For having consistently featured Professor Chinua Achebe on its list of possible awardees yet delaying his deserved announcement as winner for many years now,
a writer and critic, Mr. Tunde Onikoyi, has branded the Swedish Academy – organisers of the revered Nobel Prize for Literature – biased against the person and works of the Nigerian literary icon.
Delivering the third yearly commemorative lecture on Wole Soyinka/Dapo Adelugba Prize for Drama on Friday April 25, 2008, in the Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan, Onikoyi painstakingly took the audience through the works and achievements of Achebe and concluded, “it was high time the Swedish Academy re-assessed its manner of making choices in scrutinising and observing the illumination and unbiased intentions and selfless contributions of the human world, which is reflected in the benevolent gesture of the late Alfred Nobel.”
The doctoral candidate said of Achebe: “Discussing Chinua Achebe at any possible forum is like a discussion of an icon, whose interest and yearning for the development of the African continent is paramount. As a writer and critic of remarkable standing, Achebe has explicated in his novels and critical works, how the African is specifically treated before the congregation of the white folks – of the so called developed world – and what the relationship seems like. In his novels, the critic tackles the problems of dictatorship and despotism in Africa and African politics, economics and has also spoken at various forums about the need to rid the continent of all dictatorial arrangements and pseudo-dictatorial arrangements that still linger till date. Achebe has tried to make African literature transcend the mere imitation of European models and to invent deep resources that capture the African life and cosmology, and interpret them in the best of ways.”
Works by the iconic writer include Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, The Sacrificial Egg and Other Stories, The Arrow of God, A Man of the People, Girls at War and Anthill of the Savannah. He has also written very engaging critical works such as Morning Yet on Creation Day, Literature and Society, The Trouble with Nigeria, Hope and Impediments, and Home and Exile.
He concluded by asking the question on everyone’s mind: ‘Why has the Swedish Academy not yet recognised the body of works of this great literary icon?’
Onikoyi suggested that it was possible Achebe had been denied the prize because some of his works had rendered some Western models unfit for African descriptive framework.
He equally hinted that Helon Habila was right to have thought – during an interview with Professor Achebe in 2006 – that the Nobel’s eluding Achebe was similar to the case of Graham Greene, whom people said did not get a Nobel Prize because at a certain point he had become too famous and the Academy thought he might not accept the prize if they gave it to him as did Jean-Paul Sartre.
Professor Achebe had once rejected an award – the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) – in 2004, during the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
To convey his message of rejection to Obasanjo, he had written on October 17, 2004: “For some time now, I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connection in high places, seems determined to turn homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not the connivance of the presidency.”