Nigeria’s literary icon Chinua Achebe’s burial raised controversies as to whether the author should be buried according to the Igbo tradition, as a Christian or as an atheist.
This controversy resulted from Achebe’s globally endorsed novel “Things Fall Apart” where he singlehandedly extoled tradition beyond “the white man’s religion” accusing Christianity and colonialism as being responsible for Africa’s woes. However, Achebe had neither been seen in a church, neither had he been seen in the traditional setting. This made some others say he was an atheist.
The controversy was resolved by the family who in a letter to the media, said Achebe would be buried as a Christian by the Anglican Church. The family also queried the meaning of traditional burial.
Bishop Ikechi Nwosu of Aba Diocese, who gave the funeral sermon in Ogidi pointed out that Achebe had a strong Christian background.
Similarly; the recent event in honour of Achebe entitled: The Festival of Life, Times and works of Chinua Achebe: Lessons for Nigeria at the International Conference Centre, Abuja which was put together by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) brought scholars from many parts of the world to discuss the topic.
The keynote address was given by the Dean of Faculty of Arts in Nasarawa State University Prof. Umelo Ojinma. Ojinma whose literary model is Achebe, in his lecture said Achebe wrote the truth and Achebe wrote to avoid the pitfalls of forgetting as stated in the book. Nigerians, he went on, are used to forgetting a problem while the issue persists and so go about making the same mistakes.
It can be recalled that Achebe died in March .
At his funeral, it was said that committee members had been having arguments. The argument began because a member of the committee allegedly used the committee money to pay his one year- office rent of N1m. The man was said to have become a thorn in the flesh of the committee as he cut down most of the things the members added.
This angered Achebe’s family and led to a frosty relationship between the committee and the family, leading to dissolution of the committee by the family at the airport in Abuja.
No matter how they tried to give Achebe a Christian burial, one discernable thing at the funeral was the insistence of the African culture to be present at the funeral. For example, the Ohafia war dance troupe, in spite of having no space to perform, made itself present at the gate of the Anglican Church in the home of Achebe, showing the rich culture of the Igbo to the world.
It was also political. All sorts of politicians used Achebe’s burial to showcase themselves, yet Achebe was against politicians.
In the end, Achebe had a Christian burial spiced up with tradition.