Friday, March 22, 2013

A Tribute to Chinua Achebe

By Adejoh Idoko Momoh

At the accomplished age of 82, Nigerian literary icon Chinua Achebe is dead. Mostly acclaimed for his 1958 novel ‘Things Fall Apart’ which has sold a staggering 10 million copies and has been translated into about 50 languages, Achebe was until his death Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University.
To everyone, Achebe meant something. To impressive writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, he was a source of inspiration, a mentor of some sort. To school children, his literature helped shape language –the simplicity, courage of his writing: Achebe was never too complex to hinder understanding and never too simple to pass as pedestrian. To activists, he was a fellow activist- having refused Nigerian national honors in 2004 and 2011, accusing the government of turning Nigeria into ‘a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom’. To the Igbo’s, he was liberator- having played active roles in the 1967-70 struggle for Biafra’s liberation. In whichever way you choose to describe Achebe, one undeniable fact is that without Achebe, the Nigerian country and language would not have evolved as far as it has. 
According to his publishers ‘Penguin Books’, Achebe passed on the 21st March 2013. But it wasn’t until the next day I would hear of it. As my colleague broke the news, my immediate reaction was to question:
‘How can Achebe die?’
 No, I didn’t think he was immortal and therefore incapable of dying, I just needed some time to have the sad news of his death sink in. And giving that in a typical Nigerian day, you hear of the deaths of Nelson Mandela, Wole Soyinka amongst others, I wanted to confirm the news before I believed it. Looking back, I realize the news my colleague shared was mostly responsible for my sober mood all that day.
Let me say this, I am a writer with, every other Thursday, I am obligated to produce an article that exposes some flaw in society, governance. People have often asked if with my writing I am capable of making any change in response to these people, I would borrow a quote from Chinua Achebe: 
"There is no moral obligation to write in a particular way. But there is a moral obligation, I think, not to ally oneself with power against the powerless."
Being a man who spent his life sharing his gift with millions of us lovers of literature/ students/ writers Achebe challenges me to put my gifts to good use.  To not be selfish, write as much as I can. Never cease to speak up when I see people oppressed. From reviews I have read, his most recent work ‘There Was A Country’ very artfully blends painful memories, history and ideals while retaining its truthfulness. 

I mourn Achebe’s physical death but I am consoled for I know amongst writers that he graciously shared his gifts, a part of him would in their writing live. For every student he touched, a part of him would in their intellect live. For every activist, it is hoped that the lessons of his kindness, his boldness would be inspiration, and for all Igbo’s, they have the gift of pride. Knowing that they had a brother, father, son that made we all as a country proud.

Adejoh Momoh ( can be followed on twitter @adejoh


  1. It is indeed an irreplaceable loss, but Achebe was never really a mortal to me, like most people who had the rare priviledge of reading considerable African literature, he was like a diety in the minds of teachers and readers alike.
    He wasnt a carnal soul who was interested in mundane patronage such as the now 'dishonorable national honours' which he rejected from 2 administrations, rejected 50 cents $1m to use the name 'things fall apart' for his movie.
    Never afraid to speak his mind and damning the consequences in the preocess.
    I hope another Chinua Achebe evolves in our lifetime in a morally bankrupt society such as ours.
    May God rest his soul... Amen

  2. I like that has some communication

    1. Funny thing, when I first saw the picture I thought the same. I think it shows a vulnerable, deeply lonely man who was robbed of the opportunity of reconnecting with his roots. What does it communicate to you, please share.

  3. Adejoh I love this. To me, this article in its own honest way immortalizes his works. Thanks mate

    1. Yes, that's actually what I set out to accomplish. I wish I knew the man, I wish I had the pleasure of talking with him. As things are, it is only through his works that I would be communicating with or knowing him.

  4. The lexis and syntactic structure of this piece makes it a tad distracting and a difficult piece to follow. It reads almost as if you tried too hard to find the words and once you found them, threw them all over the place without regard for your reader' breathing and pace. A few Comma's should actually be semicolons to indicate interdependent statements; i.e. the sentence could have been ended but wasn't (for example the comma in the first sentence of the last paragraph and the unnecessary sentence boundary created by the full stop punctuation in the first complex sentence of the same paragraph breaking the flow between "gift of pride" and "Knowing"). Otherwise, brilliant and heartfelt piece.

    Interesting but curious comment about Achebe and 50 cent's encounter over the use of the name of Achebe's novel. In my opinion, I wouldn't list that particular controversy under the context in which it is being considered in the first comment simply because Achebe himself culled the title of his book from a 1919 poem by William Butler Yeats titled "The Second Coming".

    My thoughts.

    1. Thank you so much. It is comments like yours that keep writers in check, courageously demands quality of them. Thank you.

  5. There's no gainsaying that Achebe inspires diverse mindsets across the globe, its however pertinent to keep the torch of 'his boldness' as bright and illuminating as he must have wished, especially his ideal of "not allying with power against the powerless"..then have we truly mourned him..Adieu Achebe!

    1. 'not allying with power against the powerless'... Very profound. Thank you

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