The remains of the late literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, is expected to arrive at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport on May 21 and be buried on May 23.
The Chairman, Chinua Achebe’s National Transition Committee, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, said this yesterday in Abuja while briefing journalists on the one-week transition programme in honour of the late author.
Nwala said Achebe's body would, after a reception in Abuja, depart for Akanu-Ibiam International Airport Enugu the same day where Igbo leaders and the academic community would receive him for a procession at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.
Achebe died in Boston, United States of America on March 21, at the age of 82 years.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, at the press briefing, described Achebe as a detribalised Nigerian and a citizen of the world who deserves a befitting burial.
He urged all lovers of the late icon to receive his body at the airport when it arrives. The arrival time was however not stated.
“After due consultation with the family, the governors of South-east states , the academic community and all other stakeholders, the programme has been drawn, leading to his burial in accordance with his Christian faith,” Ekweremadu said.
The senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial district, Chris Ngige, also at the briefing said the Senate had listed Achebe on the order list for May 15.
He said the literary icon who rejected a national honour of the Federal Government of Nigeria due to the crisis that rocked Anambra State at that time, deserved the best of burials.
He noted that Achebe was unhappy with the nonchalant attitude of the federal government to the nefarious activities of some leaders in the state, which informed his decision to reject the national honour.
Ngige disclosed that the Senate had commenced plans to pay tribute to the late icon, adding that the Senate would on May 15 deliberate on the best way to immortalise Achebe.
“There was crisis, there was looting, there was everything and the federal government did nothing, the police was sitting back. As the Igbos of the South-east of Nigeria, the Nigerian people, we have decided to give him a befitting burial, we thank the leadership of the Senate and we have already commenced a process of tribute to him. We gave him the rare privilege of putting his name on our order paper for tribute. We couldn’t take it on the earlier date because we decided to defer it to the burial week. So on May 15, we shall pay him a tribute in the Senate and discuss his immortalisation. For those of you that want to come and watch the proceedings, the public gallery is there for you to watch,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prof Nwala noted that it was impossible to estimate in financial terms, resources which would be expended on Achebe’s burial, saying people from different parts of the world would grace the burial.
Nwala said the success of the burial would largely depend on Achebe’s goodwill and the passion of his admirers to give him a befitting burial.
“It is impossible to estimate the amount of money needed to bury Achebe. The whole world is going to be here, so I can’t estimate it, but burying Achebe is not a matter of money, it is a matter of the people who want to share their passion for him, that is the important thing. So you can be sure that the money thing won’t be a problem, he has a lot of goodwill all over the world,” he said.
He added that “I am a Professor of Philosophy, and I have been a colleague of Chinua Achebe for over 42 years. I can even say that what I am doing now was his wish to try and coordinate the arrangement of his burial. The South-east governors are fully involved, they met earlier and agreed that they were going to give Achebe the best of burial and last Sunday also, they invited his son, Dr. Ike Achebe, myself and some members of his family. We discussed with them and Ike thanked them for everything they have done and reaffirmed his support to everything they have done to support the burial.”
There will be prayers and religious worship in honour of the deceased on May 19 at the National Christian Centre Abuja, a symposium by the Association of Nigerian Author (ANA) and showers of tribute at the International Conference Centre, Abuja on May 20, before the body departs for Anambra State on May 22.
The one week programme also include celebration of life carnival at the Alex Ekwueme Stadium on May 22 and May 23 for interment. Jumat service by Muslim friends on Friday at the Abuja Central Mosque and Ikwa Ozu on Saturday at Achebe’s family compound.