Chinua Achebe (16 November 1930 – 21 March 2013).
When I was a boy growing up in Nigeria, becoming a novelist was a far-away dream.
~ Chinua Achebe as the recipient of the 2010 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, when he was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and professor of Africana studies at Brown University, USA.
I thought today would be one of my happiest days.
I was well dressed in my favourite blue shirt and cream trousers and black shoes. And I thanked God its Friday.
I had an appointment to interview Greek Nigerian singer Jojo Stavro at D'Stage on Modupe Johnson Crescent in Surulere, Lagos.
I had to see my one and only first lady before entering the car.
She knew where I was going to.
"What should I get you?" I asked her.
"Anything you want to," she replied.
She hardly asked me for anything, because she knew I would always get her what she loved.
Even the gold necklace to be customized for her is coming without her asking for it.
She had a headache yesterday and I told her to get rid of all negative thoughts.
But I could not keep the shocking news from her.
"They said Chinua Achebe is dead," I told her slowly and not aloud.
She was speechless for a moment.
"But I will not report it until the news is confirmed," I said.
I love her so much that I don't want anything to upset her.
The report of the death of a loved one leaves a sour taste in the mouth and sudden cold with fever may grip you.
We all loved Achebe.
She loves books and I always give her special gifts of books and she loves my books too and even has a copy of one of my books that no one else has in Nigeria.
The book is not yet distributed in Nigeria.
I wanted her to be happy.
But how can we be happy today when the bad news of the passing of one of the greatest men of books is making headlines and making us sad?
She was sober.
I left still thinking of her and reflecting on the awesome literary life of Chinua Achebe.
How would Wole Soyinka take it?
Soyinka the first black Nobel Prize winner in literature loved and respected Achebe and both of them are regarded as the pillars of the phenomenal greatness of Nigerian literature in Africa and the rest of the world. They have inspired millions of us.
Chinua Achebe’s all time classic Things Fall Apart has been a must read for decades since the publication in 1958. The novel has sold 11 million copies so far and translated into more than 50 languages. And the other books following have established him as a literary genius and icon of modern literature winning many highly coveted prizes and academic honours that made him one of the most decorated writers in history.
As I sit in my office to write this short tribute, my youngest best friend Janet is knocking at the door as she returns from nursery school accompanied by her mother who is pregnant with another baby who will be two years younger than Janet who celebrated her second birthday in January. Janet cannot pass by my office without saying hello and she has been doing so for over a year. Her parents and neighbors are awed by our remarkable friendship which began when she was not yet a year old.
I open the door and let her in as she greets cheerfully and then passes through the backdoor of the office to rejoin her mother in the verandah leading to their flat at the back of the block. Then I return to continue writing my tribute.
All adults were once as little Janet, innocent and free and totally oblivious of growing old and then passing away one day.
We are all innocent of our existence on earth. None of us asked to be born.
At times like this, I reflect on life from the womb to the tomb and the thoughts of losing beautiful and wonderful people leave me dumb and numb.
I want to celebrate life and live life in love, peace and unity and not in fear and sorrow of an uncertain tomorrow.
So, as we mourn the greatest patriarch of Nigerian literature Chinua Achebe, let us celebrate the illustrious life of his wonderful prose, poetry and drama of the romance of human existence in a mysterious world.
I know that there will never be another Chinua Achebe, but I trust God to comfort the bereaved families, friends, relations, associates, well wishers and the rest of us and give us more grace to appreciate the geniuses still living and walking among us. They many not shine as bright as Achebe and his peers, but they are still shining stars illuminating our world in their own special ways.
Achebe has played his great role on the stage of life, let us not forget to play our own roles even with more challenges and do greater exploits that will make the world remember Achebe as our great inspiration for the manifestation of the kindred spirits of a new generation that will lead our beloved nation to rock and rule the world.
~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, aka Orikinla Osinachi, prize winning Nigerian writer, most prolific African blogger and author of Children of Heaven, Sleepless Night, Scarlet Tears of London, Bye, Bye Mugabe, In the House of Dogs, Diary of the Memory Keeper, The Prophet Lied, co-author of Naked Beauty and editor of The Language of True Love. He has written many articles, commentaries and news reports published by Technorati, Blogcritics, Huliq, Yahoo Voices, Shvoong, Gather, Huffington Post, Face2Face Africa, Black Film Maker, Nigeria Films and Modern Ghana.