Thursday, September 21, 2023


By Okey Anueyiagu 

In as many years as I can remember, there have been contentious arguments in the literary world about who is the greatest African writer. The competition narrowed down between Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, and depending on who you ask, both writers intensely cultivated strong support locally and outside Africa. 

Recently, a friend sent me a report in which someone reported that “Soyinka was, and still is, the greatest literary figure to have come out of Africa”. Once I read this, I began to quarrel with this classification of Soyinka. 

I have been one of Soyinka’s biggest fans, and have followed his works and activities as long as I can remember. In as much as I admire and adore Soyinka, his personality, his politics and lifestyle to an idolization point, I wonder how, and from where this report arrived at this superlative claim on Soyinka’s superiority over Achebe and others on the hierarchy of African writers. 

I began to contemplate why Soyinka was chosen above his peers; was it because he won the Nobel Prize for Literature? Was it because he speaks with such flair and elocution, and with such an affected accent? To use these qualifications as a measure or yardsticks of a writer’s value, is misplaced. Some of us who like reading and listening to Soyinka have been constantly bogged down with questions and references about him and his work as being populated with magniloquence and abstractive esoteric difficulties. They complain that his work and writing are self-gratuitous and impossible for the common persons to  impossible for the common persons to understand and comprehend. 

For Achebe, many regard him as being a better writer than Soyinka. They see him more as a conceptual literary success than most other African writers. 

Someone described Achebe as being more readable, more accessible with a well defined autochthonous style that have deeper and sweeter meaningful cultural etymology. 

Then, many would ask: why didn’t Achebe win the Nobel Prize? Perhaps, they contend, that the Awardees didn’t see any useful value in his style, and in the use of the language of idiomatic cultural ecology in his literary work. 

It is rumored that the West hated Achebe and despised his affront on the colonialists, and that his caustic positions both written and spoken on the evils of the whiteman on the world, made him a less likeable and less likely candidate for the givers of these titles. 

They hated Achebe, and he hated them back in return. He refused to lick their stinking asses and hold their blood-soaked hands. He looked them straight in their eyes, and told them to go to hell. For this, they swore never to recognise his towering talents and the top quality of his works. 

Achebe died a hero of Africa and the world. He was a giant of the literary world.

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