Africa’s greatest novelist Chinua Achebe is back home to Nigeria marking his second visit to his home country in almost two decades. The literary giant has been invited to speak at a festival celebrating the culture of his Igbo ethnic group. Mr Achebe began writing in the 1950s.
The 79 year old writer who is most famous for his novel, ‘Things Fall Apart,’ has lived in America since a car accident left him partially disabled and wheelchair-ridden in 1990. Talking about his plans to relocate to Nigeria as soon as his house in his hometown is completed to accommodate his handicapped situation, Professor Achebe said that America “is not boring in the narrow sense but what is going on there is of very little interest to me (…) In Nigeria, “there is so much needing to be attended to… There are stories all over the place, not written. Stories waiting to be transformed into novels”.
In his first visit to Nigeria since he migrated to the United states following his 1990 demise, the acclaimed writer was welcomed by a huge and loud crowd in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja, filled with masqueraders, dancers and drummers while tens of thousands of people thronged a football stadium to hear him speak. People from all walks of Nigerian life, from journalists to politicians, keen to show their appreciation of him queued to see him despite the fact that some of his writings had been very hostile to them.
In one of Mr. Achebe’s popular articles titled ‘The Trouble with Nigeria,’ he complained of convoys of VIPs traveling with police escorts becoming a childish and cacophonous instrument for the celebration of status… a medieval chieftain’s progress complete with magicians and acrobats chasing citizens out of the way.
But in an ironic turn of events, eyewitness reports claim that his police escort drove at a steady 110 kph (70 mph) on the wrong side of the road forcing everyone else off the tarmac. A policeman, reportedly, leant out of the window and whacked the other motorists with a stick – even hitting motorcyclists with pillion riders – as his escort overtook other vehicles.
Over 2,000 people turned out for Mr Achebe’s lecture at Owerri, where he said he is deeply disappointed at how little Nigeria has achieved since independence. He called on Africans not to reject their own culture but look to their past to discover values that will enable the continent to develop.