As we inch towards the burial of Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe, tempers have risen over his family’s acceptance of a national burial funded by the Federal Government and the governments of some states in Eastern Nigeria. The reason for this being that in life Chinua Achebe rejected honours from these governments he deemed corrupt and inept. The argument being that it is a betrayal of his principles to have his body buried by the same government he would not accept honours from in life.
Personally, I think, and possibly wrongly so, that to have Achebe’s funeral dealt with by the Nigerian government will never affect his position in history as a great writer and critic of bad governance. Not one of the ideals he stood for in life will become eroded because he was buried by the enemy after he died. If there is any sin here at all, it is not Achebe’s sin.
Achebe also lived a long life and managed to publish his personal history of Biafra before he died. I would think that a person of Achebe’s stature would not have died intestate. If he did not expressly state that the Nigerian government must not come near his remains, then it does not amount to a betrayal if the family has accepted to have the Nigerian government bury the him. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the topic would not have come up in his household while he lived. Somebody must have asked him what the family’s position should be if the governments wanted to get involved. Especially after the way the Nigerian government hijacked the burial of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, surely this must have come up.
Let us celebrate Chinua Achebe’s life. Stop all these arguments. Right now he does not care one bit who buries him or whether or not people think he is the Father of African Literature or as Nick Clark referred to him as the Father of Modern African Literature, emphasis on ‘Modern’. Right now Chinua Achebe does not mind that Wole Soyinka thinks, rather trespassingly, that There Was A Country should not have been written. The man is dead. Let’s give him the spiritual space to live forever. TB