As I made my way out of Block ‘A’ of the Faculty of Arts building, I saw it standing graciously at the centre of the parking lot. I approached it slowly and casually with my eyes fixed on the sculpture, the bust of the great Chinua Achebe of Ogidi.
For some reason, it felt sacred standing there, not more than five yards from the bust, just like Moses stood in front of the burning bushes. I moved a bit closer admiring the aesthetic handsomeness and the vivid countenance captured by the artist. It seemed to be looking approvingly at something in the distance.
“Papa”. I muttered, half expecting the bust to turn sideways and answer me. For even though I never met the man when he was alive, he has told me series of stories through his books. He told me of how my ancestors lived and acted before things fell apart with the coming of the white man. He told me of how men who are no longer at ease with life succumb to societal pressure, following the path which under normal circumstances they wouldn’t have considered. He taught me how my ancestors used proverbs to get their massages across. He cautioned me not to believe that it was the white man who brought civilization to Africa for we were civilized in our own way long before the white man came.
“Papa Nnukwu”, I called out again, this time louder than the first, with a tinge of pride in my voice, caring little of what students passing to their various destinations would think of me talking to a sculpture. I was proud of the great Chinualumogu Achebe, the man who challenged English Literature to a wrestling fight, threw it to the ground when it seemed like no one could, genially snatched a pen from its hand and for the first time, wrote the story of the hunt from the perspective of the hunted and not of the hunter. I was proud of the man whose most famous novel has been translated into 57 languages across the globe, for it was justice meted out that our side of the story has been heard and has resonated across countries around the world.
I was jerked back to reality by my phone’s insistent ringing. It was a classmate who wanted to notify me of the presence of a lecturer in my class. I sighed, I had to leave but my conception of Achebe as a legend had been strengthened through my ruminations. Whoever it was that came up with the idea of a bust of Achebe in the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), is blessed, for this is a little gesture expressed with great love and respect to a great man.
* Mr. Madu is a Mass Communication undergraduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).