Renowned writer Chinua Achebe is not a man that runs away from controversy. In recent memory, his rejection of the national honours bestowed on him by Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan’s administrations became subject of national debate.
He is in the eyes of the storm, again.
His long awaited war memoirs ‘ There was a Country’ , became public last week and, as expected, Achebe is getting the hits for accusing the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of genocide in the book.
Below is the controversial excerpt from the book:
“It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations.
“However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbo at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra War – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams.
“In the Biafran case, it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation – eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”
Reactions from the Southwest & beyond
Chief Olaniwun Ajayi, chieftain of the pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere,
“It is a great error, he never said anything about what Awolowo did to prevent the civil war,”
Ebenezer Babatope, former Transport and Aviation Minister
“While Achebe is free to write on any topic that suits his fancy, he has no right whatsoever to irresponsibly murder history by recklessly attacking a great leader like Papa Awolowo. Nigerians should expect detailed, honest, factual and objective replies to the Achebe nonsense after we have copies of the book in our hands.”
“This is not the first time that Achebe will publish scathing attacks on Papa Awo. He did it in his book written about 30yrs ago titled ‘The trouble with Nigeria’. The battle against falsehood has started.”
Dr. Omolulu Olulonyo, former Oyo state governor
“It is unfortunate that Professor Achebe could label Chief Awolowo as a tribalist. Both Awo and Zik were members of the Nigerian Youth Movement.
“He cannot begin now to blame Awolowo for the war. Awolowo did not start the war; rather, he pleaded against it. The only thing that he said then was that if, by any error, the Igbo were allowed to leave the federation, Yoruba would also leave.
“The civil war was started by the Igbo. The Igbo, in the course of the war, killed many Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani leaders, including Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Chief Ladoke Akintola, Festus Okotie-Eboh and many officers, including Ademulegun, Maimalari, leaving out their own, like Micheal Okpara.
“Even while they were in government, (Ironsi’s government), the Igbo spared no thought of freeing Awolowo who was then in prison. So, why should the man be now labeled a tribalist?”,
Yinka Odumakin, Save Nigeria Group Spokesperson
“It is unfortunate that a great man of letters of Achebe’s status has descended to the arena of Biafran propagandists who are always ready to sacrifice the truth to achieve emotional blackmail.
“He has betrayed his intellectual calling by joining in the circulation of low quality rumours against Awo. I had looked forward to read the book, but now I doubt if I would pick up a copy even if dropped at my gate.”
Prof. Tony Afejukwu, an Itsekiri leader
“I find the foremost novelist lambasting of our iconic politician and impeccable leader, Chief Awolowo utterly strange. But why should we really be surprised? Even in death, Awo, our Awo, is still the issue. This being said, we must dismiss the illustrious novelist who must sell his autobiography! He needs to attack Awo for the book to make appreciable sale, an inroad in western Nigeria of solidly educated and civilized denizens. But his tactic will backfire if truly that was an intention of Achebe, our respected, Achebe, who with this unforgettable grudge of decades will lose a huge chunk of respect of, and from discerning minds.
“Now we must ask: Did he expect Awo to device a strategy for Biafra to defeat Nigeria? In any case, Achebe ought to promote peace, understanding reconciliation and love as a foremost novelist of Nigeria, Africa and theworld. he ought to be exemplary.
Join in the debate: Do you agree with Achebe ‘s portrayal of Awolowo or has the author gone too far?