ENUGU— The immediate past Governor of Imo state, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim has described the late literary icon, China Achebe, as “a man with awesome credentials and an eagle on the Iroko,” adding that the nobel laureate is the greatest gift God gave to the Igbos as a people and Africa as a whole.

He stated that Achebe laid the foundation from which other writers emerged and also the one who propelled the Igbo story in his book, “Things Fall Apart,” in such a way that the world has come to know about the ingenuity of the Igbo ethnic group.

Ohakim made this statement yesterday when delivering his keynote address titled “The Igbo and the Leadership Question: The Achebe Example” at the opening ceremony organized by the Institute of African Studies International Conference on Chinua Achebe and the Convolutions of Immortality held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN.

According to the former Governor, “Chinua Achebe was an eagle on the Iroko, a trailblazer, a pathfinder and an African icon. In short, he was a genius.

“Africa is grateful to God for giving us Chinua Achebe. The world celebrates him because he gave us a profound story. A man with awesome credentials, a multiple award-winning literary giant and a global icon.

“58 years ago, Chinua Achebe wrote the classic “Things Fall Apart”. In this 58 years, Things Fall Apart has grown in meaning and timelessness to become the most read novel by any black writer. It has a record of being translated into 50 languages of the world.”

Ohakim said that the novel, Things Fall Apart is the story of “Uwa Ndigbo” as he called it, meaning, “the story of the Igbo world” which Achebe made a global story, adding that “while the world celebrates him because he gave it a profound story, Ndigbo celebrate him because he told our story.”

He posited that “for writing Things Fall Apart, Achebe gave Ndigbo an identity, and a legacy that can never perish no matter how hard our detractors try.”

He likened Achebe to other great leaders of the world who through their human activism, has brought revolutionary changes to the world.

“If we remove sentiment for a moment and accept that leadership is nothing but the ability to harvest followers, then Achebe can be said to be one of the greatest leaders Africa gave to the world.

“Some of the other notable leaders of Chinua Achebe’s standing include Frederick Douglas, Jose Martin, Charles Darwin, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Pain, Karl Max, Niccolo' Machiavelli, Martin Luther King Jnr and Nelson Mandela,” Ohakim stated.

Ohakim also said that Achebe nurtured other writers of high repute who had followed his footsteps to come to limelight.

He said: “we celebrate Achebe because he led the way for other great writers. Because Achebe was there, that is why there was Cyprian Ekwensi, because Achebe was there, that is why there was Nkem Nwankwo, because he was there, that is why there was Flora Nwapa. Chinua Achebe led a path followed by Elechi Amadi. He trod a path followed by Chukwuemeka Ike. He opened the door for the likes of Ben Okri. In his footpath has emerged another compelling storyteller of international repute, Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie. As the editor of the African Writers Series, Achebe nurtured other great African Writers too many to mentione here.”

Nigeria Is Negotiable— Ohakim

Ohakim noted that the major problem with Nigeria is its leadership structure which concentrates enormous power and responsibility at the centre, adding that it needs to be thoroughly re-examined.

“This is not the political structure that our founding fathers negotiated at independence. I have said it in several fora; over  concentration of power at the center generates friction among the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria; it unleashes extreme competition for power and the advantages it confers. It breeds more suspicion and distrust among the peoples of Nigeria.

“Above all, unitary government, as being practiced in Nigeria today, no longer works for anybody. The evidence is that virtually everything federal has failed or collapsed. Some less informed people still hold the notion that Nigeria is non-negotiable. The truth is that everything in negotiable and nothing is impossible.

“We must never be supporting leadership with K-leg. Those who have compromised themselves, I call them mendicant class; beggarly class that cannot take us anywhere, we must change our thinking.

“If you marry me, you don’t sleep with me, you don’t give me money for food, why not allow me to go back to my father’s compound and then go and look for another person to marry.

“Is that not how marriage is done? Will you continue to force yourself to marry me? You don’t sleep with me, you don’t give me money to eat, you don’t pay my children’s school fees, I can’t enter your bedroom and you’re marrying me. Please allow me to go home so that my father will know what to do with me; so that I look for a new husband to marry.”

 - Chukwuemeka Chimerue and Amadi Chikezie
   Enugu Media Team
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