigeria during the national upheaval that led to the Biafran War.

The Biafran war led by Odumegwu Ojukwu was a Political conflict, caused by cultural, religious, ethnic and economic tensions that could have led to secession of Southeastern provinces of Nigeria as the self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. After Biafra became an autonomous republic, Achebe joined Biafran Ministry of Information and became an ambassador for Biafra on various diplomatic and fund-raising missions though, Ojukwu failed to realize his dream of a secession after Nigerian forces supported by the British, launched an offensive that ended the civil war on January 15, 1970.

Before his death, Achebe was Senior Research Fellow at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught at recognized and Ivy League institutions outside Nigeria and for more than fifteen years, he was the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. Until his death, Achebe was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana studies at Brown University.

Besides “Things Fall Apart,” Achebe wrote more than 20 other books including: “Arrow of God” 1964; “A Man of The People” 1966;”No Longer at Ease” 1960; “Girls at War” 1972; “Anthills of the Savannah” 1988; “Chike and the River” 2011 and others. His latest publication “There Was a Country,” got published on October 11, 2012. In it, Achebe masterfully recounted his experience, as he lived it and his understanding of it. He began the story with Nigeria’s birth pangs and the narrative of his coming of age as a man and a writer so the reader might understand the country’s promise, which turned to horror when the hot winds of hatred and discord began to blow.

His novels, short stories, essays and collections of poetry received accolade and are part of syllabus in Universities and schools all over Africa and overseas. Achebe got many honors from around the world, among which are the Honorary Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as honorary doctorates from more than thirty colleges and universities. He received Nigeria’s highest award for intellectual achievement, the Nigerian National Merit Award. In 2007, Achebe won the Man Booker International Prize for Fiction but before, he made a return to his native Nigeria in 1999 after years living abroad in Britain and the United States.

Election of former Military General, Olusegun Obasanjo as a democratically elected President, prompted his return but weeks after his arrival, Achebe realized the country was not ready for his homecoming so, he decided on a return to the United States. One of the reasons, the healthcare system could not meet his medical needs due to an accident he had years back on a road outside Lagos Nigeria. “Unfortunately, Nigeria doesn’t have the health care facilities to allow a physically challenged individual like myself to live with self-reliance and dignity,” he said in a brief interview at Barnes and Noble New York, before reading passages from “Home and Exile” in 2000.

Achebe would be remembered as one of the greatest men of letters. His most powerful fictional character, Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart,” remains in the minds of lovers of literature who got immersed in the culture, rituals and tradition of the Igbo people of Nigeria. The intense moral energy found in Achebe’ writing, will forever make his work a classic achievement in the world of literature. He would be known as a novelist who expressed his political views through writings that depicts his distaste for colonial rule, Western biases and post-colonial Nigerian leadership corruption, which he blamed for the country’s woes.

Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at Follow on Twitter @san0670.

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