He has bitten the hand that feeds him’ chief the honorable M.A Nanga cried loudly from the his seat; then an unknown backbencher ..(paraphrased from A Man of the People)
He lies cold and dead. This Igbo man born in Ogidi in 1930.
This man whose zeal of decolonizing African minds through books for Africans by Africans was actualized 55 years ago when he started the African Writers Series and wrote the first book, ‘Things Fall Apart, that would turn out to be the most widely read and translated book in the history of the African novel.
This man whose ideas shook the western literary world. When he accused the great English writer Joseph Conrad of being a racist. This author who embarked on a lonesome journey to correct the west’s distorted view of Africa ; convinced that a novelist is a teacher who needs to re-educate people.
This man, who attended the University of Ibadan, worked as a civil servant, a broadcaster then an acclaimed writer and academic.
This man whose writing is full of satire, dark humor, and skill spiced in Igbo proverbs.
This man who took us with him to Biafra in post war malice; when Biafran pounds were being converted to Nigerian shillings in ‘Civil peace’. This civil servant who made us laugh with a beautiful goddess christened mamiwota in uncle Ben’s choice. This writer who made us share in Rufus Okeke’s dilemma when he took a bribe to vote for another candidate and not the one he worked for as a chief campaigner in ‘the Voter’.
The man who, despite his talent and proven craft in narration, took over five decades to tell the story of the Biafran war, a sad history of his people called ‘there was a country’. Released less than ten months before his demise.
This man whose talent did justice to the African tale in an amazing accuracy and a good sense of humor that left every reader with a moral question embedded in their minds
The author who brought us the typical African leader in a man of the people ‘Chief the honorable Nanga’ and an over enthused village school teacher named Odili Samalu.
So today ,even as I awake to the bleak feeling that I have lost something invaluable. (the sort of feeling one gets the morning after a breakup. I take comfort in the fact that his was a life fully lived.
This morning, as I head to the kabarnet public library. I plan to spend the whole day reading a copy of ‘Chike and the River’ that I saw in the children’s’ section a couple of month back.