Exactly a year after he died, the soul of late Chinua Achebe made a heroic return to the University of Ibadan, where he first began his literary odyssey with a daylong literary potpourri.
Organized by Dr. Wale Okediran-led National Organizing Committee of Arrow of God @ 50, the event, which held on Friday, March 21, at the University’s Arts Theatre, marked the first of month-long celebrations across Nigeria and the world.
The day began with a literary quiz on Arrow of God among secondary school students in Oyo State, a culmination of a preliminary quiz among 20 secondary schools in the state. It was won by Abadina College, University of Ibadan; while St. Theresa’s College, Apata, came second.
It was followed by a symposium on the theme “Literature, Leadership and National Unity” at the Faculty of Arts Lecture Theatre at midday, chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor A. Olayinka, who represented Vice-Chancellor, Professor Isaac Adewole.
The keynote address presented by Professor Darren Kew, a political scientist and expert on Nigeria from Massachusetts, was not your typical literary paper. Instead, it dwelt on politics. Reactions followed in the wake of that presentation.
His paper was preceded by a scholarly paper by Azeez Akinwumi Sesan entitled “Hegemonic Masculinity and the Quest for Sustainable Democratic Governanance in Nigeria: Achebe’s Arrow of God as Paradigm”, where he contended that the egoism and rivalry in the novel among Ezeulu and Ezeidemili over nothing still echo in modern-day Nigerian national life, as the opposition party usually oppose the ruling party, irrespective of the genuineness of their grouse.
Mr. Ojeniyi, whose company, Heinemann, published Achebe’s classic, regretted the absence of schoolchildren, who performed at the first session, at the current session. He wanted them to listen to his rendition of traditional songs and proverbs dedicated to late Achebe as a way of making them remember their roots.
Describing Achebe as a literary legend, he said the novelist “was an inventor of modern African literature which exposes Africa to the wider world.” Although he is no more, his message lives on.
Informing the audience on how Achebe wrote the classic, he said: “The idea for the novel came in 1959 when Achebe heard the story of a chief priest imprisoned by a District Officer. He drew further inspiration a year later through a collection of Igbo objects excavated by the famous archaeologist, Thursday Shaw,” he said.
HEB managing director further said that Achebe was startled by the cultural sophistication of the artifact when an acquaintance showed him a series of papers from colonial officers, “he then combined these strands of history and began work on Arrow of God in earnest.”
Fifty years of Arrow of God, said the publisher,” is a celebration of one of the best African fiction sellers with millions of copies worldwide. “It is also one of the most translated literary works by any African writer,” he noted, adding that the event would serve as an avenue to inspire people to follow their passion in the face of odds and fan the sparks of their desires into flame.
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olayinka, encouraged young Nigerians to emulate Achebe’s youthful achievement, having written most of his masterpieces while less than 30 years. He recalled that Achebe was among the first sets of students that attended the then University College, Ibadan, and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. “From all intents and purposes, he was an Ibadan man to the core,” he echoed with admiration.
Chief Mark Nwokocha, a chieftain of Ndigbo in Ibadan, also urged young Nigerians to emulate the trailblazing footsteps of Achebe.
The keynote speaker, Professor Darren Kew of the University of Massasuchets, spoke on “Civil Society, Political Opposition and Democracy Building in Nigeria”. The professor of Conflict Resolution said he met Achebe twice. While nations on the upper wrung of the democracy ladder are improving and developing rapidly, he lamented that Nigeria is making just little progress.
The American called on the civil society to work together with opposition political parties if they would like to see an opposition party in government in 2015.
A cocktail party was later held at the Department of Theatre Arts Courtyard by 6 pm, where guests and visitors were entertained to a buffet. Okediran, who gave the opening speech, told the essence of the gathering was to honour the late literary icon. ANA President, Prof. Remi Raji, also spoke on the contribution of the English Department of the University of Ibadan in producing literary icons in Nigeria, such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chris Okigbo, J.P. Clark and Mabel Segun, whose portraits have turned a tourist attraction in the Faculty of Arts,
The Ibadan celebration of Arrow of God climaxed later in the evening with a stage adaptation of Arrow of God entitled When the Arrow Rebounds, written by Emeka Nwabueze. It was a spellbinding dramatization by the Department of Theatre Arts, University Of Ibadan, as the cast re-enacted the colonial encounter with the British and how the subsequent clash of cultures led to the overthrow of the old order.
Events mapped for the celebration of Arrow of God @ 50 continues this weekend in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, where Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo will be presenting the keynote speech. Other celebrations will hold in Awka, and Achebe’s hometown, Ogidi, Anambra State; Port Harcourt, Rivers State; and Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. All events will feature academic papers and live performances.
Source: The Sun Nigeria