Chimamanda Adichie, the novelist, has rejected the national honours award offered to her by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Omawumi Ogbe, the author’s aide, confirmed the development to TheCable Lifestyle on Friday but didn’t give reasons for the decision.
Adichie was to receive the order of federal republic (OFR) award at the ceremony which took place on October 11.
Ogbe said Adichie neither attended the event nor accepted the award, conveying her non-acceptance “privately”.
“She did not want to create undue publicity around it, so her non-acceptance was conveyed privately,” Ogbe stated.
In celebration of Nigeria’s 62nd Independence, 437 nominees had been shortlisted to receive national honours.
A list of the awardees, as seen by TheCable, had five grand commander of the order of the Niger (GCON) awards, 54 commander of the order of the federal republic (CFR), and 67 commander of the order of the Niger (CON).
The list also includes 64 officer of the order of federal republic (OFR) awards, 101 officer of the order of the Niger (OON) awards, and 75 member of the order of the federal republic (MFR) awards.
Others are 56 awards for member of the order of the Niger (MON) and eight federal republic medal (FRM) awards.
The presidency said the honour was in recognition of the awardees’ accomplishments in their fields and capacities.
First, Achebe, then Soyinka — now Chimamanda
Chimamanda, who had in the not-so-distant past aired her disapproval of the current government’s response to matters of public importance, would not be the first of her kind in the literary community to reject a national award.
Chinua Achebe, the late Nigerian author, whose works have continued to be at the receiving end of critical acclaim even after his death in March 2013, had rejected national awards on two occasions in 2004 and 2011.
Achebe said he rejected the commander of the order of the federal republic (CFR) award in 2004 because he was dissatisfied with the handling of the country’s affairs by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
In 2011, Achebe would also reject the same award from the Goodluck Jonathan administration, citing that the reasons for which he rejected the previous offer when it was made had not been addressed.
Wole Soyinka, the nobel laureate, similarly rejected the centenary award from the federal government in 2014.
The professor stated that he did so as he could not share the same national recognition with Sani Abacha, the late military head of state, who he described as a “murderer and thief of no redeeming quality”.
At the time, Abacha, whose looting of Nigeria’s treasury is still being recovered from foreign countries, was to be simultaneously recognized as one of the “outstanding promoters of unity, patriotism, and national development.”
Adiche’s grouse with Buhari’s leadership not new
In 2020, Adichie stirred mixed reactions after she said she didn’t consider herself an ambassador of Nigeria.
“I am an ambassador for myself. I don’t represent Nigeria. There are things about Nigeria I don’t like. But, at the same time, I am very very proud of my Nigerian identity,” the author had argued in an interview.
Later in that year — following civilian protests against police brutality and the shootings at the Lekki toll gate — Adichie wrote in a New York Times article that there was a feeling Nigeria could burn to the ground under Buhari’s rule.
“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has long been ineffectual, with a kind of willful indifference. Under his leadership, insecurity has worsened,” she said.
“There is the sense that Nigeria could very well burn to the ground while the president remains malevolently aloof.
“The president has often telegraphed a contemptuous self-righteousness, as though engaging fully with Nigerians is beneath him. Twelve hours after soldiers shot peaceful protesters, Mr. Buhari still had not addressed the nation.”
In 2016, Adichie stated that Buhari wasted the chance to make “real reforms” in the early days of his government.
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