My Weird Beef With Chinua Achebe

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I don’t necessarily agree with Chinua Achebe on a lot of things. For instance, I felt that his ending to his first book Things Fall Apart was bad. Bad because he killed of the lead character Okonkwo in the most cowardly of manners. Okonkwo the one who resisted the colonial masters the most was made to die in a remarkably uneventful and might I add cowardly way. His death did not even spark a revolution amongst his village people…he just died. With his death, it was as if we accepted that the colonial masters were superior.

But despite my subtle or not so subtle disagreements with Achebe, I have come to respect his works a lot and his fight for the relevance of African culture amongst the world stage. And when I do get upset with his stories or writings (not that he cares)….I am reminded by one of his many but powerful quotes that says “If you don’t like someone’s storywrite your own.”

So I have written and written. Instead of criticizing other writers and writing nothing I have pushed myself to write. And not just to write anything, but to write the truth honestly and clearly. And I want to thank Mr. Achebe for giving me the vision to do that…and also for letting me understand for the first time what the Biafra Civil War was about and giving my parents strength open up to me about the war for the first time in over 30 years.

Thanks for everything, your wisdom was and is still without bounds.You will be missed, but your writing will stay with me forever.

Like you say in your classic book Things Fall Apart…“Among the Ibo…proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” I would like to write my own and say “among Authors…quotes are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” So here is a collection of my favorite Achebe quotes including the ones that became the consistent palm oil in my writing soup.

Hope you enjoy them and if you don’t…remember you can go and write your own quote…

Storytellers are a threat. They threaten all champions of control, they frighten usurpers of the right-to-freedom of the human spirit — in state, in church or mosque, in party congress, in the university or wherever.”
— Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah

Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.
— Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his machete, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow, “My father, they have killed me!” as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.”
— Things Fall Apart

He was not a fighter, but his voice turned every man into a lion.
— Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.
— Chinua Achebe

But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness. It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw. Okonkwo’s fear was greater than these. It was not external but lay deep within himself. It was the fear of himself, lest he should be found to resemble his father.”
— Achebe, Things Fall Apart

He was not a fighter, but his voice turned every man into a lion.
— Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

When Suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”
— Chinua Achebe

African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans…their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty… they had poetry and, above all, they had dignity.”
— Chinua Achebe, The Role of the Writer in a New Nation

There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
— Chinua Achebe, “The Art of Fiction,” 1994

A functioning, robust democracy requires a healthy educated, participatory followership, and an educated, morally grounded leadership.
— Chinua Achebe

The problem with leaderless uprisings taking over is that you don’t always know what you get at the other end. If you are not careful you could replace a bad government with one much worse!
— Chinua Achebe

In fact, I thought that Christianity was very a good and a very valuable thing for us. But after a while, I began to feel that the story that I was told about this religion wasn’t perhaps completely whole, that something was left out.
— Chinua Achebe

What a country needs to do is be fair to all its citizens – whether people are of a different ethnicity or gender.
— Chinua Achebe

The last four or five hundred years of European contact with Africa produced a body of literature that presented Africa in a very bad light and Africans in very lurid terms. The reason for this had to do with the need to justify the slave trade and slavery.
— Chinua Achebe

If we go forward, we die. If we go backward, we die. So we go forward.
— The Millions’ consideration of Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country

Ofili is an award winning ninja motivational speaker, author, success coach and successful assassin entrepreneur who blogs about life, success and entrepreneurial excellence. Follow him on twitterfacebook or subscribe to his blog for more success TIPS!” To bring Ofili to your school or organization as a speaker simply go here.

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23 comments on “My Weird Beef With Chinua Achebe

  1. Amaka Ozia on said:

    Well written…… He’s laid the foundation for us all. All we can do is make him proud by writing better than he did. Well done Ofili.

  2. Thats my fave out of all…It struck a chord within me. Infact, I am visualising the screen play of TFA as I write. What a Man;What a loss!

    When Suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.”
    — Chinua Achebe

  3. Great post! Achebe was a remarkable writer. my favorite quote from him remains “When Suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.” #classic

  4. The Man, certainly, is missed. But your beef with him is relevant. Though he isn’t here to state his case. But the manner he finished off Okonkwo is an indication of how things had fallen apart for the native people.

    ” His death did not even spark a revolution amongst his village people…he just died. With his death, it was as if we accepted that the colonial masters were superior”

    The people have become so docile and accommodating of alien domination, and the only way out for the patriot Okonkwo was the sad and unfortunate way. He should have gone with a bang though, but would have been the essence? He’d suffered enough humiliation to his culture, his faith and his personality.

    If I want to be satirical now, I will say: the finishing of dear Okonkwo was an act of mercy killing. Someone would still have put him out of his misery at last, but which gullible christian that Umofia warriors had become, had the stomach for it? None. So Uncle Achebe did well.
    Okiri Christopher R latest post is PLEASE, DO NOT URINATE HERE, BY ORDERMy Profile

    • Great post. You almost wrote an epistle but I solely agree with you. Chinua Achebe’s death brought my attention to the fact that I have to create my own symphony (something that people would remember me for even after I passed on). Ofili thanks for this article, there is something special about your articles and I hope to figure it out soon.

  5. Paul Nnamdi C. Obah on said:

    Well written Okey Ofili; an exquisite tribute to a most exceptional icon.

    For me, Okonkwo’s death and his people’s reaction to the event illustrate the tendency we have as a people to ‘roll over and die’.

    My conclusion is based on the following:
    • Okonkwo could have continued the fight and not allowed his emotions to run away from him, but he didn’t;
    • He could have exerted more control on his reaction but he didn’t;
    • Is it possible that he didn’t fully realise the responsibilities on him and the fact that gazillions container-loads of his people’s expectations, hopes and dreams rested on him? I do think so.
    • His people could have looked beyond the failings of Okonkwo and focused on his strength but they didn’t.

    Chinua Achebe must have had a peep into the Naija I live in today and correctly foretold that most basic feature in our make-up as a people: backing down and not daring to push just a little more.

    • China AkaleziChima on said:

      My brother u can’t say all Achebe packed into that book of all books .i read TFA in primary school and love to date. When okonkwo met Ezimmas mother , Achebe said ” he was not a man of many words, he carried her into his house and began to look for the loose end of her cloth”………,on his indolent son Nwoye he asked ” where is the young banana sucker that will replace the old when it dies” on his daughter Ezimma he said “if Ezimma had been a boy . We lost a rare genius Nobel or no Nobel

  6. Reading the “History of African politics” in school gave me an insight of how much the white still want to or rather is still very much interested in ruling the african nations via Imperialism. I remember a quote on how they percieved africa as “a dark continent, benighted people lost in primitive barbarity”, yet they still can’t keep away from that dark continent. They also claimed we do not have a history.
    “African people did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans…their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and value and beauty… they had poetry and, above all, they had dignity.”
    — Chinua Achebe, The Role of the Writer in a New Nation
    To me, this quote is also a reminder that we had a history.
    Chinua Achebe’s stories represent a beginning of telling African story in the west. He is an inspiration to us and many more generations to come.
    Rest in perfect peace Chinua Achebe!!
    Jeniee (Jennifer Ogoo Okolo) latest post is How to Choose Perfect Plus Size Cocktail DressesMy Profile

  7. ayodeji on said:

    If you go forward, you write a story not to glorify the hunt but to stamp your deeds on the sands of time.. Great work ofili

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