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Chinua Achebe And The Burden Of Old Age – By @Obajeun

It is one thing to tell the history of our continued existence, it is another thing to listen to the history, and it is a different thing to believe the history itself. In all, if history is not told, history will tell its history itself. This is a fundamental nuptial arrangement that nature has lured us to eternally say ‘I do’ to. But when history appears to be distorted through a wanton display of philosophy, especially when such perceived logic of distortion is coming from a revered great grand father of African storytellers, then there is bound to be a reprisal attack in an equal logic of distortion. There are decades when nothing happens, there are weeks when decades happen. It is a revolutionary dictum that has thrown up cerebral ‘bullies’, fancifully speaking from their Olympian heights to nudge sleep away from the eyes of our lowly brained leaders. Chinua Achebe is a product of this dictum.

My love for literature was informed by Chinua Achebe’s “Anthills of the Savannah” when I read it in SS2. Having read the book five times now, I got an excellent grip of the role of critique in nation building. Then over time, Achebe became my favourite over Wole Soyinka. After reading Soyinka’s “Ake” for the second time in my first year in the University, I ended up describing Soyinka as the grand father of African obscurants, too obscure for poor me to understand. So Achebe became my toast. In terms of logic, I have always been on the same page with Achebe, especially when it comes to good governance advocacy. Pa Achebe has won my heart on a number of times, he is not a typical Nigerian in search of a glamorous end of life. Achebe is a writer I can invest my life to read. He had seen the worst of Nigeria.

“There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra”, an account put together by Professor Chinua Achebe, has come with a big blow in what can be described as a product that can put to rubbles the decades of strife of the revered professor. In our cultural structure, when you accuse the dead to lend credence to your claims, you are perceived as a liar. Unfortunately, the same cultural elements of our existence postulate that elders don’t lie. The former can flow with logic but the latter places elders in the status of gods, meaning the voice of the elders is the voice of gods. In simple flow, the gods can also be liars. Achebe rose from his comfortable chair in America and sentenced Awolowo to his second death in his new book. He accused Awolowo of killing two million igbos during the civil war using starvation.

I am not here to contend with Achebe’s sense of historical judgment. To think that Achebe was born in 1930, when I was born about 54 years later is enough for me to eternally stay mute rather than muscle-flex with his thought-processes. Achebe witnessed the civil war, has documented evidence and watched the theatre of bloodshed that killed his kinsmen. Achebe is a historical god, but he is currently being hunted by the burden of his old age. Achebe has reversed the history of civil war in his nonfictional account, casting aspersions on Awolowo, the political god of Western Nigeria. For the first time, I am on a different page. I hate to be a judge in this case, but can the dead defend itself?

Achebe is wrong to have assumed that Biafra existed. The choice of the book title suggests that Biafra once existed. There was never a country called Biafra but there was an attempt to pull out the Eastern Nigeria and call it Biafra. There was never a constituted President, nothing like a system of government, nothing close to being a sovereign state. It was never on any map, no references on any Atlas except for the partial Nigerian writers, especially the ones inclined to thwarting the civil war stories to rake in treasures for themselves. When one considers what old age does to one’s sense of interpretation, one will never want to grow old. Old age is tellingly catching up with Achebe.

Truth be told, Awolowo was a prostitute in terms of being rabid when it comes to seeking political powers. Awolowo was a financial wizard who used economic tools to fight his own war. From Awo’s calculation, there was no way to differentiate between the civilians, Nigerian soldiers and the Biafran warlords and as such any food supply to the warfront might not get to the intended beneficiaries. Awo then raked in the food to feed his own people in the West rather than wasting it on soldiers. For Achebe to have accused Awo of hoarding food to starve Easterners to death, it is a clear case of someone who has lost touch with historical realities.

On the flipside, let us assume that Awo is guilty of the accusation. I have never read it anywhere that there was a warlord who was feeding his enemies on the warfront. Awo was human, in a clash of worldview, a principled man must take a stand. That Awo took a stand against Biafra was never a mistake and he never regretted it as Biafra never existed in his life time. Feeding your enemies on the battlefield is like giving your gun to your enemies to shoot you. Achebe should perish the thought of telling the assumed untold story and come to terms with historical realities.

The variegated events in human communities and societies have thus far formed the very raw materials with which writers convene the banquets at which their own imaginative mind blend seamlessly with the remarkable occurrences in human existence and eventuated by oodles of tragic, moving, perturbing and ennobling actions of human creatures. Achebe wanted to meaningfully expose the rotten underbelly of the saints of civil wars, but ended up fictionalizing a nonfiction account. I hate to think that it is a case of verbal hallucination, Achebe is of sound mind.

It’s me, @Obajeun

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