Femi Robinson Calls For The Ban Of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart In Schools

Raging war between literature and history

As Femi Robinson calls for school ban of Chinua Achebe’s classic Things Fall Apart

The storm generated by excerpts of Professor Chinua Achebe’s memoirs, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra, which were published in The Guardian of London of Tuesday, October 2, is yet to abate.

The book, set against the backdrop of the Igbo-born octogenarian’s experiences during the Nigerian Civil War (1967 -1970), also explores roles played by some of the major actors, including deceased Nigerian statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

The revered Yoruba leader was one of the members of General Yakubu Gowon’s cabinet during the dark days of violent internal conflict. However, in Prof. Achebe’s documentation of intricacies and manoeuvrings around the civil war, he fingered Obafemi Awolowo as the mastermind behind a strategic policy of starvation which weakened Biafra’s succession bid, decimated its population and brought the bitter conflict to a quick end.

Long before the release of There Was a Country in September, there had been speculations by some literary enthusiasts that if the new book by the famous writer of Things Fall Apart does not become a bestseller in the country following the differences of opinions it has generated so far, no other book will. While critics abroad have focussed on the literary content, there is nothing short of an outcry against the book in the country.

In the controversial excerpts reproduced from the book, Achebe wrote that: “The wartime cabinet of General Gowon, the military ruler, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, among others, who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: all is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder.

“It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people. There is, on the surface at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations.

“However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbo at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra War – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to every length to achieve his dreams.

“In the Biafran case, it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation – eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations.”

However, it was Achebe’s claims that the late revered Yoruba statesman used his position as the Vice Chairman of the wartime federal cabinet to “decimate” the Igbo as a race that stirred the hornet’s nest.

The contentious excerpts have since spawned passionate debates on the social media, especially on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Veteran theatre artiste, Femi Robinson, one of the pioneering cast of Village Headmaster, made his declaration on the new book yesterday where he called on the government to ban Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart in Nigerian schools.

Robinson said he decided to make this call because “it appears that the author of the book had, for years, been selling hate and disunity with the publication of his book and the promotion of the character, Okonkwo, as a role model to Nigerians”. Robinson, who said he had read sections of Achebe’s new book, explained that for many years he had asked himself why the Things Fall Apart came with that title.

“What fell apart and what could not hold?” He asked, saying that it was for this reason he had written a play titled: ‘Things Fall in Place’ “to counter some of what I considered dangerous propaganda by the book”.

Robinson went on to run an excerpt about the character of Okonkwo from his play, which shows him at the point where he returns from exile in Mbata. Robinson argues that Okonkwo was banished at the end of Achebe’s book and wondered if it had been a marketing gimmick to get international acceptance of the book.

“How many Okonkwos did the book breed before the war? How many unrepentant killers have we turned into heroes in all parts of the country? People who believed the centre can no longer hold because only they had the cultural ties that can keep it together.

“I am also a writer and I have always insisted that children should never be forced to buy books. I call on the Members of Senate, Members of the Houses of Representatives and all well-meaning Nigerians to ban this and any other forms of literature from being forced on the curriculum of schools and students”, Robinson said.

Referring to what he described as “Prof. Chinua Achebe’s clannish mindset from the early days”, Robinson said he was surprised the writer has not changed after 52 years of independence.

“Things may have fallen apart when he was young, but the youths today must be made to realise the need for the centre to hold. These days we do not need to go to war to settle our differences”.

However, poet and essayist, Odia Ofeimun, while speaking at the Book Party organised by the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) for the 10 writers long-listed in the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature on Sunday, said the leaders who took the decision to go to war should now be given a proper trial and that Achebe’s new book will now encourage more writing on the war.

Ofeimun was personal secretary to Obafemi Awolowo who served in the Nigerian government during the war at the same time that Achebe was an ambassador to the Biafran government.

“All the leaders who took the decision that led to the Civil War should now be tried properly. Because the rest of us were angry, we allowed them to mislead us. It is wrong for people to use the falsehood of propaganda during a civil war”, he said.

The poet explained that leaders need to pay for what they did yesterday. “Ojukwu committed genocide against his people and he should not have been allowed to simply walk away. Nzeogwu was the leader of the Biafran army; he told them, we don’t have the guns, we can’t win this war”.

Ofeimun said the story of the Civil War “will now have to be told properly because Achebe has literarily taken the genie out of the bottle. We need somebody to begin to tell us why we were not ready for a war and they went ahead and committed genocide against their people”.

In a review in the London Review of Books, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated that Achebe mourns Biafra, but his anger is directed at the failures of Nigeria. His great disappointment manifests itself in a rare moment of defiance towards the end of the book.

This is not the first time Achebe is being criticised for his work: In 1975, he gave a lecture on racism in “The Heart of Darkness” that caused controversy.

Achebe chronicles the events surrounding the Nigerian Civil War, a three-year battle lasting from 1967-1970 and directly involving the author’s home and family. Already a noted writer at the time, Achebe supported Biafran independence. This book describes the state of the country prior to war, so that readers can understand its potential and carries on through the monstrous violence that took place.

Source: National Mirror

32 Comments

  • dedon says:

    let the goverment go ahead and ban the book, pple like me will keep searching for it until we read it. Achebe represent the pple, and no individual shall silence the voice of the masses.

  • cee pee says:

    this man that suggested such is an idiot, if i may ask, is awolowo GOD, is he without sin on earth……i cant understand this illiterate human beings defending a sectional leader that did everything possible to eliminate other regions of this country…

  • Dan rapport says:

    The truth cannot be covered forever. Whether you are covering the sin of you Awolowo or not, every sin must be finally known. But, if you can’t talk, allow those that will talk to talk. This man Achebe remains the masses spokesman. Or how many masses have you spoken for? You are speaking for Awolowo

  • Marx says:

    In addition to banning TFA, we should ban all books and apologise to Taliban and Boko Haram for late entry.

  • Yinka says:

    Ban wetin? he must be joking, a joke carried too far.

  • Cali says:

    datz just a negative talk, either he forgot what to say or he don`t knew what to say

  • Berry ifeanyi says:

    I think i dont understand whats de point mr Robinson is trying to make.THESE ARE MY REASONS:as a final yr student,i chose to write my project on Awolowo political thoughts bcos i find in his works political strategies relevant to politics.i still does not forget that Awolowo is a tribalistic human being.mr Robinson lets tell ourselves de truth,are u aware that immediatly after de war that Awolowo suggested to Gowon that all the ibos should pay in their biafran currency no matter de million or billion and that each person should get inreturn only [20]pounds and it was adopted my Gowon.prof Achebe is another personality i admire so much not bcos am an ibo boy NO but bcos his works also contain relevances.now y should u want his work to be banned not even de work that is raising uproar.i ve a question for mr Robinson”is chief Awolowo a saint”if u claim he is my other question is “why was there crisis in ACTION GROUP PARTY between him and S AKINTOLA his yoruba kingsman.I think there is a time in a mans life when he has to retrospect and if possible put down things on a black and white which i think that is what prof Achebe did.things fall apart is not de issue here and should not be seen as the bone of contention.

  • Emen says:

    Femi robinson, you are an idiot. U can as well call for exile of anyone that insults a yorubaman. Idiot like u. Asshole.

  • Femi my name sake, you should have made a better suggestion than this. You have highly disappointed me and majority of Yoruba nation. Things Fall Apart is an internatioally recognised brain work from Prof Achebe currently written in so many languages throughout the world, hence if your suggestion is considered it will flaw Nigeria’s rating internationally. You deserve an unreserved apology to all Awoist because this is not the pattern of our aguement in this issue.

  • Stephen Oguchi says:

    It seems like that man called femi is seriously ill. Is awo God or a saint? You don’t have any opinion., you are a renowned fool to your people.

  • Probably one of the most silly suggestions I ever heard. It is this type of myopic opinions that encourage the celebration of mediocrity in this country. You want the government to censor a widely reknowned academic work because the writer made a statement you don’t agree with? The Gulag Archipelago is read widely in Russia, and so are many World War II materials in Germany…let’s not allow primordial sentiments stifle the flames of historical and intellectual enquiry.

  • Matthew Saviour says:

    I realy do believe that knowledge is not wisdom. Femi just got knowledge to be foolish. How could a well learned man suggest the banning of one of the Nigerian exported material. Due to the love of ethnicity, u want to put an end to Nigeria, right? That is so bad of u.

  • Ayo says:

    Awo, Great Awo, intensely loved by the Yoruba and passionately hated by the Igbo. Your progenitor will determine your disposition to Awolowo, not your intellect. Pure and simple. Those who love him almost deify him while those who hate him struggle frustratedly to demistify him. With a few exceptions, every Yoruba has Awophile while every Igbo, with a few exceptions, is Awophobic. It is a genetic factor. No one needs to justify his position. Awo R.I.P.

  • Michael says:

    Mr Femi i believe u hv always hd somthing against Prof Achebe bcos his works are recognised internationally & urs are not,but u chose a wrong reason & time to speak against him.And u are calling for the ban of TFA,can u listen to urself,u need to apologise to writers & literary lovers allover d world 4 such a tactless statement!

  • Clint AdEsEyE says:

    Prof Achebe is digging the corpse of century dead body…. People are taking this issue more than neccesary let forget about all this issue and face the present and our future …every one will one way or the other defend his ethnic group be you in the side of Awolowo or ojukwu

  • Opara Henry says:

    This femi is a fool oh! Who be u 2 ban a book that won a nobel prize, a book that is recognized in d whole world. Y dnt u go and write ur own book. Idiot

  • kelly says:

    “Fiat trut et raut caelum” Let d truth be told even though the heavens may fall. Prof.Achebe has demonstrated utmost bravery, outspoken-ness n wisdom dat is expected of globally renownwd icon dat he is. D eagle looks at d sun directly n dat is y it is d king of birds. Achebe is d pride of naija in general n d ibos in particular. For o mr femi, even FG bans all achebe’s books in schs, it will stir a curiosity in every nigerian to d extent dat evrybody may want knw d content of d books thereby making it a hot cake. Dont dare d intelect of an ibo man. Femi wise up! Long live d ibos n long live my Prof.

  • steve says:

    Some truth wen told has d capacity to destroy irreparably. Imagine wat would happen to a man who killed ur father, if after finding religion he decides to make restitution & consequently walks up to u and says ‘hi my name is Lagbaja, and I killed ur father!’. That man would never live to tell another person. My point is, Chinua Achebe has done a great diservice to Nigeria by bringing out dis ‘ill-fated memoir’ at a time in our life that we’re grappling wit serious security situations that’s threatening our corporate existence. In fairness to Awolowo his strategy was brave and smart as in a war situation d goal of each side is to win, how u win is a function of which strategy u adopt. If u must go into war u must have counted d cost, Biafra was not d responsibility of Nigeria anymore, Ojukwu shd have fed them since he caused d war by declaring a biafra republic in d first place, hence he shd be held responsible. Reading pples comments I see sentiments and parochialism in open display.

    • Torker says:

      I’ve waited long not in vain to see ur comment. Evry other is not really reading a situation meanin to this but just uttering based on sentiments. Tnx man!

  • JOHN says:

    Steve, you sounded somehow knowledgeable but you are not an expert in Theories of war otherwise you would have understood better that war equally has approved principle. Let me not go into detail to avoid taking the discussion to a different line. I am yet to understand why people are people are fuming over the content of this memoire because he didn’t write what was not known before. All the respondents here are implying the same thing ” Some truth when told are capable of tearing the country”, meaning we have all known this truth for long, yet the country has yet to disintegrate. Then why fear now, the country faces the threat of disintegration simply resulting from this book? I NEED A CONVINCING ANSWER, even from FEMI that called for the ban of TFA. Thank you all

  • MIRIAM BROWN says:

    Easy for him to say. Is Boko Harem killing Yorubas? Obafemi Awolowo was the worst tribalist that ever lived and died. Things fall apart is used in Universities here in America. Banning it in Nigeria will not make that much of a difference one way or the other. It will not bring Chinua Achebe down cause he is too great for a ban of his book in Nigeria.If the killings of Igbos in the north continues the way it is, they leave no choice but for us to defend our selves yet again just like before. Rubber has it’s elasticity!

  • rita says:

    irrelevant comments by an irrelevant individual seeking relevance! Freedom of expression/thought is a fundamental right & prof achebe has exercised it beautifully. It his personal memory of awolowo’s role in the physical & economic genocide v igbos suffered during v civil war. Awolowo’s role in v advent of ethnic politics in nigeria via the infamous carpet crossing saga in western region is well documented so y do yorubas get so nervous when anyone does anything but eulogise him? Leave prof achebe alone mr robinson & write ur own memoirs tho i doubt they’ll b intelligible if ur argument 4 banning tfa is anything 2 go by!

  • Ashafa Kaduna says:

    I think it is better we go back to history and knw the real saga, than to be posting nonsense here out of ignorance & outright ethnicity.

  • Adeniyi says:

    The truth be told, at 80 the revered prof would have done a great diservice to generations yet unborn if he had not courageously taken this bold step in the face of the usual intimidation, falsehood, pretence and gross insincerity which has unfortunately become our charcteristic trademark in this country called Nigeria.

  • Godson says:

    what does ”there was a nation” get to do with things fall apart? things fall was not the only book written by Achebe. well femi’s reaction exposed his hidden jealousy of Achede’s things fall apart. plse deal with it before it becomes late.

  • Oluwa says:

    The logic here is simple,so far you are an igbo what the man talked about was nonsense without considering the issue at hand.hate will not carry us anywhere.

  • Jide Oluwa says:

    This is weird. We all have to defend who we are…just like what I saw earlier “to yoruba, it’s awophile and to the Igbo it’s always awophobic”. Moreso, they were(are) all selfish both Awo, Ojukwu and Achebe himself and these ideas of been selfish reflect the concept that each person, by looking out for all, inadvertently helps to create the best outcome for him- or herself. Awo did what he had to do cause he was looking for more in gawon’s admin and Ojukwu wanted to be the president just to have full possession of the oil money coming from the south while profession Ache whatever wants to get global attention or maybe to get more from sales. “This’s all about self-interest”…..you all are haters and also gonno do the same fin.

  • Nikson Ikoro says:

    I lyk dis. Am going 2 get my copy of things Fall Apart 1st ting 2morro morning. Instead of Robbinson Or watever his name is to say, after writting a counter book “things fall in Place” and was not recognised and only Ache book “Things Fall Apart” is d only 1 dat has gain international recognition, but he choose to bring it out dis way. Robbinson u hav failed

  • Obiiuleanya says:

    I must very profoundly commend @Olajideolakanpo I have never seen such a Yoruba man who can so openly display undiluted and unadultrared rationality in reasoning in writting in expression with utmost sincerity devoid of vagueness and dillydarly.God will bless u for standing on that pathway.Even if ur parochial tribes men call for ur scalp dont bother about that because truth has always been an orphan in history esp in Nigeria. But until Yoruba Men like Femi begin to reason like u this country will continue to tumble in the bottomless pit of disunity and lack of progress.Pa Awo was a sage, honorable and a hero amongs his people but Pa Awo was not a god.Even if he was a god history has prooved that it is only the Almighty God that does not make a mistake even among gods.If Pa Awo Made a mistake due to his human’ness and it is acknowledged and appologies made in that regard, it could be pardoned by we fellow humans who are also not infallible.But a vast Yoruba Men like Femi have deitified Pa Awo and can even kill to exonerate him from all ills.This is the matter.If only the modern Yoruba man can come out of this parochialism and myopia he has been driven into by their ancestors, his approach and reaction to such very basic and humane topic as raised by the literary icon will become better enriched and our collective existence will be better enhanced. Just imagine a man a nigerian calling for the ban of the master piece things fall apart bec its author echoed a truth that has heitherto been suppressed and repressed by those actors that featured on that scene of ravage and rake that brought untold agony to a helpless people. Even if he does not like the authors recent release what business does that have with a book that is not only read in Nigeria but has recieved international accolade.So much so that when an American high school student wants to think of Africa not even Nigeria he remembers Things Fall Apart. I often time get disappointed at the rantings of some of our Nigerian intellectuals like this Femi bec. their statements bring to bear the hollowness in the dept and breath of the reasoning that makes men even commonly literate

  • lokasa says:

    “Until now efforts to relieve the Biafran people have been thwarted by the desire of the central government of Nigeria to pursue total and unconditional victory and by the fear of the Ibo people that surrender means wholesale atrocities and genocide. But genocide is what is taking place right now – and starvation is the grim reaper. This is not the time to stand on ceremony, or to go through channels or to observe the diplomatic niceties, The destruction of an entire people is an immoral objective even in the most moral of wars. It can never be justified; it can never be condoned.”
    Mr. Richard Nixon, September 9, 1968- During the Presidential Campaign.
    “Federal troops, killed, or stood by while mobs killed, more than 5000 Ibos in Warri, Sapele, Agbor, ”
    New York Times, 10th January, 1968.
    “.It’s (mass starvation) is a legitimate aspect of war, ” Anthony Enahoro, Nigerian Commissioner for Information at a press conference in (New York, July 1968)
    “Starvation is a legitimate weapon of war, and we have every intention of using it against the rebels, ”
    Mr Alison Ayida, Head of Nigerian Delegation, Niamey Peace Talks, Republic of Niger, July 1968) ”

    All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder.”
    Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Nigerian Minister of Finance, July 28th 1969) ” ,
    The Igbos must be considerably reduced in number” (Lagos Policeman quoted in New York Review, 21 December, 1967)
    One word now describes the policy of the Nigerian military government towards secessionist Biafra: genocide. It is ugly and extreme but it is the only word which fits Nigeria’s decision to stop the International Committee of the red Cross, and other relief agencies, from flying food to Biafra ,
    ” Washington Post (editorial) July 2, 1969 ”
    In some areas outside the East, Igbos were killed by local people with at least the acquiescence of the federal forces, 1000 Igbo civilians perished in Benin in this way”
    (Max Edward- Reporter on the ground-New York Review, 21 December 1967) ”
    After federal forces take over of Benin, troops killed about 500 Igbo civilians after a house-to-house search with the aid of willing locals”
    (Washington Morning Post, 27 September, 1967)

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  • Precious says:

    The statement”the centre can no longer hold”represent idiot like u Robinson coz u have eyes and u fail to see with them.SO i put it to u that Awo’s is the P.A to Gowon then, and he is responsible for all that happened.Achebe’s “TFA” can never be ban by anybody be him govt or u Robinson coz the book holds the truth we the youth knows abt civil war and some miscreant of personel in our Nigeria societies.To me, you try to show urself that u’re one of the miscreant but ur name was nt feature out so my advice for is that,be still for ur name will be listed coz u’re the most idiosyncrasy I have ever heard of.

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