Elechi Amadi goes home in a blaze of glory
Polytechnic named after him
The remains of Capt. Elechi Amadi, writer and statesman, were finally laid to rest in his country home last Saturday, December 3, at Aluu, Port Harcourt, his casket draped in Nigerian flag, a with 21-gun salute by the Nigerian Army at a weeklong state burial organised by Rivers State Government. Canons also boomed repeatedly the night before to herald his arrival to Aluu and the wake keep that followed. Also a soldier, an educationist, an administrator and a writer for which he was most famous, Amadi joined his ancestors in a blaze of glory as dignitaries from all walks of life bade him farewell.
On his gravestone is the epitaph: “Here Lies a Literary Icon of This Generation. An Ambassador of Peace (A Man with no Guile: Captain Elechi Amadi!”
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and other dignitaries, including poets and playwrights, Prof. J.P. Clark, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, and president, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Malam Denja Abdullahi also attended the funeral.
Wike used the occasion of the burial to immortalise Amadi, when he named Port Harcourt Polytechnic after him. Wike described Amadi as a hero, saying Amadi is not just as an Ikwerre or Rivers’ man, but a Nigerian and a global citizen on account of his writings that have universal resonance and noted that Amadi’s contribution is to the world. The governor also said Ikwerre people were proud to produce a man like Amadi, adding that the late writer was not an ordinary person. He lamented that Nigerians speak glowingly about a man only when he was dead and noted that Amadi believed in rules and never enriched himself.
“Let us continue to live and love in the ways Amadi lived to promote unity,” Wike said.
Activities marking his glorious rite of passage started two weeks ago, when those in the literary and arts community in Rivers State started holding cultural events to honour the late writer famous for such offerings as The Great Ponds, The Concubine and Sunset in Biafra among other great works that set him apart as a master of village lore in his fictional narratives and realistic portrayal of the grim determinism of African life. Although a scientist, Amadi’s portraiture of the animist personalities and other-worldly phenomena set him apart as a man who was deeply steeped in his African traditions and roots.
However, the final home journey of Amadi took a definitive direction when the State Burial Committee, chaired by Hon. Frank Owhor, rolled out its programmes that began on Monday, November 28, 2016, with a Festival of Plays. It had in attendance the state’s Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs.) Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, who stood in for her boss, Governor Wike. Amadi’s play, Isiburu, and the stage adaptation of The Great Ponds by Imo Edward were performed to a full house at Obi Wali Cultural Centre. Although the stage was a make-shift one and hardly suited for stage performances, with the double distractions of a giant screen for visual effects, reactions after the performance showed that inhabitants of the oil city are hungry for such cultural offerings. The plays spoke directly to their minds, situated within their own cultural milieu with identifiable names and locales.
Although Nollywood’s actor, Francis Duru played the wrestling champion, Isiburu, there was certain heaviness in his carriage that weighed the performance down. But this was lifted when Edward’s adaptation of The Great Ponds came one, and lived up to its war and battle-ready theme in the enactment of communal conflict between neighbouring communities of Chiolu and Aliakoro. Choreography from the director, Daniel Kpodoh, also gave the battle scenes as much realistic portrayal as the original novel by Amadi.
DAY two was the launch of a posthumous biography entitled Elechi Amadi: A Quintessential Giant, as well as an art exhibition of his private photographs and artistic representations of him. Also present was Rivers State’s Deputy Governor, Harry-Banigo, who eulogised the virtues Amadi upheld while he was alive.
Indeed, she enjoined Nigerians from all walks of life, especially the young ones, to emulate the exemplary life of the late author and statesman. Also attended by dignitaries from the state’s civil service, Harry-Banigo said the life of Amadi was a catalogue of virtues that should define the direction any society aiming to be great should emulate.
According to her, “We’re actually celebrating integrity, hard work and patriotism. And as a state government, we want to identify with such, and we look towards encouraging our young ones to take up the principles that these mentors upheld in their lifetimes, and to be able to use these principles to direct our society and to mitigate all the terrible and negative things that bedevil our society today.
I believe if we show such virtues as hard work and patriotism, we can fuel the spirit of integrity in our state.”
Although she lamented the passing of Amadi, who rose to the rank of a captain in the army during the Nigerian Civil war, Harry-Banigo said it was the way of all mortals to go when the time was up. She, however, said it was left for the living to learn from the noble lives such personalities embodied as compass to the future. She also bemoaned the absence of history in Nigerian schools, saying it is a mistake to cut young people off from learning about their past, which should inform their future.
“We hope that the younger generation especially will take a cue from Amadi’s lifestyle of the need to give back to society a pathway that will make society better than they met it. I don’t know why there are no students here, but I hope they will reach out to them through Amadi’s books. We need to bring back history into our schools. So, we need to look back and see how we are going to prepare our young people, make them know about the history of their country. Many of them don’t know the story of the civil war that was fought here (in Port Harcourt).”
Harry-Banigo also decried the negative influence of social media on young people, and noted that it has corrupted their communication’s skills. “Now social media and text messaging have spoilt everything,” she said. “Everything is shortened and they cannot write words in full. They can’t even speak English not to talk of speaking our native (mother) tongues. We are destroying all the things our ancestors have bestowed on us; we are destroying all things that our ancestors have laid down with such sacrifices and commitment.”