By Izunna Okafor, Awka
The Anambra State Government has immortalized the late Nigerian literary icon, late Prof. Chinua Achebe by renaming the State’s International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, after him.
The State, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, announced this during the Independence Day celebration, which at the Dr Alex Ekwueme Square in Awka, the state capital, on Sunday.
The befitting immortalization is coming barely ten and half years after the demise of the Ogidi-born literary legend, Achebe, who died on March 21, 2013, at the age of 82.
Announcing the immortalization, Governor Soludo highlighted many eminent personalities produced by Anambra State, who distinguished themselves in their various fields of endeavour and also got honoured.
He, however, recalled that many of those personalities honoured and immortalized were public servants; and further said his would henceforth begin to fish out and honour the unsung heroes and intellectuals, to serve as motivation to the youths.
He said: “However, it is evident that almost all those honoured are persons involved in public service. They are all deserving. However, at this historic moment when we are trying to re-set our values, it is important that we also beam the light on those beacons that we wish to celebrate as icons. A society ultimately mirrors what it celebrates. Here in Anambra, we are going back to basics and have identified human capital as Anambra’s greatest resource.
“We are not just a land of politicians and distinguished public servants, but even more so a land of acclaimed academics, entrepreneurs, professionals, and the clergy. We are a land where intellect and enterprise are celebrated. We are determined to reclaim the soul of our society and celebrate those values that made us who we were. We must signal that you don’t have to hold political position to contribute to the advancement of our civilization.
“Henceforth, we shall be deliberate in fishing out and celebrating our largely unsung heroes, as motivation to our children and youths in terms of what matters, including distinguished teachers, medical and other professionals, persons of honesty and integrity, philanthropists with known sources of wealth, entrepreneurs/job creators, community leaders/developers, clergy with great devotion, etc. During the first Anambra Investment Summit last month, I already indicated our intention to honour also my predecessors.
“An example of Africa’s unsung hero is late Professor Albert Chinualumogu Achebe (Chinua Achebe). Wikipedia describes Achebe as “a Nigerian novelist, poet, and critic, regarded as a central figure of modern African literature. His first novel and ‘magnum opus’, Things Fall Apart (1958), occupies a pivotal place in African literature and remains the most widely studied, translated, and read African novel. Along with “Things Fall Apart”, his “No Longer at Ease” (1960) and “Arrow of God” (1964) complete the “African Trilogy.””
Continuing, Governor Soludo said: “At an auspicious time, I will be able to say a lot more about Achebe’s place in history. Unfortunately some people wrongly think of legacies in terms of brick and mortar. Legacy is about impact on human life and human civilization. That is why those who have been celebrated for centuries are not those who built artefacts but those who changed the course of history.
“Achebe was not a President or Governor or Minister. He did not build bridges or roads or airports. But he will outlive most presidents, governors or ministers. Achebe gave the African literature an identity and a voice. In a way, he rightly reconstructed and redefined who we are and we will never forget. Indeed, he was not an Anambra hero, nor a Nigerian hero. He was an African and global hero, and yet largely unsung at home.
“Achebe rejected Nigeria’s National Honours twice in protest against what he perceived as injustice to his home state, Anambra. Today, Anambra will finally honour Chinua Achebe. After wide consultations, there is a broad consensus that no one is more deserving to be named after the first airport in Anambra State than Anambra’s all-time greatest literary gift to the world, Chinua Achebe (With its escalating population, Anambra will probably need two more airports in the future).
“Consequently, we will rename the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, to CHINUA ACHEBE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, UMUERI. Yes, it has to be an international airport, and we hope to work with the Federal Government to give full effect to its international status.”