Africa’s foremost novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe is dead. He died Thursday night at a Boston hospital in Massachusetts, United States. He was 82. The late professor of literature shot to fame in 1958 with his novel, Things Fall Apart which has sold over 12 million copies with translations in over 30 languages.
Until his death, he was a lecturer at David and Marianna Fisher University. He was also a Professor of African Studies at Brown University, Rhode Island, U.S. Achebe has authored scores of books some of which are used in schools in Africa and other areas. His literary works include Arrow of God; No Longer at Ease, Anthills of the Savannah and A man of the People among others. There was a country ― an autobiographical account of his experiences during Nigeria’s Civil War of 1967 to 1970 is one of his latest.
Achebe a foremost critic of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was listed among those to be honoured during the National Merit Award as Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR. Reacting to the reason for rejecting the award for a second time in seven years, the professor said “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it to me again. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again.”
In 2004, when then President Olusegun Obasanjo gave him the first award, the professor wrote the President a letter in which he rejected the same honour, “I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.
“Forty three years ago, at the first anniversary of Nigeria’s independence I was given the first Nigerian National Trophy for Literature. In 1979, I received two further honors – the Nigerian National Order of Merit and the Order of the Federal Republic – and in 1999 the first National Creativity Award.
“I accepted all these honours fully aware that Nigeria was not perfect; but I had a strong belief that we would outgrow our shortcomings under leaders committed to uniting our diverse peoples. Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honour awarded me in the 2004 Honors List”.