Achebe’s Day of Tribute

It is 11am local time. People had already started drifting into the large NIIA auditorium. The organisers, AKA IKENGA, had set people all over the entrance to both welcome and interview some. The press were all here. The event promises to be a kind of reflective moment for Ndigbo and Nigeria. Why shouldn’t it be one wonders.. The rain is coming down in tonnes, heaven seems aggrieved. 

The people gathered here are drawn from all works of life. There is a riot of colours in the dressing. Red caps, blatant hats, head gears of all shapes and colours. The beauty of our diverse cultural attires are in display here.. All these at the backdrop of Mozart and a chilling note from Clyderman, Un-Igbo, yet not out of sync. We’ve come to mourn the immortal. I can’t feel the mourning, I feel different, like in a caste of an impending Masqurade display. A joyous thing. How can we really mourn the gods? 

The organisers titled the day of remembrance, “CHINUA ACHEBE- THERE WAS A MAN”. Instructive, yet not overwhelming. We’ve come to celebrate, and reflect on this icon of the Arts. The man was, but where are we? It’s almost 30 minutes into the announced time, the hall is half empty, the people- Ndigbo, are simply not here to honour their Masqurade. Like the MC just alluded now, were it the Yoruba’s honouring any of their greats, this hall would have been overflowing with people who would have defied the rain. Our penchant for bed room analysis and support has simply been put to test here.

The way we have set about in this country with our issues has affected the way people take us. We are a people that our competitors do not take too seriously again. To migrate from what we used to be to what none of us can understand anymore is what bothers me the most. Showmanship for cheap applauds is our bane today. Well the national anthem, for a man who hardly saw any thing good in Nigeria prior to his death. We are nowhere near a celebrating the spirit and values of A MAN that has done so much for the image of every Onye Igbo

As a young man reading things fall apart, I was captivated by the affinity to my sourroundings and its reflection on some of the stories around me. Before then I had been enthralled by Dickens, Byron, and so many other English writers. To read Achebe was to suddenly realise that everything around me has a story to tell. He woke me up. He made my homestead suddenly magical and reinforced my extremely magical views of my sourroundings. Today he starts his final bodily walk home, I am not sure I have drank enough of his magic words. 

A moving eulogy, rendered in Igbo by Dr. Nnabuihe of the music department of the University of Lagos; followed by a dirge written by Igwe Laz Ekwueme. A high point indeed. Now my Shakespare, a Pen and pet name my wife has come to start calling me, is escorted home with a home made Opera written by our own Mozart.  EKEMEZIE Anthony Mmereni and his choir rendered poems and songs… Ikoro Igbo has forever been silenced by death. The rendition of Bach in Igbo language was most interesting, considering the difficulty of translation and note. A sentence beautifully rendered in eloquence and beauty as testament of the uniqueness of Achebe’s native ventricular. 

Speaker after speaker, reflected on the man and his works. Spoke of a mind toughened by distress and suffering. A monumental pacesetters model, a seeker for truth that somehow died unfulfilled. Yes unfulfilled, for he dreamed and hoped for a Nigerian space that would ameliorate the burdens of the less privileged and poor. This remains a long way from fulfilment. Patched all over the country are fault lines, each capable of tipping the balance. He has suddenly become another unfulfilled Prophet… Who saw the promised land but never lived to step on it.  

On my way into the hall the press asked me, “How best do you think that Nigeria can immortalised Achebe?”  How do you immortalise an Immortal? I asked. He secured in immortality while amongst us. He  stood taller than all of us. And like my father would always say… “The tallest tree in the forest sees the farthest”; Achebe was the tallest in our forest of ignorance, poverty, tyranny and rascality and saw farthest also. He saw the future. Saw the place where we could all be and saw the country that we once had and the one though lost today that can still be regained

There was a Man who saw Things Fall Apart; who knew as a Man of the People that There Was A Country… Fare thee well Oh! Great singer… You were and remain our Homer… Our Poet Laureat!!!