CHINUA ACHEBE’S LEGACY AND THE NEXT GENERATION OF NIGERIAN AUTHORS “An artist, in my understanding of the word, should side with the people against the Emperor that oppresses his or her people.” The statement was made by Chinua Achebe, that breed of a man who for several years held us all spell bound with his literary mastery of the ways of his people and all of us. Even in death, Achebe challenges the modern day Nigerian author, even attempts to inquire, if there are any, who can side the people against the Emperor. An artist here, will refer to a writer or author in the class of literature or public commentary just like Achebe was (is) who stood in the gap between truth and other agents steering the nation to the path of destruction, after all, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Indeed, I am inspired to write this because of my deep desire to see men/women of letters who can be our torch bearers,illuminating the way as darkness attempts to overtake us. It is an attempt to wake authors who understand the relevance of speaking the truth for our common good and will stop at nothing but strive to use it to save posterity and society from the slow death presently promoted by fanatical authors incapable of telling the truth with their writing. “The doughty fighter of the pioneer quartet of contemporary Nigerian literature” as intrepidly described by the equally eloquent Wole Soyinka must have made the above proclamation oblivious of the nauseating prevalence of a brood of authors, long converted into praise singers. Is it not in our life time that most writers’ conscience sell for less than a handful of sand? Even the ones many deemed upright have since joined the evil crusade feeding fat from the barns of crime? They are the set of artists who see nothing wrong with being surrounded with laurels dubiously obtained and bequeathed upon them by the same evil Emperor. Chinua Achebe must have thought that there was still a MAN OF THE PEOPLE in this generation too fame hungry to stay on the side of the people. He was too engrossed believing THERE WAS A COUNTRY to behold the new artist stepping into his shoes only wearing them each on the wrong foot. The new famed Nigerian artist licks the boots of the Emperor, reads him bed time stories from his/her collection of urgently published poems while dancing to THE FLUTE beaten from THE DRUM of the Emperor’s band. They are quick to warn us that times have changed and survival handouts are the new and most coveted literary prize in the country, hence writers ought to embrace the shameless trade or risk dying penniless. And if you dare to remind them of Chinua Achebe’s resilience, they will tell you how backward you really are, how you need to belong to be ‘right’ clique, and how you can only beat them when you join them. But in the true sense, you can never really beat them even if you join them. One wonders where Achebe thought his honesty and courage to express views on tribe and national issues patriotically will come from when the new ‘wasted generation’ of writers, as his equally illustrious compatriot, Prof. Wole Soyinka nicknamed them, are careful not to steer the ship of politics in order not to bite the fingers that feed them thereby avoid being hauled into the tumultuous ocean of poverty and deprivation, like the masses. Was he exonerating the artist after Things have FALLEN APART, and they have joined up with the forces of darkness seemingly overshadowing the illumination of existence that the literary artist is supposed to represent? These are forces that arrogantly pride themselves as implacable and brutal enemies of what Chinua Achebe and his pen represents for Africa and humanity. To belong in the new generation of Nigeria writers, you have to be connected to those who ‘make it happen’ and no matter how good your works are, you will not earn crisp notes gleaming with the shine of oil from the Niger Delta and these ‘followers’ of the arts will become NO LONGER AT EASE with your friendship. While the Iroko tended his incapacitation abroad, little did he realise that the new Nigerian writer has festered his longing towards the feasts of the Emperor and his conniving cronies. There are no longer artists with pride for the nation, almost non is able to remain as an ARROW OF GOD, for no pecuniary recompense. I cannot blanket Nigerian writers as ignorant of their purpose and destiny, when perhaps there remain somewhere, a diminishing and discouraged clan of writers, who, unable to imbibe the new culture of writing to please the Emperor, stays out of the circle as REFUGEE MOTHER AND CHILD, or have their writing cast away by prospective publishers in the name of protecting the country from drifting to anarchy and chaos because of their creative critique. For this desired band of depleting creative minds, the motive of this article is to fan the flames of artistic radicalism towards poking the consciences of the consolidating political brigand, this rank and clique of renegades, openly boasting of its connection in high places and determined to turn our homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. Let it be known that, while genuine writers of the truth remain, there yet exist not, bestselling true life stories in which the great human spirit succumbed to the forces of retrogression. And no matter how much the civilised man progresses in error under the guise of equating freedom to morally challenging modern trends, common sense dignifies the system of common good, that which the laws of nature strives to protect. Meanwhile, whether Nigeria will once again produce renowned and fiery literary geniuses who will not only write to earn the Emperor’s laurels and have dinner with the oppressors of the people, but rise up to challenge the destroyers of the decaying nation, remains a poser, and only time will tell. Finally, the death of the trail blazer therefore should not silence the voice of equality, justice and cultural morality which unites the country as one progressive entity, it should instead foist a new challenge for the rebirth of a new set of artists who will be bold and firm in their line of creativity in order that the people will be protected from the Emperor. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THE ARTICLE ARE THE AUTHOR’S.