The tears, the celebration that trailed Elechi Amadi’s final passage
And, what I would like to encourage all of us to do is to read from his works, enjoy his stories as we have been doing in the past week. I think it is important that we don’t allow mourning to take from us the important thing that he was and the important thing that he made all of us. Elechi Amadi was a genuinely great man.
“Of all the writers I have known in Nigeria, when you use the word ‘genuine man,’ it fitted Elechi Amadi more than virtually any other one I can remember. I mean, it was not only what he said in public; what he said in private always agreed with what he said in public. He was a man of genuine integrity. If that is all we need to learn from him, I think it is a great thing. Let us celebrate him.”
These were the words of poet and essayist, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, when Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), led by its national president, Malam Denja Abdullahi, Secretary-General, Dr. Ofonime Inyang and ANA Rivers chairman, Uzo Nwamara, including Dr. Obari Gomba, Minima Menosoma among others, visited the late Elechi Amadi’s family home in Aluu, Port Harcourt, on the eve of his final commitment to mother earth. They had gone to commiserate with his wife, Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi and other family members. Indeed, Ofeimun’s words summed up the essence of the man of letters that Amadi was among his many other accomplishments.
“Amadi started writing books to tell people about their own culture; he has already provided his own send-off. He cannot be forgotten. Among the writers we know in African literature, Elechi Amadi has a very special place. There’s a story I want all of us not to forget. On such occasion, it’s important we don’t allow our mourning to drown out some of these important facts. You have this story, which tells us about how the gods intervened in the lives of various communities and people were dying (The Great Ponds).
And you will not know until the last page that that was actually the cause of the influenza of 1918. It is one of the most scientific disquisitions with the way we describe our culture, and not many professors of literature appear to know that. It is one important book we will never forget. Those who seemed to have believed it is one small story, now that the man is no longer here, they will be forced to see that he gave us a map with which we can always continue to interrogate the lives that we ourselves are living. And he did not just do it in books
“As a member of ANA, he made sure he was always present wherever ANA was holding its meetings. Very few people had that kind of commitment to ANA. I can talk about it because I went round all those older writers in Nigeria, especially Elechi Amadi, Cyprian Ekwensi and Ken Saro-Wiwa. If they were not always around, we did not look like an association; they made us look like an association. And therefore, his not being here with us this very moment really has no significance beyond the fact that he will always be with us; he cannot escape us, and properly speaking, he cannot no longer escape us because he is part of the very life we are all going to be living from generation to generation.
“I want to also not forget something. I used to like this premises because of the big groove of trees that used to be here. I want to beg members of his family to make sure that after this burial ceremony, the trees should be replanted as an important part of creativity. When you entered this premises, it was not just like any other premises; that was part of what made it a writer’s haven. I want to plead that something should be done to revive the groove nature of Elechi Amadi’s premises.
“There’s so much more that we need to do in order not to forget a great man, who has put greatness into our lives in terms of the works he has done. It is a sad occasion. I mean, we are obliged to mourn because of what we feel about him. But I want to say that at the age he died, this is an occasion for genuine celebration. A man, who lasted that long and affected so many lives, deserves to be properly celebrated. I mean, tears are in order, but celebration is also quite in order.”
Earlier, Abdullahi has spoken of the assurance of Amadi’s place in “Nigerian history, literature and global affairs; we are consoled by the legacies he left behind. We hope the family will aspire to maintain the name he left behind.”
Also, Menosoma eulogised Amadi and said he has already immortalised himself with his writings and selfless, simple lifestyle: “Amadi is everything for everybody. There were things he will never do; he loved his simple life; he was always cheerful; he’s immortal. He has left so much for us. We have to learn from him.”
In response, his wife, Dr. Iyalla-Amadi, who was all tears, said “This is my mpment of grief but also my moment of celebration. Thank you for immortalising my husband.”
Also, Secretary, Amadi Burial Organising Committee, Dr. David Briggs said although Amadi was born in Aluu, “he ascended and transcended beyond Aluu. He touched everybody in terms of knowledge and experience. Despite the challenges he faced, he never gave up hope. As Commissioner for Housing, he never acquired property in the GRA.
“And there is something many people do not know. Elechi Amadi was the Administrator of Rivers State; he once served as Acting Governor of Rivers State during the time of Diette-Spiff. So, by every implication, we are burying a former governor of Rivers State. And yet he never indulged in primitive acquisition of wealth.”
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Frank Owhor noted, “The late Captain Elechi Amadi means a lot to Rivers State. I’m not able to address him in the past because he lives. He means a lot to Rives State; he served in different capacities. He was Permanent Secretary when I was in primary two. He served in many capacities.
“As chairman of the scholarship board, he sent most of our young people abroad to study. He cannot be confined to any particular area because he served in many ways in ANA and other cultural bodies like Ogbaku Ikwerre. So, to Aluu people, where he comes from, they will miss him greatly because he was a traditional man. There was no cultural or wrestling match in Aluu that he did not attend. Of course, you know that his writing tilted towards all these cultural things; that is why they are special. He was a traditional man, an academic, selfless, honest and fearless; he’s somebody we will continue to miss.”