• Academy of Letters, college old boys, others pay tributes
FRESH tributes came for the late Nigerian novelist, Prof. Chinua Achebe, as the Archbishop of Canterbury – the leader of the Anglican Church Communion worldwide – the Most Rev. Justin Welby, led a full Anglican service of songs for him in London.
The Bishop of Woolich, Rt. Revd. Michael Ipgrave and his Southwark counterpart, Rt. Revd. Christopher Chessun, also eulogised him, so also was the Jamaican High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), Mrs. Aloun Ndombet-Assamba.
Also, the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) and old boys of Government College, Umuahia, Sunday paid tributes to the late literary icon.
In a one-page eulogy read by his representative at the service held at All Saints Cathedral in New Cross on Saturday evening, Welby said “it is a great privilege to be able to send this tribute to Chinua Achebe as you gather for a service at All Saints in his memory. Chinua Achebe was a wonderful poet and novelist, and one of the most important and influential writers in the history of Literature in English.
“He was a world figure, and played a significant role in shaping my own understanding of Nigeria and of the post-colonial era. In offering my condolences, I would also like to express my admiration for his courage in pursuing justice and integrity. ”
Welby also described Achebe as “a tremendous human being, and also a family man.”
In his own eulogy, Chessun described him as a “novelist of great stature.” The cleric also echoed what Nelson Mandela famously said of Achebe, that he, through his writings, “brought Africa to the world” while remaining rooted as an African.
Continuing, Chessun noted: “Certainly his role in the formation of national identity and consciousness in post-independence Nigeria cannot be under-estimated.”
Eulogising Achebe, Ipgrave said he was not just “a great teller of stories,” but “a notable academic” who “lived between the worlds of scholarships and of popular culture, and at times, also of politics and religion.” According to him, that place in-between often proved to be a hard and costly place to be.
The bishop told the congregation of about 200 not to be gloomy, noting that: “What we mark tonight for Chinua Achebe is his
journey into a place which is no longer at the centre where things fall apart.”
On her part, Ndombet-Assamba commended Achebe for not only having a “great impact” on her personally and others who read his books in the Caribbean, but that he “gave them dignity as people of colour.” The diplomat thanked Achebe for giving her and millions of others the “wonderful gift of words from an African perspective.”
There were also eulogies from the Chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the United Kingdom (CANUK), Chief Bimbo Afoloyan and from the service organiser, Alex Achebe, who was Achebe’s nephew. Alex also read from his uncle’s last work, There was a country.
At the colloquium and night of tributes organised by old boys of Government College, Umuahia, elder statesman, Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, regretted that the societal ills, which made Achebe reject national honours on two occasions, still thrive in the country.
He particularly lamented the state of infrastructure, especially the deplorable Enugu-Onitsha highway, where Achebe sustained the road mishap that condemned him to a wheelchair until his death, stressing that it was unfortunate that Achebe’s remains would be taken through the same road in its poor state.
He said: “He had hoped that in his life