Why Achebe rejected national award, by aides

More reasons the literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, rejected the Federal Government’s national award for the second time in seven years emerged yesterday as his aides and associates disclosed that the notice of the award from the government reached Achebe less than three days to the event, which held on Monday.

One of the academic assistants working with Prof. Achebe, the internationally acclaimed author and novelist, told Empowered Newswire that by the time the offer reached Achebe’s address, he was not around and could not be reached by telephone.
The source added that at that time, Achebe could not “be reached till late next week,” and he had no phone access where he was at the time.

Aides said there was no way Achebe would have “jumped” on the plane at that time even if he wanted to accept the honour. Observers wondered why it took the panel charged with the selection of the awardees such a long time before contacting those proposed to be honoured.

Besides, it was also revealed that one of the senior aides of Prof. Achebe had earlier made overtures to the President Goodluck Jonathan presidency seeking to invite the president to the yearly Achebe colloquium on Africa at Brown University, an event which had grown in stature in the United States academic and policy communities, as it has also drawn top Nigerian political elite and public officials as participants and speakers.

A source said there were suggestions from the Achebe team to ask Jonathan to grace this year’s edition of the event, which comes up every December, and possibly deliver one of the keynote addresses. It is believed that the invitation is a proof that Achebe may not be irredeemably opposed to the Jonathan administration or to the person of the president, despite his conviction not to receive an award from the government.

However by last Saturday afternoon when the presidency intervened and managed to formally contact Achebe in the U.S. with the help of the Nigerian Ambassador, Prof. Ade Adefuye, Achebe’s aides and associates had decided with his approval to reject the award, not just because it was a late offer but due to the view of the literacy icon that nothing had changed in Nigeria between now and seven years ago when he spurned the same award during the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo presidency.

In the statement through, which Achebe rejected the award, he said: “The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed, let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me. I must therefore regretfully decline the offer again.”

In his own reaction, after speaking with Achebe, Adefuye said: “Prof. Achebe and I discussed the issue of the award. The literary giant is a highly respected member of our community. He is entitled to his opinion and the Jonathan administration recognises that.”

Adefuye who said he spoke to Achebe at the weekend added that “the Jonathan administration is however poised to continue removing whatever defects that do exist in Nigerian politics, economy and society.”

The ambassador concluded by saying “the process of building a Nigeria of which Prof. Achebe will be proud has begun and that process is irreversible.”

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By Laolu Akande, New York

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