Onitsha (Anambra) – President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday enjoined all Nigerians to put all hands on deck to transform the country.
Jonathan made the call while delivering a goodwill message at the funeral service for the late Prof Chinua Achebe at St. Philip’s Anglican Church, Ogidi near Onitsha, Anambra.
He said that Achebe in his books philosophically reflected on the ills bedevilling the progress of the country and that the present generation of politicians, business moguls, and thinkers should find a way to change negative attitudes for the progress of the country.
“That means that those of us who are political leaders, the business moguls, I have seen quite a number of them who have business empires; our religious leaders, our traditional leaders, all of us must work hard to change this country.
“So that when our grand children like Achebe junior would write, they would say there is a country.
“And one thing for those of you who had read this book that I would like to appreciate Achebe is that, if you listen to what I have read he was overtly critical about the elections.
“But one thing he appreciated at least is that the 2011 election had seen significant improvement. That means that we can change.
“What we inherited about the 60ths that Achebe wrote as far back as 1958 about the things falling apart, feeling that we have lost our moral values and he criticized the elections that happened in 1959 and so on.
“If we can fix our electoral process and we the politicians, believe that this is our country and we don’t have any other country than Nigeria; then work together, we would work with the religious leaders, work with the traditional leaders, work with the businessmen and women; we can have a country that our grand-children would write in their own books – there is a country.’’
Jonathan, however, commiserated with the family of Achebe especially the wife, Prof Chinwe Achebe; while thanking the various international dignitaries that graced the occasion.
The President later announced that he and President John Mahama of Ghana would rebuild the dilapidated St. Philips’ Primary School, Ogidi where Achebe attended his primary education.
In his remarks, President John Mahama of Ghana, said that Prof Achebe’s life was a great inspiration to Africans.
Mahama said that Achebe would live-on not just only in his literary works but for his forthrightness and candidness to issues of life as it affected his people, his country and the African World.
“It is my greatest regret that I made a personal acquaintance of such a great man in the very sun-set of his life.
“Prof. Achebe was a great man; unfortunately the circle of life dictates that everything and everyone that is born must also eventually die.
“It is what you do between those two events, it is what you make of life that you have been given that leaves a mark on people and defines how you would be remembered.
“I am grateful to God for the life of Prof. Chinua Achebe.’’
In his homily, Most Rev. Ikechi Nwosu, Archbishop of Aba Anglican Province, urged Nigerians to be determined to succeed even in difficult and rough times.
Nwosu, who represented Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria, noted that the late Achebe succeeded even in the face of present day challenges.
The cleric, who themed his message: “Prof. Chinua Achebe a Parable to the Nigeria Nation’’, enjoined all Nigerians to be focused and steadfast with the truth and fear of God.
He advised Nigerians not to lose hope, saying: “God shows how strong He is to His people during rough and difficult times“.
Chief Emeka Anyaoku, former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, who spoke on behalf of the elders of the South-East, thanked the President Jonathan and his Ghanaian counterpart as well as other foreign national dignitaries for gracing the occasion.
Anyaoku said that Achebe had made Ndi-Igbo and Nigerians proud with his literary works and life-style.
Chief Emeka Ihedioha, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, described the late Achebe as a man of many parts, whose legacy would live beyond many generations.
“Prof. Achebe accomplishment only ranks 2nd to the accomplishment of the Great Nelson Mandela of Africa,’’ Ihedioha said.
Gov Peter Obi of Anambra, who spoke on behalf of the governors from the South-East and South-South present, said that the people of the two zones, “now united are very grateful to Mr President honouring the invitation’’.
“With the love you are showing to the South-East and South-South; we would remain with you and make sure we project all your programmes and policies.’’
The eldest son of the deceased, Dr Ikechukwu Achebe, thanked the Presidents, foreign delegations, dignitaries and personalities as well as the media for attending the burial service and making the event a success.
Highlights of the event was a presentation from the archbishop of Canterbury to the Achebe family; ministry of foreign affairs handing over volumes of signed condolence registers from Nigerian embassies abroad to the Achebes and a special song rendered by the Old Boys of Federal Government College, Umuahia in Abia State. (NAN)