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Achebe@80: Leaders debate things fall apart in Africa

By Uduma Kalu
The novel, Things fall apart, continues to be a reference point to African crisis. And as its writer, Africa’s foremost novelist, Prof Chinua Achebe, marks his 80th birthday, which began well before his November 16 birthday, commentators the world over have been using the title of the novel, written to depict the colonial impact on Africa, to describe present Nigerian/African crises as tributes to Achebe.

Though groups such as Delta Book Club,  Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), The Princewill Political Associates (PPA) had held series of birthday activities for the writer, in Enugu, Lagos and Port Harcourt respectively, there had been the usual debates on why Achebe has not won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Chinua Achebe( in cap), being congratulated by Prof. Okey Ndibe (standing) and Rudolf Okonkwo at Hudson Theatre, New York City after receiving the $300,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

But before then, the world literary calender had been dominated by activities on the icon, with conferences and awards, and they still continue, withAchebe giving the first annual series of lectures in honour of the Cambridge anthropologist, Dr. Audrey Richards, who established the University’s Centre of African Studies yesterday,  Friday, November 19. He read from his autobiographical book on the Nigeria/Biafra War, which is due to be published next year.

Achebe in September received the 2010 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. Worth $300,000 in cash, the prize is just the latest in a long string of humanitarian and literary awards, including 40 honorary degrees, for the 80-year-old. He became the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana studies last year’s  September, after 19 years on the faculty of Bard College.

Also, the Chinua Achebe Colloquium on Africa, a new initiative he is developing that furthers his mission holds at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, from 3-4 December, 2010.The Colloquium brings together world class intellectuals as well as officials from African governments, civil society, the United Nations, the U.S. government, the European Union, members of international human rights organizations, elections monitoring groups, and research and policy institutions; to deliberate on the importance of strengthening democracy on Africa continent.

It focuses on Rwanda, Congo and Nigeria on ‘Recovering Looted Funds; Elections and Political transparency; the Niger Delta Crisis: the political, economic and environmental issues in the Niger Delta. Margot Elisabeth Wallström (former Vice Chairperson of the European Union and the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict) is the keynoter with Chief Emeka Anyaoku – Former Secretary-General of the British Commonwealth, opening the confab.

Among the many dignitaries from USA, africa and Europe are Ambassador Stephen Rapp – US Ambassador for War Crimes, Rivers State governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Walter Carrington,  John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria,  Professor Ali Mazrui, Nuhu Ribadu, Femi Falana, Ayo Obe, Alafuele M. Kalala, former Democratic Republic of Congo presidential candidate, Dr Oscar Kashala, former Democratic Republic of Congo presidential candidate, Farida Waziri, Professor Okey Ndibe – Visiting professor Brown University, Sowore Omoyele – Sahara Reporters,  Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Dr. Judith Burdin Asuni, Chukwumeka Ike etc.


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