It is futile to quantify the sort of impact or achievement Professor Chinua Achebe has accomplished, so futile in fact, that awards and accolades fall short. Only yesterday, March 22, 2013, the world was shaken at the news that yet another icon has descended to the grave.
One nagging worm that will always twist our insides would be not knowing the extent of wealth of knowledge and experience imbedded in this great mind we have lost. We can not know what it’s like, to be 28 years old, living in the dawn of your country writing about your people. We can not know what it is like to shape the thoughts of your country, your peoples with every word you scribble on paper. And shape peoples thoughts he did; there is no African writer who hasn’t encountered his work on one level or the other. This prompted Common Wealth Writers Association to regard him as the father of African Literature.
Chimamanda Adichie, Nigeria’s celebrated novelist has made reference to him in several speeches. Excerpts of his works have appeared in several English textbooks, or studied as prerequisite for literature examinations. His works in themselves are timeless and have been celebrated even though he never won a Nobel Prize. On that, he replied in an interview ‘winning the Nobel Prize doesn’t make you the Asiwaju of literature.’ And his words were true.
Amidst the many legacies he left behind, the most compelling would be the concept of using his pen rather than his fist to express himself. Rather than indulge in violence, he took to the paper and the issues that he confronted became prominent themes in his works. Even though he was accused for trying to stir up dust with his recent work of non-fiction, there was a country, he still stood his ground, staying true to his experience of Biafra.
The message his lifestyle preaches is clear; It doesn’t matter how intense or violent a war becomes, if you fight with your talent, perhaps you won’t die as one of it’s many unknown casualties, maybe you would make a difference…maybe one day you would be honored. Maybe when death pays you a visit, there won’t be just your family but the world to mourn you. Then the world would pause and sigh with grief, and say ‘there was a man’.