Nsukka (Enugu State) – Former Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra State has urged leaders in the country to emulate the enviable qualities of the late literary giant Chinue Achebe, in order to move the country forward.
Obi made the call during the Biennial Memorial Lecture organised to honour Achebe by the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), on Wednesday.
The lecture was entitled “In the Service of Arts, in the Service of Culture and Nation”.
He noted that Achebe rejected appointments offered him because he believed that Nigerian leaders had not done enough to eradicate poverty in the country, thereby demonstrating honesty and patriotism.
“If leaders in the country emulate the literary giant’s sterling qualities, the country will become a great nation, with good leadership.
“He was not selfish, rather he considered the interest of others in the country, especially the poor ones.
“Achebe rejected appointments offered to him in Nigeria because he was not happy that millions of Nigerians were wallowing in abject poverty while few were squandering the country’s wealth.”
Obi identified bad leadership as the bane of the country’s problems, adding that those voted into office continued to squander money meant for the development of the country in frivolities.
“Some governors in the country today claim they have no money to pay workers salaries in their states but live flamboyant lives.
“Some governors in this country kill cow everyday in government house; go with endless convoys, buy most expensive bullet-proof exotic cars as well as buy cartons of champagne weekly for parties.
“Some presidents in the world have no single presidential jet but in Nigeria, we have over 10 presidential jets.”
He criticised Nigerian universities that often awarded honorary doctorate degrees to people of questionable character, just to make money from them, without considering the source of such money.
“What we celebrate today in this country is money; nobody remembers honest people; that is why Achebe, in his book titled ‘The Problem with Nigeria’, highlighted some solutions that would bring Nigeria out of the woods.
“Universities in the country should emulate Harvard University and Oxford University, where no one receives an honorary doctorate degree because he or she is a money bag.”
“Though Achebe has died, he still lives on because series of books written by him will continue to be read by people across the world now and generations yet unborn.
The former governor commended organisers of the lecture for honouring the literary icon whom, he said, believed in justice and equal treatment of both the rich and the poor.
Also speaking, Sen. Chukwuka Utazi, representing Enugu North in the Senate, described the late Achebe as an “international scholar and intellectual colossus”.
“Achebe was a repository of high principles and sobering voice for rectitude in public service.”
he said that the history of world writers would be incomplete, if Achebe was not mentioned, adding that he brought honour to Nigeria and Africa in general.
“His work in `Things Fall Apart’ opened African culture to the world.
“I have special admiration for Achebe who wrote good books that are read in every part of the world, Utazi said.
In a remark, the UNN Vice-Chancellor, Prof Benjamin Ozumba, said that arts and culture play great role in sustaining the values of the people, maintaining social ethics as well as giving people a sense of direction.
“It is indeed a thing of pride to celebrate Achebe, who was a distinguished son of Africa.
“I am convinced that the gathering of people from different walks of life, reflect on the role of arts as agenda setting in transformation,” he said.
Earlier, the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof. Pat Okpoko, said the biennial lecture was the faculty’s little way of appreciating the late Achebe for the honour and popularity he brought through his excellent character and exploits in the literary world.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Romanus Ugochukwu , the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Romax Properties Ltd Lagos, was given an Award of Excellence at the event. (NAN)