Thousands of mourners converged in Ogidi, Anambra State of Nigeria, on May 23, for the funeral service of Africa’s literary icon, Chinua Achebe. He died in Boston, USA, on March 21.
Achebe was the David and Mariana Fisher Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. The Nigerian novelist is globally revered for his masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, which continues to impress most readers.
Among the numerous sympathizers who turned out for the occasion were Presidents Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and John Mahama of Ghana, as well as traditional and religious dignitaries.
In his writings, Achebe, it should be recalled, castigates corrupt and brutal leadership in post-colonial Africa. In this regard, President Jonathan challenged his compatriots to live up to the ideals of good governance advocated for by the late Achebe.
Jonathan cited the 2011 Nigerian presidential elections as evidence of the kind of free and democratic choices Achebe would have loved to be encouraged across Africa. For his part, the Ghanaian leader, Mahama, expressed his love for Achebe’s craftsmanship.
Testifying their admiration for Achebe, the artist and person, both leaders pledged to rebuild the elementary school in Akpakaogwe, which Achebe attended.
Although Achebe’s works are often critical of Western cultural and political arrogance towards Africa, he appealed for mutual respect for all cultures regardless of their origins. The conciliatory tone in Achebe’s art partly explains his decision to live and work in the West, although political and medical reasons could also have militated in favor of his choice to emigrate to the West.
As Achebe’s casket was taken for a family burial in his compound, one expects that his legacy would continue to positively impact dominant and dominated groups in Africa, particularly politicians who seem to have exhumed and embedded political and economic abuses of the colonial era in contemporary African politics.