PPA Celebrates Chinua Achebe @ 80
The Princewill Political Associates (PPA) has done it again, just as they did in 2008, when they were in the Rivers State chapter of the Action Congress (AC). That year, on the eve of the Rivers State carnival which held on the 5 th of December, they marked the 50 th celebration of the famous Things Fall Apart authored by Professor Chinua Achebe.
The group that says it supports the political ideals and vision of Prince Tonye Princewill, who goes with the sobriquet, The Prince of the Niger Delta Politics, is at this time celebrating Achebe who marks his birthday every November 16. Prince Princewill hosted, like he did in 2008, friends and lovers of literature at the Gulf Prince Hotels, Old GRA, Port Harcourt on Sunday 14 th November 2010. As usual, Poets, Novelists, Playwrights read their works before the glaring audience.
Princewill opened the floor amidst applause and ovation rending the air. He said that this time it was not the Things Fall Apart that were being celebrated but the author's birthday. He thanked God for giving him the privilege to be born a Nigerian at the time Achebe is alive. He said that he would have regretted his life if he was born after Achebe had existed. Princewill was full of emotions and was ecstatic before the Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze mounted the podium and asked him not to allow emotions and his love for Achebe overwhelm him. He asked Princewill to look for his seat, which he obliged, amidst sobs from the audience.
Eze didn't go down from the podium. Being the convener at the occasion, he told the glaring audience that he had said it the umpteenth time, that he no longer reads the Things Fall Apart. According to him , 'I have read Things Fall Apart over twenty times and see that anytime I read it I must cry. So, I repeat, I had to stop reading the novel but do recommend it to our children who do not know what the original African life was all about. I regret that man's inhumanity to man did not start today, but that of the white men is rife in the Umuofia village which leads to Okonkwo going to commit suicide on a tree. And what the white men are doing in Umuofia represents the slavery Africa once experienced in the hands of these whites.'
Eze didn't disappoint as the spokesman of the group. He talked about his discussion with Princewill before this event, where Princewill told him that famous people don't make noise but empty shells do. Eze said that he respects Princewill so much and that the duos of his master and Chidi Achebe share one thing in common. (Chidi Achebe is Chinua Achebe's son). 'Princewill has a Professor as a father. And not only that, his father also doubles as the King of the Kalabari Kingdom. And Chidi Achebe also has a Professor as a father, but his father is an author. But just as it was said that Chidi Achebe doesn't wear his world-renowned father as garb, Princewill doesn't as well,' Eze said, and there was thunderous onerous clap. Eze said that while people always count on Chidi to spread his father's literary engagements on the Internet, Princewill allows people pass the verdict about his father. Eze recalled that in 2009, it was Chidi's virally and quickly publicising of his father on the Internet was how people said they first learned about Achebe's three-day lecture at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, — Monday, March 23, Wednesday, March 25, and Thursday, March 26. Late evening on Monday, March 23, Achebe's lecture on Day 1, people said, was probably already winding down. It was on record that a Paulinus I. Odozor, associate professor of Christian Ethics and a member of the organizing committee selected Achebe to give the Notre Dame lecture. Odozor, CSSP, is a Nigerian-born professor. 'I remember the theme is 'The Igbo and their Perception of God, Human Beings and Creation', Eze said, and quoted, '`Things Fall Apart' looms as an inescapable influence in African letters and a classic for all English speakers.' — Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times.
He went further: 'People respect Achebe so much and this is why we are here today to celebrates his 80 th birthday. I can remember what a school of thought said of Achebe during the above lecture, and I quote: 'Even though he does not wear the badge of theologian or religious studies scholar, he has done a lot to enlighten both theological discourse and the study of religion. He counts among the best theologians and scholars of religion in recent memory. His work continues to impact research not only in literature but also in religious studies and in theology.'
Like a magnate, Eze's speech pulled up the emotion gladdened Princewill and he walked up the podium and was smiling. Eze looked at him, as if asking if he had recuperated. Princewill smiled and they cracked jokes to the appealing hearts of the audience.
'I am not surprised when Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Times said, that Things Fall Apart looms as an inescapable influence in African letters and a classic for all English speakers, because we have been told that Achebe won the well-deserved 2007 Man Booker International Award and the South African-born Nobel Laureate, Nadine Gordimer, one of judges for the prestigious award, remarked that Achebe has dedicated his life to revealing 'the political upheavals, the embattled end of colonialism, the fight for freedom, including freedom of expression, by which the personal lives of the people of Africa have been shaped,' said Princewill. There was clap.
Further, Princewill narrated: ' Things Fall Apart which was published by Heinemann in 1958, little did the unassuming then 27-year-old Achebe anticipate that he was going to be this famous at 80.'
He admonished that, as a matter of factly, Nigerians must be adventurous. According to a school of taught, Princewill quoted, that Achebe when he was writing the Things Fall Apart didn't know what literary impact his narrative of the unprecedented clash of British colonialism cum Christianity with native Igbo civilization/culture at the turn of the 19 th century would have on world literature.
Princewill said that, 'This is not the first time I would be saying that we need more of the Okonkwos in Nigeria, but not the violent Umuofia Okonkwo. We need men who can tell the nation that this is this and that is that without any iota of favoritism. We need men who can stand the challenges of our time and play selfless roles to promoting the economic, politics and social wellbeing of our people and Nigeria'.
In a reactionary mood, he regrets that Nigeria rarely celebrates her heroes and lamented that Nigeria needs to celebrate them while they are alive as to encourage the optimistic younger ones not to relent in the course of trying to protect humanity.
Princewill was in 2008, during such celebration cheered by the then Chairman of the Rivers State AC thus: 'I least expected that this occasion could turn to a grand finale. I never knew that our own Princewill is a poet till this day. His poem entitled, 'Nigeria Is Better', has revealed to me that Nigeria still has potentials yet to be tapped. Henceforth, our great party, AC, shall be meeting with the authorities responsible for the promotion of arts and culture in our state to organize writing competitions for writers' residence in Rivers State, to help avert completely things falling apart among writers in the state. We have to do this with a matter of urgency starting from 2009'.
Eze bounced back to the stage and said that Rivers State had gotten Okonkwo in the person of Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, but reiterated that he is not like the Umuofia volatile Okonkwo. He said that Amaechi has redeemed the state from any form of neo-colonialism by what he called 'the gluttonous 'white men' of Rivers State aborigine'.
This was the same way Barrister Osima Gina, the Commissioner of Urban Development, in 2008, had held the spectators with happiness and expressed that things are not seen fallen apart in the Okonkwo's Umuofia, but in the political landscape of Nigeria. He had seen that the politics of today is turning with an unprecedented measure and stoical approach where the godfathers and godmothers are being exorcised. He had said that they are losing the grip of sycophancy and betrayal they held the democracy in Nigeria with for a good number of eight years. He had expressed joy that if what he is observing in Nigeria today, especially in Rivers State, is the undertone of the Things Fall Apart ; things should continue to fall apart so that democrats like Governor Chibuike Amaechi will continue to have their way for the betterment of Nigeria.
Odimegwu Onwumere is the Coordinator, Concerned Non-Indigenes in Rivers State (CONIRIV). He writes from Oyigbo, Rivers State. Mobile: +2348032552855