By JAPHET ALAKAM
One of the lines of a song by Ira D. Sankey read “Fading away like the stars of the morning……Only remembered by what we have done.” Achebe was one of Africa’s best novelists and story teller, though he joined his ancestors last year but his footprints are still here and would live forever. It is in line with the above that Late literary icon, Albert Chinuanulumogu Achebe will once again take the centre stage as the literary community all over the world gets set to celebrate him and one of his classic novels Arrow of God as it clocks 50 next year.
The book, his third novel after Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease was first published by HEBN in 1964. And due to the fact that they share similar settings and themes, the three books are sometimes referred to as The African Trilogy. The novel is adjudged as one of the most widely read novel in modern African literature, a feat that has given it a place in the world literary table.
Addressing the media in preparations for the planned golden jubilee celebration of the book, chairman, Organising Committee of the Nigeria end of the international celebration of Arrow of God at 50, Dr. Wale Okediran, explained the importance of the book and the author, and in that regards disclosed that series of activities have been lined up for the global celebration slated for 2014.
According to him, there will be an international Colloquium with the theme: Arrow of God@50: Literature, Leadership, and National Unity which is proposed to hold between April 23 and May 3, 2014 in seven cities. The cities include Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Sokoto, Awka, Ogidi with the grand finale at the Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
It will involve other number of activities ranging from Symposia to a Children’s Carnival, Writing Competition, Stage Presentations of Arrow of God as well as a grand finale with a Night Of Tributes.
At Ogidi, Achebe’s home town, the committee plans to hold ‘A Day with the Master’ on May 1, a programme where Achebe’s typewriter, study table, cap among others would be displayed for the world to see.
The committee assured that prominent foreign and local writers and scholars would be invited to present papers and give talks at the various centres on the theme: Literature, Leadership and National Unity. It also plans to compile all the papers into a book form.
Odediran also explained that there will be a literary competition among selected secondary school students in Nigeria is intended to revive the fading reading culture. 10 private and 10 public schools would be selected from each chapter of ANA for the competition. Copies of Arrow of God will be given to the students to read for one month before the day of the literary competition. The competition will also involve a quiz, reading comprehension and one-act dramatic enactment by participating schools of any part of the book that exemplifies the main conflicts of the narrative world of the book.
The committee said collaborations will be done with ANA at the national level and through its local branches where the events are billed to hold as well as tertiary institutions such as University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, University of Abuja, Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka as well as the Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
Interestingly, Arrow of God has been adapted into stage plays by some Nigerian playwrights and these adaptations will be performed during the celebration. The three stage plays for the event include Ezeulu by Isaac Ogezi to be performed in Lagos on April 21; Harvest of Ants by Kalu Uka , April 23 at Ibadan while Emeka Nwabueze’s adaptation When The Arrow Rebounds will be performed on April 30 in Awka.
Dr. Wale Okediran, who was also the general secretary of the Achebe Transition Committee disclosed that his team with the backing of Achebe Foundation and the consent of his (Achebe) family will carry all stakeholders along as it is not meant to celebrate only Achebe but literature as a whole.
The novel centers around Ezeulu, the chief priest of several villages in South Eastern Nigeria, who confronts adversaries to his office, colonial powers and Christian missionaries in the 1920s.
Set in Eastern Nigeria in the early twentieth century, Arrow of God is a political and cultural novel that captured the clash of two cultures and their inability to contend peaceably with their differences.
Speaking at the briefing, Executive editor, The News, Kunle Ajibade called for a fabulous celebration in Nigeria. “If you don’t celebrate this in a fabulous way, others would. If you don’t show them the way, it will be unfortunate,” he said.
Award winning author and lecturer, Professor Akachi Ezeigbo assured that writers would celebrate the colloquium in a unique way. “Those of us in Lagos would do our best for the celebration. We are lucky to have had Achebe. He remained a patriot as he contributed to global leadership. His legacy will endure forever,” she said, appealing to everyone to support the vision.