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PROFESSOR Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on Iroko, the founding Father of Okike, a journal of creative writing and essays, the founding father of UwaNdigbo, another journal whose medium was Igbo while it existed, the acclaimed father of Nigerian literature, the founding editor of Nsukkascope that championed the voice of freedom at the University of Nigeria in the seventies, the eminent Emeritus Professor of English, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the voice of cultural liberation in Africa, your mighty spirit lives on.
Your sun rises to the West. Chinualumogu Achebe, your Chi has seen you through to this inevitable and ultimate promise of the final return, a return of the flesh to the soil of its birthing, but your enduring spirit is global.
Any wonder that your presences have been reported to be felt in your home, despite the passing on of your flesh in another country, another continent! Achebe, our true man of the people, things do not fall apart where the creative genius reigns eternal. And the trouble with Nigeria can now be fought from the mighty heights you have ascended. No boko haram will see there.
No ethnic militias shall dare there. And we are now at unease as expected of mortals. The savannah is very much with us, but it is no perching space for your transcended self. The war of this world has been fought and overcome, by you, but the stories live on in the mouth of girls and boys.
Yes, tomorrow is pregnant as the Igbo would say it, but today has found us mortals paying tribute to a noble soul.
This country is still a presence with us, but we pray for the future to be greater and better than the past. Taabugboo!My dear teacher, the novelist has greatly taught Life, but unruly Death is ungovernable, unteachable, and undisciplined.
The dead man’s path is not for those who gave the sacrificial egg to vengeful creditors. You are now in touch with the Path of Thunder, but no lightning shall smite unsuspecting victims.
His labyrinth is your world unending, by the Pillar of Water. Our noble and renowned master of the word, our lot is not with the voter whose choice is of the madman. No marriage with the state is a private affair.
A national honour to your studied distaste is no antidote, not even a salvo to the Nangas and Sams of this world.Your singular affiliation and exemplary display of belongingness with the powerless talakawas is memorable, but they are no match for the giants in our colony.
Yes, the barracks is home to its people, but the respite we get in the fields is slow in the coming, and that trouble is still there.
Our great inspirer, a model of studied humility, our fabled story teller, and our torch in these narrow straits, the story will continue to show us the posts and point out to where the rain started to beat us. The actors on God’s behalf have indigenized, and the myths are gone, but the sores are deeper.
The fireplace is extremely warm, too warm for our comfort, warm with the shocking currents of the stammering embers of an unstable power. But we are trying. Even us your colleagues are trying, trying to move away from the discomfort of deodorized dog-shit, calling on and on for a healing from our scripted colonial selves, trying and trying to regain our voice, echoing the fathers we were taught were forest men, and the forests we were never given a privileged entry, the forests of our land.
There are discordant voices no doubt, and there will always be, as it was in the beginning, and even in heaven, in the very presence of the mighty God, but we shall imprint your focus on our forehead.
Chinua! Your office at the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, has always known your ghost, your pertinent absence. Like a recurrent Washington at the Statue of Liberty, your office your amiable spirit will ever inhabit. And the Institute of African Studies at this University where the dignity of Man has still to be fully restored!
Yes, this dignity! This one dignity assaulted from time to time, without an Nsukkascope, without Chimere Ikoku, without Emmanuel Obiechina, without Ikenna Nzimiro; this dignity meets with unnerving onslaughts from time to time, but today is still early for a rethink.
There are no more eggs for the sacrifice. We have become the gentleman of Fela’s iconic and ironic figuration. When you meet Christopher Okigbo, shake him with our silences, tell him that lions now groan, and that their thunder has been stilled. Can any institution be mightier than its people? Can the offspring of the snake afford not to be long? In this age, we no longer tell the unresponsive deity the stick from which it was carved.
Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe, do not take our seeming lamentations amiss. Indeed, they are our parting songs to you. And the songs will continue to flow, to echo your being. These songs are no dumb bells. The God that blessed you with a plethora of creative offspring is no mean God.
Idemili and Omambalaare great waters of the Muse. Your footprints at UNN are marbled on gold. The fruition has just begun. Chimalum Nwankwo, Chimamanda Adichie, Chika Unigwe have all drank from the same source, have all passed through the hallowed portals of this University. The bottled leopard also drank from the same springs.
And your children are still coming, still drinking from the same waters that Chukwuemeka Ike drinks from, the same waters you too drank from. These same waters are the waters of your beginning.
The Iroko does not fall where the soil knows no denudation. Where flood threatens, the spirit of cleansing is like a he goat with nose airborne. The land that knows the flood knows the secrets of the Water Maiden. The Water maiden knows the secrets of the waters, of the flood.
This Water Maiden is the exquisite Muse, your Muse. The Muse knows no death, and Death knows not the Muse. Chinua! Your celebration begins. The testaments of your pen take on a new signification. The shedding of this flesh is no threat when it has made itself the least common multiple of life.
Many happy cheers to you my great teacher. There is no fear where things have fallen in place. Your Department at UNN loves you. Your Faculty needs your spirit presence. The University needs your persona. You are welcome to your new world. Your echoing songs will trumpet the universe.
Live on in splendour. Live on to blossom in this new world of essences. Live on and march forward to embrace your spirit destiny. And now, let the celebrations begin. Let the accolades come in spirited bounds. Tomorrow is another country, your country, our country, the habitus of all that have breathed, all that breathe now, and all that will breathe in future.
Congratulations on your worthy transition, the inevitable departure from the here of our known stage. May God be with you and continue to bless you. May the Muse accompany you to these new heights. And please pray for us at the crossroad.
•Ugwutikiri Opata is of theDepartment of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka