Achebe: Return of Eagle on the Iroko
Posted by: administrator (Jan-19-2009)
Written by McPhilips Nwachukwu
Sunday, 18 January 2009
THE legendary climax of global celebration of the golden jubilee anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart at an exclusive hosting at the famous American Library of Congress located in American seat of power, Washington D.C. in November last year seriously watered the thirsting of Igbo nation, the proud place that gave birth and nurtured that beautiful breath of intellect, that wonderful gift to humanity, Chinua Achebe for a return home for a befitting, deep and deserving celebration for a son, who has made his people proud.

With plans concluded for the arrival of Africa’s Eagle on the Iroko, who last visited the country in 1991, Nigerians in general, and Ndi Igbo in particular are all anxiously waiting to receive the Ogidi Anambra State born novelist in their hands for a proper celebration and acknowledgment of immeasurable contributions in the preservation and advancement of African history and culture.

Golden anniversary

As part of activities to mark this great home coming, programmes have been lined up by organizers of whai is called, First Igbo Festival on Igbo Civilization, a programme initiated by Igbo born scholars at home and in the Diaspora in collaboration with Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, a socio-cultural group to use the opportunity of Achebe’s arrival to ensure Ndi Igbo’s own celebration of golden anniversary of Things Fall Apart, a book that has singularly etched Igbo civilization in the world’s history and cultural map; and also use the wonderful opportunity to examine the contributions of the book Igbo civilization as well as Igbo contributions to world civilization.

Prof. Chinua Achebe
According to chairman of the project’s planning committee, Professor T. Uzodinma Nwala in an interview with Saturday Guardian Newspaper, the celebration is not only about Achebe and his book, but an opportune time for Ndi Igbo to look inward into their life, their fate in project, Nigeria and also, to assess their future in this shaky polity. “We are not only honouring Chinua Achebe, the great literary son of of Africa, of Nigeria and of the Igbo nation, we are also using the occasion as a period of introspection to look into ourselves ,to find out what is happening to our society today,” he said.

Laudable mission, one would say. It is also said that there will be an international colloquium, where papers will be presented by Igbo scholars from various field of studies addressing the Igbo question. Films and exhibitions will also be shown at different locations in the different Igbo States of Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo.

The climax of the festival will be a lecture to be delivered at Owerri, the Imo State capital to mark the 2008 popular Ahiajoku lecture. It will be realized that in 1999, that this same wheel chair reduced Achebe, a professor of English at Bard’s University was flown into the country to deliver what became a very controversial lecture: He titled his paper in Igbo: Echi di ime, taa bu goo; which laterally translates, Tomorrow is too far, today is too early.

The title of that famous paper in the usual Achebean tradition was prophetic. Like the title of all his previous novels and essays, the prophetic implication of that topic rendered in impeccable Igbo language has dawned on Ndi Igbo today in all its ramifications. Prophetically, Achebe, a front line Igbo scholar, though a professor of English as early as 1999 understood the fate of Igbo language, the language that gave birth to all his great novels, a language that is today classified by UNESCO as one of the fastest extincting languages of the world; and therefore decided to speak to Ndi Igbo at the village square semblance, provided by the Multipurpose hall of Imo State government at Owerri in that language that carries the deep philosophy, science, history, culture, politics, sociology, art and oratory of a people.

But that great achievement recorded in1999 was not achieved on a platter of gold. There was no doubt that it was at a great cost that Achebe, who unfortunately was reduced to a wheel chair in 1990 following a ghastly motor accident shortly after a monumental 60th birth day at the great University of Nigeria, Nsukka was brought to Nigeria considering the kind of incapacities he suffers going through a tour as a result of that accident.

For this reporter, it was a life time defining moment in a carrier history. When the rumour of Achebe’s return to Nigeria after almost 10 years after that historic accident; there and then, Vanguard Media as one of the leading art papers in the country decided to celebrate that return by giving it a deserving coverage.

This reporter was billed to cover the return, but there was no reliable information about his return arrangements. Nobody knew the air line with which he was coming with nor the time of arrival. We only worked with the date of arrival. On that day, as early as 2 ‘0clock, this reporter was at Murtala Mohamed Airport, Ikeja going from one air line to the other, going through their manifests to see if he could find out which air line he had flown in with.

Sadly, none of the airlines agreed to know about his arrival, nor the time of arrival. Frustrated by the whole development, this reporter left the airport at about 7.00pm. Unfortunately as it were, Achebe unknowingly was all the while, aground at the airport as early 2.00 p.m but was unable to come out as it was said that the airport didn’t have the kind of wheel chair needed to wheel him out of the plane. Shortly after this frustrated reporter left airport, a visiting The Guardian reporter, who also got wind of the rumour of the arrival from this reporter, but came late to the airport, walked into the arrival hall exactly the time Achebe was finally being wheel out .So he brilliantly and luckily took over my story and broke it for The Guardian.

Sadly as I recount this experience here, I pray that there is no repeat of that experience this time around. Achebe is a global figure and for God’s sake Federal government is enjoined by this report to make this visit a memorable one of the great man and a jolly good ride for Nigerian press.

Good a thing information gap and technology has improved a lot since after the great masquerade’s last home coming. Nigerians would be disappointed if they are still left in the dark about things and activities around this great visit. The organizers should liaise well with the media; after all Achebe is coming home with foreign journalists.

We hope that Achebe will receive a great welcome from his people. At Owerri as he speaks to Ndi Igbo on Igbo: Intellectualism and Development, there is no doubt that in his characteristic manner, he will tell them, what will for very long time ring in their ears and stay as a very hunting reminder. Welcome home, great son of Ndi Igbo, Nna anyi Achebe nno.
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