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Tuesday, 2 April 2013
How The Accident That Crippled Achebe Happened.
On one uneventful day in 1991, Achebe, in the company of his first
son, Ike, was in high spirit. He had a conference to attend in the
United States of America and wouldn’t want to miss his international
flight from Lagos, scheduled for the following day. Read More After the cut...
Earlier, he had been
engaged in a flurry of activities, including attending events in his
honour at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Achebe had also attended a marathon
of meetings of Ogidi Town Union in his hometown. But America was on his
mind soon after, and desperation crept in when, after travelling more
than 60 kilometres from his hometown, Ogidi, near Onitsha in Anambra
State, to Enugu to board a connecting flight to Lagos, he missed the
flight. Unlike today, when there are flights to and fro Nnamdi Azikiwe
Airport, Enugu, daily, the situation was different in 22 years ago.
The only option left for Achebe was to travel by road to Lagos, a
distance of over 560 kilometres. Thus, he chattered a vehicle from the
airport to Lagos. The take-off was smooth, and the driver was desirous
of getting to his destination before nightfall, for he knew the urgency
of the task ahead. However, fate played a cruel trick on the travellers,
and the journey was truncated. At Unizik junction in Awka, about 30
minutes drive from the commercial city of Onitsha, the wagon, driving at
top speed, lost its axle and somersaulted several times before
crash-landing with a deadly thud. It was a gory sight as shrieks and
blood melded on the scene of the accident. Though not a soul was lost in
the accident, it left on its trail, a vehicular wreck and mortal
agonies: Achebe lost both legs.
However, his son, Ike, and the driver, didn’t suffer severe wounds.
The world was alarmed. The next few hours were too demanding on his
life. The iconic author was in pains and his life was in jeopardy.
Medical facilities around didn’t promise a remedy to his woes, and his
life couldn’t be allowed to continue to hang by a thread. There was hope
in the horizon, suddenly. Listless and battling for his life, Achebe
was taken to London for adequate medicare. The medics in London did
their best, but their best wasn’t enough to make him walk again. Achebe
had to take consolation that he was alive. For a man who had been
walking for six decades, a life on the wheelchair was too daunting. Yet,
his nimble fingers continued to pen masterstrokes on papers, creating
more works, both fiction and non-fiction. Things changed for the author
of Things Fall Apart afterwards.