Chinua Achebe’s body cannot go to the grave without the tagline of poet Gospel Kazako’s tribute to Malawi founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda: “Thambo lagwa [the cloud has fallen]”.
For me, there is no better way of immortalising the fallen literary giant than inculcating the gospel he preached to this end of the world. His acclaimed books—including No Longer at Ease, A Man of the People, Anthill of the Savanna and Girls at War—brim with captivating style and African words of wisdom.
Yet, many are mourning him for his first, Things Fall Apart, which is taught in countless classrooms, including Malawi’s public universities.
This is symptomatic of people who only read because the curriculum requires them to do so for examination’s sake, the lightweights brainwashed by the education system, which once separated literature from the teaching of languages, to think books are just another MBC: Informing, entertaining and educating.
Chinua’s writings also seek to form and reform the readers’ mind and way of life.
To this extent, his death is a lesser tragedy than his unprecedented foresight and danger-warning signs that go unappreciated.
Achebe was pivotal in not only dispelling Eurocentric depictions of Africa as a dark continent but also criticising corrupt forces that overshadow the continent’s rise.
At a time African presidents scramble for honorary degrees for their contribution to melting economies, Achebe declined to be ‘knighted’ the Commander of the Federal Republic in 2011 because Nigeria had failed to outgrow the shortcomings that compelled him to reject the national award in 2004.
“I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency,” he told president Goodluck Jonathan—for silence is not golden, but surrendering to terror.
It is to this exceptional mind, the founding editor of Heinemann’s African Writers Series (AWS) who spearheaded the emergence of the continent’s greatest pens, that I dedicate my wreath of drenched words. Rest in peace, unheeded connoisseur!