Once again, Professor Chinua Achebe, a renowned Nigerian literary icon, has rejected an offer of a National Honor by the Nigerian government. He did the same 7 years ago, saying it was his way of protesting the political and economic condition in Nigeria.
“The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again,” he said.
Prof. Achebe stated his reasons for rejecting the award in this letter, which he addressed to the then-president Olusegun Obasanjo:
“I write this letter with a very heavy heart. For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay. I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.
“Forty three years ago, at the first anniversary of Nigeria’s independence I was given the first Nigerian National Trophy for Literature. In 1979, I received two further honors – the Nigerian National Order of Merit and the Order of the Federal Republic – and in 1999 the first National Creativity Award.
“I accepted all these honors fully aware that Nigeria was not perfect; but I had a strong belief that we would outgrow our shortcomings under leaders committed to uniting our diverse peoples. Nigeria’s condition today under your watch is, however, too dangerous for silence. I must register my disappointment and protest by declining to accept the high honor awarded me in the 2004 Honors List.”
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed regrets over the decision of Prof. Achebe. He also expressed his surprise by Achebe’s claim that the issues which caused him to reject the same award seven years ago, still remain unresolved.
His spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati said that against the background of the widely acclaimed electoral reforms undertaken by the Jonathan administration, the claim by Prof. Achebe clearly flies in the face of the reality of Nigeria’s current political situation.
“As reflected in the immense improvements recorded in the conduct of the last general elections which were applauded within and outside the country as the most credible elections in Nigeria in recent years, the Jonathan administration has made tremendous efforts to positively change the political architecture complained about by Prof. Achebe and other Nigerians,” Abati stated.
While President Jonathan acknowledges that there are still challenges in the country’s path to the attainment of its full potentials as a nation, Abati said he believes that this administration is moving the country in the right direction and therefore deserves the support, encouragement and cooperation of all citizens.
“The President continues to hold Prof. Achebe in very high esteem in spite of his regrettable decision which may have been borne out of misinformation as to the true state of affairs in Nigeria and hopes that he will find time to visit home soon and see the progress being made by the Jonathan administration for himself.
“Prof. Achebe remains in President Jonathan’s consideration, a national icon, a Nigerian of high attainments, indeed one of the greatest living Africans of our time,” Abati said.
Achebe is well known for his book “Things Fall Apart.” He is also on the Forbe’s list of 40 most powerful people in Africa.