Achebe, Adichie’s ‘haunted’ house of creativity in Nsukka
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PROFESSOR Chinua Achebe, the late literary icon and author of Things Fall Apart, A Man of the people, No Longer at Ease, The Trouble with Nigeria, Anthills of the Savannah, There was a Country… etc lived in a particular house when he was a lecturer at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It was in the house that he wrote many of his works. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Purple Hibiscus, Half a Yellow Sun, The Thing Around Your Neck and newly released AMERiCAH lived in the same house. Professor Adichie, Chimamanda’s father told me in an interview last time that he brought up his children including the renowned writer, Chimamanda up in the house where Professor Achebe lived.
When the Adichies lived in the house, they were unaware that Achebe had lived there. Last week, I found myself in Nsukka and the house where the two writers once lived through divine providence.
I then set out to find out the structure, nature and present occupants of the house that bred the Achebe’s and Adichies to determine if the house was haunted by creativity. Or perhaps a creative genie had been let out of the bottle inside the house many years ago!
Professor Michael Masukwe is the new occupant of the famous house of creative writing. Madukwe, a one-time Head of Agricultural Extension Services, Chairman, Drug Revolving Scheme of the University’s Medical Centre, also holds the post of National Coordinator, African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) Nigeria Chapter. We met by chance the previous night. It was at the residence of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bartholomew Okolo, when the visiting scientists from United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) France, United Kingdom, Japan and South Africa were being hosted after the establishment of the first African Centre of Biotechnology at the University. I whispered into the ears of Mr. Chido Nwakanma, my guide that I wanted to see the new occupant of Achebe’s old house.
Dr. Bennett Nwanguma, General Manager of UNN Bookshop, who was described by Nwakanma as the ‘Toyin Akinoso of Eastern Nigeria’ because of his love for books and criticism, walked into our company “this is the man who will know the present occupant,” said Nwakanma.
Nwanguma, an avid reader and orator with a vast knowledge in several fields, smiled and pointed in the opposite direction in the dark night. As if it were predetermined by forces beyond human reasoning, Prof. Madukwe walked towards our table.
“This is the man you are looking for,” said Nwanguma.
I seized the opportunity and immediately sought an interview. While the diner was going on, I was busy recording and storing the responses of Prof. Madukwe the new occupant of Achebe’s house. Prof. Madukwe affirmed this, but added that when he discovered this reality about the previous occupants, he realised that the Achebes and Adichies have set a high standard for him and his family and said amidst laughter, “I have read the two novels of Chimamanda. These achievers have kind of put pressure on me and my children”.
The new occupant, Prof. Madukwe is married to a food scientist. They have five children. All of them are doing science degree programmes. It seems that they are not inclined towards the arts, cultural issues and Cleast of all creative writing. However, Prof. Madukwe found it strange when one of his daughters came home one day with some strange modeling dresses. He asked his daughter what those dresses were meant for.
Alas, he was told the daughter had found a passion in modeling. The professor was alarmed. However, other colleagues prevailed on him not to discourage his daughter since she had all the characteristics and features of a model. The Professor then calmed down.
When asked if this house in Nsukka is not haunted by creativity, the Madukwe answered, “You are right. I believe it’s haunted”.
How did the Madukwes get themselves into this house of creativity? When Professor Adichie, Chimamanda’s father, wanted to retire from the university, he looked for a house outside the campus. Coincidentally, during the period, Professor Madukwe had told Professor Adichie that he would like to move into the campus. He discussed with Professor Adichie on the possibility of moving into the house. Things later worked out. It was months after Professor Madukwe had moved into the house that he heard the story that Professor Achebe earlier lived in the same house.
Professor Madukwe also has his hands on many intellectual pies. Recently, he has been working with international organisations on tackling the problem of climate change. He was able to get funding which would make the University of Nigeria, Nsukka work on the development of capacity of undergraduates and graduates on climate change issues. He is also involved in the curriculum development of the programme as well as other areas of popularization of science.
The old house of the Achebes and Adichies is a duplex, a simple, old architecture meant for one family. The sitting room, which this reporter observed from outside, is large and the surroundings are clean with dotting plants. However, not far away are lawns and trees that beautify the landscape. The neighbourhood is serene with many houses screened and sandwiched among the trees. The roads are tarred and one could take a walk anywhere and anytime of the day or simply sit anywhere to commune with the forces of nature and the God of creativity!
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