Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Chinua Achebe's homecoming

The great Chinua Achebe arrived Abuja yesterday morning from the U.S. I was at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport by 5:30am with other people from the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), led by its president Dr Wale Okediran, Imo and Anambra State governments, to receive him.

The 78-year-old author came to Nigeria to deliver the annual Ahajioku Lecture on the status of Igbo culture. The lecture, financed by the Imo State government, will hold tomorrow in Owerri. His last visit to Nigeria occurred nine years ago.

I had been phoned by Dr Okediran on Sunday night and got news of the visit. I was armed with my digital camera at the airport and was lucky to have shot several (award-winning!!) photographs of Prof. Achebe. (The one posted here is one of them).

This was the first time I saw the acclaimed author of the novel "Things Fall Apart," which I began translating into Hausa a long time ago.

Later in the evening in Abuja Achebe criticised Africa's flawed electoral system with the words: "Politics is not warfare."

Talking to journalists, he said: "I must express very profound disappointment with what is happening on the African continent concerning elections, concerning succession."

"The idea of a civilised society is one where power is transferred willingly because the law is there. But somehow in Africa, we still have not learnt that simple but profoundly important fact."

I couldn't agree more.

(In the photo above, Dr Okediran is seen directly behind Achebe, holding Achebe's wheelchair. Popular TV newscaster and author Eugenia Abu is beside Okediran, while Mrs Achebe smiles brightly, with a badge on her chest).

It was a great way to start a day.

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