Chinua Achebe got it all wrong…

They all disappoint, don’t they? Something about the demi-gods we cast in muddy velvets is that they all seek a bath in a raging windstorm. Who else falls foul of this more than the merchants of words, who trade in the matrixes of alphabets? Sometimes they hit at the core of our longings and we are quick to elevate them to the class of gods; most times, they melt away like an ice on a furnace—when we least expected.

As a birthday gift, Chinua Achebe, (Author, Things Fall Apart) sauntered into the consciousness of the Nigerian audience with a piece of article: The genocidal Biafran war still haunts Nigeria—commenting on a grey part of Nigerian history.

I, frankly, acknowledge the rights of the renowned author to contribute personal opinions to any national discourse but I also aver that there should be public responsibility in commenting on historical events. Mr Achebe in a twist of irony decided to publish his long await memoirs of the Biafran war, which Chimamanda Adiche says lacks personal flavour and reddened with speculations.

‘In writing about the major events, Achebe often recounts what he was told rather than what he felt and the reader is left with a nagging dissatisfaction, as though things are being left unsaid’

I took time to read the article and found so many inconsistencies and deliberate distortion of history. Mr Achebe randomly apportioned blames where there is none and gave causes as effects and effects as causes. He tries to foist on history certain titivation, forgetting that history has a hue called memory and no matter how we try to deface it, facts always prevail.

Mr Achebe would have the world know that there was a conspiracy to exterminate the Igbo race. He categorically called it genocide. He queried, “who set up the republic of Biafra in 1967-through punitive policies, the most notorious being starvation as a legitimate weapon of war.” He ungracefully accused Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Yorubas as conspirators in the agenda to exterminate the people. As if there were no Yoruba heroes and casualties of the war

Firstly, in the chronology of the Biafran debacle, the Igbo were the aggressors; they cast the first shot to disrupt the nascent republic of just six years due to petty ambitions. Instead of being grateful for not being held responsible for the state of the nation today, an alien Achebe now cries foul with wanton untruths.

Secondly, it was never explicitly stated as a state policy, a mission to exterminate the Igbos. However, the world over, we know it is a cardinal crime to attempt a secession out of a federation. It is thus, unfair and irresponsible for anyone to imply, even, remotely that it was an agenda pursued, least of all, our own Chinua Achebe. He also wants to know why were there 100,000 casualty on the Nigerian side compared to the Biafran’s 2,000,000 victims. As peevish as this is the simple answer is that a rag-tag army cannot successful outsmart an organised force that dates back to colonial era.

Thirdly, he has a problem with a policy of the war era believed to have come from the then Federal Commissioner of Finance, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, ‘All is fair in war…’ the phrase is Shakespearean’s and the profundity of its truth ripples around the world. A question: Do you expect Biafra to be at war with Nigeria and still be fed fat? All is fair in war and love; this, has been true for ages!

Fourthly, without any bias, Awolowo may have personal ambitions but his actions as perceived by Mr Achebe are not representative of the Yoruba race. I had fantasied and got disappointed about Awolowo, as with Wole Soyinka and now Mr Achebe. But to say: ‘Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people… saw the dominant Igbos at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams’ is the most unwholesome comment any person could make about another person and his race. This impression of Mr Achebe is grossly speculative and erroneous, it is not becoming for a senior citizen.

6 thoughts on “Chinua Achebe got it all wrong…”

  1. Lol i’ve read commends about Achebe’s ‘There Was A Country:A Personal History of Biafra’ with so many people losing sight of the fact that what was actually published by the Guardian Of London was just an excerpt of a book that is yet to be released. Need i say that we may look at a thing and see it differently. If campus times chooses to narrate its personal experience about nigeria will it be as seen by charles williams? I’ll reserve my full comment till after reading the complete text. Thanks

    1. Dear Anonymous, you are welcome to this blog. Well, i don’t care about the elements of a person’s opinion as i do about a mischievous skewing of our history. History being when dates, people and places are mentioned…we can offer our legitimate impressions/perceptions about a person or thing or date but not about the person’s actions or deeds.
      Again, so that it may not sound unclear, I am not an Awoist howsoever but i take exceptions for such simplistic synecdoche of using Awolowo to represent the Yorubas.

  2. Well, well, well. Charles, my first indepth knowledge if I may call it so, of the Biafran war, was when I read Chimamanda’s Half of a Yellow Sun, with the war as background or rather permeating this story. She also pains the picture that the Igbos were wronged, though not in so skewed a way as you put it of Achebe. It is interesting to say that at the bottomline, tribal sentiments may play a part in Achebe’s position, but that would be doing the guy an injustice. I would think that with the current issue of Boko Haram and the clashes bewtween the X’tians and Moslems, the lessons of Biafra will be a stark reminder to draw nuggets from. I dares say that Nigeria may go that path once more, God forbid though, if Achebe’s comments are to spark any flames.

    1. These people tend to disappoint always. You can only imagine what i feel…when an elderly person tells blatant untruths. Achebe wants to drown all his esteem with petty propaganda. Worst of all, is the tribal dimensions they have brought to it. The Igbos would rather die than change their beliefs that the Yoruba betrayed them. For me, i want to stand on the path of logic and reasoning but unfortunately people still use the tribal spectacles to view my stand (Oyeleke is a yoruba name). I am not supporting Awolowo nor denying the atrocities of the Civil war and the refusal to completely re-integrate the Igbos back into the fibre of our socio-political existence but as a conscious student of history i take exceptions to clever distortion of our collection heritage.

  3. I think it’s really worrisome for someone of Achebe’s stature to put down such things as a literary piece. The Biafran nation headed to war first and really I shouldn’t say more because you’ve said the best and yes, anything we both say will be viewed with the tribal spectacles of us being Yoruba. I have a book published at which talks about many things related to our politics and the war.

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