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Visionaries - October 17, 2022

Chimamanda Adichie Rejects National Honour: Possible Reasons

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a celebrated author from Nigeria, and a recipient of the national honour, declined the award offered to her by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The writer reportedly declined the honour in private because she didn’t want to attract attention.

Initially, there have been conflicting reports that have affirmed that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received the awards. 

However, the writer’s communication manager quickly intervened to address the conflicting statements.

“The author did not accept the award and, as such, did not attend the ceremony. She, however, did not want to create undue publicity around it, so her non-acceptance was conveyed privately,” Omawunmi Ogbe said.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is not the first honoree to decline the Nigerian president’s national recognition.

Both the late Prof. Chinua Achebe, a celebrated Nigerian author and the author of Things Fall Apart, and the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, a prominent human rights advocate and lawyer, declined the national honours award in 2008.

At the Nigerian Bar Association’s Annual General Meeting, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech highlights some possible reasons why the author declined the award. 

According to Chimamanda, Nigeria has consistently struggled with issues of injustice, lack of essential amenities — education, health, electricity — and a dearth of positive role models. 

Let’s take a look at three possible reasons Chimamanda rejected the national honour. 

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1. A lack of role models in Nigeria

Adichie claimed during her address that young people were having trouble finding mentors.

She said, “We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore.

Nigeria is disarray. Things are hard and getting harder by the day. We can’t be safe when there is no rule of law. Nigerians are starved of heroes to look up to.

Late Dora Akunyili and Gani Fawehimmi were heroes that Nigerians looked up to before now. Unfortunately, that era has gone. I believe that NBA is in a position to give the nation, heroes that we can look up to the lead the nation.”

2. Injustice in the country  

In her address, Chimamanda emphasises the necessity for everyone to speak up against oppression and injustice, even if they are labelled troublemakers.

A radical transformation, according to her, must value audacity and creativity.

“They have called me troublesome. Although, it is never enjoyable to be called troublesome. I never set out to provoke for its sake. But I refuse to silence myself for fear of what I might inadvertently provoke. It has always been important to me to say what I believe, to call out injustice”

“Federal and state security dragging journalists to prison is tyranny. A journalist ill-treating his domestic staff is tyranny. The rape of young boys and girls is also tyranny. It is tyranny when state governments do not pay pensioners until they slump and die as broken people. 

The physical harassment of lawyers and some some judges is tyranny. The use of the law by some people to oppress the poor people is tyranny.”

3. The dire education structure in Nigeria

More than 70% of Nigerian children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), are affected by learning poverty.

Nigeria is currently experiencing the negative effects of low-quality education, as evidenced by the extraordinarily high unemployment rate among young people with college degrees. 

The negligence of the educational sector has led to an eight months strike of universities that was recently ended. 

The primary school net enrollment percentage in Nigeria was just 64% in 2010, despite the fact that elementary education is “free and compulsory.”

Between 6% and 9% of the national budget has been allotted by the government to the education sector in Nigeria over the past 40 years. This is less than the majority of other African nations, which range from 11% to 30%.

It is obvious that the budgetary allotment falls short of what these institutions require. Nigeria must provide appropriate funding for the education sector if it wants to join the group of industrialised nations.

Most importantly, it must make investments in sound educational, research, and development infrastructure for the country.

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