Tributes continued to pour in for Professor Chinua Achebe yesterday.
Former governor of Lagos State, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu, said the deceased was a national treasure. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State and former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, described him as a literary giant.
To Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Achebe was a scholar of distinction.
Tinubu described the death of Achebe as the loss of yet another national treasure who died unfulfilled in his dream to see a better governed, fully demorcratic and united Nigeria. “Achebe’s words were like the arrows of God penetrating the fortresses of our leaders and striking their hearts to do good, unfortunately not many harkened and that is why we remain stuck as a people and a country”, he said.
According to him, notwithstanding Achebe’s exploits on the literary stage and his world acclaimed status, he had one regret and that is the failure of successive Nigerian leadership to birth a new country and liberate Nigerians from abject poverty and want.
Tinubu recalled how Achebe’s life and writings touched many and mentored several. “In my personal encounters with him, his simplicity, his forthrightness and his engaging personality struck me. Achebe and his writings were one and the same. He breathed what he preached. Though he elicits different reactions from different people, Achebe’s love for his people and his patriotism was unquestionable. His devotion to creating a better society was resolute”.
Oshiomhole said with the death of Achebe, Nigeria has lost a literary giant who left an indelible print in the sands of time.
In a condolence message by his Chief Press Secretary, Peter Okhiria, the Edo governor said: “His death evokes nostalgic emotion in the minds of all who read his books. His epic novel, “Things Fall Apart”, which earned him the sobriquet, ‘father of modern African literature’, is perhaps the best known book in this part of the world, aside the Holy Books. We pray God to grant his family the courage and strength to bear his loss. We also pray our Heavenly Father to grant his soul peaceful repose.”
Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State described Achebe as the father of modern African literature.
Fashola, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Hakeem Bello, recalled his meeting with Achebe last December at Brown University, Providence in Rhodes Island United States, where he had gone to deliver a keynote paper at the 2012 Achebe Colloquium on Africa, saying he was particularly saddened by the fact that there was nothing that indicated that the meeting would be the last.
“I am particularly saddened by the fact that when I met him at Brown University last December, I never realized it will be my last with him. It is, indeed a great loss and given the great contribution he has made in shaping the course of African Literature, he will be sorely missed, especially by the literary world”, he said.
The governor added: “He is a towering African figure whose personality transcends the walls of ethnicity and religion and whose literary prowess has taken Nigeria and, indeed, the African Continent to the pinnacle of international recognition.
Noting that he read ‘Things Fall Apart’, as a literature student in secondary school, he stated, “I must say, without any reservation, that Prof Achebe’s ingenuity as writer and the power behind his words influenced my generation to no small extent and opened our eyes to the rich culture, tradition and belief of our people. “And here, perhaps, lies his greatest contribution to the Black Race; for through such world classics as Things Fall Apart, Professor Achebe was able to keep our culture, tradition and belief alive in spite of the onslaught of other cultures”. Ngige described the death of Achebe as a great loss to humanity. Saying Achebe was number one among his peers in the literary world, he observed that his flagship novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, ranked as one of the most read novels all over the world, having been translated into more than 35 languages.
Rivers State governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Rt Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, expressed shock and sadness over the passing of Achebe.
Amaechi, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. David Iyofor, described Achebe as one of Nigeria’s and Africa’s finest literary giants whose works speaks volumes and is internationally recognized.
He recalled his fond memories of Achebe including his play “A man of the people” which is the governor’s favorite work by the writer .
“I love and have read ‘A man of the people’ over and over again, mostly because of its portrayal of leadership as it is in Africa. I have also commissioned that a movie be made out of it for the benefit of more people especially our youths who are the leaders of tomorrow. It is such a shock to me that our dearly beloved Achebe, the man who gave us several notable works of literature is gone,” the governor said.
“I still have fond memories of the time I spent with Prof. Achebe at his home in Providence, Rhodes Island and when I was invited as a keynote speaker to his annual African Colloquim at Brown’s University. His intelligence still motivated me. I remember his kind words, his fatherly advice and encouragement. Achebe is a man that will be greatly missed not only by Nigerians and Africans, but the world.”
“As the nation mourns this irreparable loss, I pray that God grants his family the strength to bear this great loss, and to all of us, I say find solace in the fact that Achebe impacted our world positively. He lived a fulfilled life fighting for change in the political landscape of our great nation and Africa, using his pen and voice, and has left behind an array of literary works that are indeed most remarkable.”
Amosun condoled with the government and people of Anambra State and world’s literary community on the exit of Achebe.
In a press release signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mrs Funmi Wakama, Amosun described the death of Achebe as a great loss to Nigeria. ”Professor Achebe was a scholar of first magnitude and one of the pioneers of modern African literature. Through such works like A Man Of The People and The Trouble With Nigeria, Achebe deployed his literary gifts to mirror the ills of our society with a view to building a better and prosperous Nigeria,” he said.
The governor urged the new generation of Nigerian writers to imbibe the sterling qualities of the erudite scholar and produce such interesting works that would help revive the culture of reading among the Nigerian youths.
In her tribute, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, said Achebe attained some immortality of sorts through his ground-breaking literary prowess.
“Though dead in body and flesh, Prof Achebe lives forever not only in our hearts and minds, but also in the literary sub-conscious of the entire world which read one piece from the iconic writer, and waited in bated breathe for the next. His last Epistle- ‘There was a Country’ is the crowning of a glowing career in the Arts and Literature that will continue to captivate and inspire generations the world over,”she said in a statement signed by her SA (Media), Joel Obi. The Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon (Engr.) Victor Ochei, said Achebe’s death represented a colossal loss to Nigeria and the galaxy of global literary fraternity.
Ochei, in a tribute, submitted that this development has created a vacuum in the chronicle of avowed patriots, whose contributions have offered the needed diverse but constructive suggestions, in navigating Nigeria through the complexities of nationhood.
On his part, the Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Samson Osagie, said Achebe’s book ‘There was a country’ should spur present and future leaders of our country to strive towards the greater ideals of democracy, development and socio-economic justice for all.
Osagie said: “I wish to express my deepest condolence to his immediate family, Nigeria and indeed the literary world. Here is a man who consistently turned down national honours as a mark of his resentment against social political and economic injustice and bad governance of our dear nation. His contributions to literature and the overall human development are out standing and will be missed”.
Associate Professor of African and World Literature, University of Denver, Dr. Maik Nwosu, said Achebe interrogated the movement of African history with an uncluttered sophistication and a cultural sensibility that shaped modern African literature. “Sometimes contrastively compared to Joseph Conrad, whose image of Africa Achebe notably criticized, the river from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the earth in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart signposts two modernisms (or European modernism and its African counter-discourse),” he added. London-based Nigerian poet and playwright, Efemena Agadama, described the demise of Achebe as a great loss not only to Africa but to the entire world.
He said Achebe started writing when the world had a different perception of the African continent which he fearlessly challenged. “He challenged that wrong notion not through reductionist diplomacy but by the very standard that was being used at that era – brave writings and that notion and unfair mindset of Africa was changed forever.
“Achebe is one of the world’s greatest writers that ever lived so we as Nigerians, especially writers, should avoid the classification of Achebe as one of Africa’s greatest writers. That is reductionist to a literary icon that gave birth to a new style of writing in the world”.