Chinua Achebe’s final transition begins, as body arrives in Nigeria

The final homeward journey for Nigeria’s late literary icon, Prof Chinua Achebe, who died in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States of America, on March 22, began Tuesday with the arrival of his remains at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

His body was brought in aboard a British Airways flight at exactly 4.45 am into the waiting arms of his family who kept vigil at the local wing of the airport.

The atmosphere at the domestic wing of the airport where the casket was draped in the national colours of green-white-green, was quiet and solemn.

Government officials were nowhere to be found, until around 7.00 am, when the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, and a few officiating priests from the Anglican Diocese, Onitsha surfaced.

Except for Achebe’s large portrait that adorned the reception hall of the domestic wing of the airport, the day would have been just like any other. The entire ceremony at the airport took less than an hour.

The rites will climax with his interment on Thursday, in his hometown, Ogidi, Anambra State, South East Nigeria.

A Service of Songs was conducted in honour of the late literary icon at the airport before an Igbo traditional dance group performed outside the venue. The body was expected to be taken to the National Assembly for a reception there but this part of the programme was shelved and no official reason was given for the change of plan.

After the brief service of song at the Airport, the body of the late Achebe was conveyed back to into an Overland Airline jet and flown to Enugu.

The body is expected in Awka, the Anambra State capital, on Wednesday May 22 preceded by a border reception at Amansea by a cross section of Anambra people.

This would be followed by a short service for him at the Alex Ekwueme Square also in Awka. The body would arrive in his hometown, Ogidi, the same day for a funeral service at St. Phillip’s Anglican Church, Akpakaogwe, Ogidi, to be followed by interment on Thursday, May 23.