By Ositadimma Agu & Mazi Oluchi Ibe
As June, the month of Things Fall Apart was crawling into July, the Greater Igbo Nation Foundation joined voices with others including the Center for Memories, Enugwu, to remember and celebrate the epic novel Things Fall Apart written by the foremost father of African literature, Chinua Achebe, Ugonabu of blessed memories.
Young Achebe had produced this epic work in 1958, making June 2023 the 65th year of its publication. No book of literature in the past or present has been able to carefully and masterfully capture the pristine Igbo world, a world of humanism, deep philosophy embedded in an unmatched metaphysical construct as did Achebe in Things Fall Apart. For the rest of the world, especially the English-speaking communities, Chinua Achebe was the first person to use the English word and grammar to tell an African story in such a simple way that it seemed Africa owned the English language. How important this is, because the English intellectual establishment had boasted the impossibility of such a task. Achebe shut them up with Things Fall Apart.
It was therefore not surprising that Greater Igbo Nation Foundation made out time on the 25th of June to have the creamé de la cremé of the Igbo world spread in all corners of the globe to come together to feast on the book Things Fall Apart.
The trio of Maazi Oluchi Ibe in USA, Dr. Ola Uchendu in Enugwu and Ositadimma Agu in UK who anchored the intellectually stimulating discourse on the work informed the gathering that the major essence of the discussion around the book was to ask new fundamental questions emanating from Things Fall Apart that speaks to the present Igbo world. As Maazi Ibe said in his opening remark, the Igbo usually gather around the fireside in each family’s obiri, during dark, cold nights to hear the elders recall the great tales of the world before and during their prime and pass their histories to the young. In such gatherings, the women added humanizing stories of wisdom through folktales to balance the sometimes-gory tales of wars and scary adventures of the men. The obiri fireside chat on Things Fall Apart was in that same ancient tradition of passing our epic tales to the next generation.
Ernie Onwumere made a case of unfair description of Unoka as a failure while he was actually a hugely gifted man who was not patronised by his society. He argued that Unoka would have been a success story had the society paid for his entertainment, a case for patronage for the artistes in Alaigbo which persists in our society. This narrative formed a huge part of the discussions with majority speaking in acknowledgement of Unoka’s great talent that was not patronised.
In her speech, Dr. Ola took the audience through a tapestry of Things Fall Apart describing the great work as a sort of montage that covered and touched on every aspect of Igbo civilization that speaks and challenges us till date.
Adding his voice to the discussion, Ositadimma Agu explained the idea behind the Greater Igbo Nation Foundation and what it has set before itself to achieve, which is the gathering of the great Igbo sons and daughters who in course of historical events have found themselves in far flung nations like the Caribbean, USA, Latin America, Africa etc.
The array of guests and speakers at the event included but were not limited to the following, the great modern Igbo philosopher of Metaphysics, Professor Chidi Osuagwu, Professor Amalu, the great Igbo physicist, Dr. Amadiebube Mbama, Prof Joseph Uwaleke, Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke, Chief Eddy Nwosu, Christian Iwuagwu of BGIE, Elekwachi Ude, Erni Onwumere and Chime Hilary. Mrs. Egbichi Ankinsaya was also on hand, as was Tony Nwisi, C.J. Ogbuokiri and Mrs. Ogbuokiri, Winifred Uloaku Gaillard of Africa Fora, Barr. Austin Okeke, and Paulkinson Umeano.
Participants agreed in unison that the Foundation should set up committees to ensure that the recommended actions from the anniversary are achieved.
- Setting up the Things Fall Apart Village in honour of the great Author and the book that the world celebrates till date.
- Annual/periodic celebration of Chinua Achebe and Things Fall Apart globally and locally.
- Translation of Things Fall Apart in Igbo language, most especially as the author is of Igbo origin.
- Things Fall Apart Movie and Animation to be produced to tell the real story of the book and amplify the Igbo culture and history before the coming of the colonialists, with a view to preserving Igbo language and culture.
The participants also dissected how Ala Igbo should respond to the issues bedevilling AlaIgbo even as shown in the book. This, all agreed, centred around getting the right leadership and harnessing our strengths whilst also being able to analyse and deal with the weaknesses in our society.
The right kind of Education is a must for Alaigbo. A reorientation of values, especially redefining success, is also a critical factor particularly when Unoka, Okonkwo’s father, who was described as a failure was a gifted entertainer, but in present times, could have been a very successful actor, comedian, or singer.
Participants agreed also that the recognition of diverse talents in Igbo land is a duty we must all embrace and support for balance and wellbeing of the society.
Professor Chidi Osuagwu, who also spoke in favour of the revaluation of Unoka’s profile, posited that gifted Igbo sons and daughters who have been breaking boundaries across the globe must be celebrated by Ndi Igbo. This was also agreed upon by the participants.
The event closed with a vote of thanks by Dr Ola and closing prayers by Prof Osuagwu with a parting quote from Things Fall Apart read by Ositadimma Agu.
Agu and Ibe, for The Greater Igbo Nation Foundation