CHINUA ACHEBE: A Celebration of Life
His life was exemplary. His writings will live for all time. His death was – in the words of his wife, Professor Christie Achebe – serene, peaceful, effortless, and totally in character. The celebration of his life, in Awka (Wednesday, May 22, 2013) and in his home town, Ogidi (Thursday, May 23, 2013), was on a scale that matched the simple, yet extraordinary grandeur of the man.
My wife Ethel (Arunne) and I, after only a momentary hesitation, travelled to Nigeria to participate in the obsequies for a friend for whom we feel the deepest reverence - a friend who was much more than just a friend!
Words are simply inadequate to describe the depth of our gratitude to His Excellency, Governor Peter OBI and the Anambra State Government, for the scale of the celebration of our friend's life. We especially wish to highlight the crucially leading role of Mr. Oseloka OBAZE, the Secretary of State to the Government of Anambra State. He stayed quietly in the background during the celebrations, but his hard work was at the heart and center of the exceptionally well-organized program of events – at the STADIUM in AWKA, and during the funeral service at ST. PHILIP'S CHURCH, OGIDI – two of the three towns (the other being ENUGU) where the celebrations took place.
I do not presume to speak for Chinua's family, but I know that they are deeply appreciative of what the Anambra State Government did to honor Chinua's memory. H.E. Peter OBI and the SSG Oseloka OBAZE were excellent hosts to the galaxy of notable persons who graced the two occasions at which Arunne and I were present. These included the President of Nigeria (His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck JONATHAN), the President of Ghana (His Excellency, John Dramani MAHAMA), the Governors of the S.E. Zone, and the Representative of the ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY (the Primate of the worldwide Anglican Communion).
During the funeral service in Ogidi, Chinua's wife, Professor Christie Achebe beautifully led the singing of one of the songs: GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS. A group of old and current students of Chinua's high school, the Government College, Umuahia, conspicuous in their blood-red school blazers, sang their school anthem (In Unum Luceant).
Arunne and I were at the celebration of Chinua's life in WASHINGTON, DC (Sunday, June 2, 2013) graced by several notable American intellectuals. A letter from the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, Mr. BARACK OBAMA, was read. Once again, a group of Chinua's high school alumni gave a rendition of the school anthem.
An interviewer in Washington, DC, asked me what lessons could be learnt from the life of Chinua Achebe. My answer might have been indistinct and rather mumbled, because the man stared at me vacantly. But the burden of my answer was that we should always try to maximize God's gifts to us. CHINUA DID EXACTLY THAT! WHAT A MAN!! WHAT A GENIUS!!!
June 9, 2013 ARLINGTON, TX