Nigerian author Chinua Achebe has sparked controversy by turning down for a second time a prominent Nigerian honour, citing his "dismay" at corruption in his homeland.
Achebe, who turns 81 on Wednesday, has once again rejected being named a Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan awarded the prestigious ceremonial title to others — including diplomatic, business and military leaders — on Monday.
Man Booker-winning poet and novelist Achebe released a terse letter he sent to the Nigerian government in which he noted his reasons for declining the honour again, after first refusing it in 2004.
"For some time now I have watched events in Nigeria with alarm and dismay," wrote the author of the bestselling 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, which shot Achebe to international acclaim and has been studied around the globe.
"I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom. I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the presidency," continued Achebe, who is now based in the U.S., where he is a professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
"The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed, let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me."
Though hailing Achebe as "a national icon, a Nigerian of high attainments [and] indeed one of the greatest living Africans of our time," Jonathan described his refusal of the honour as "a regrettable decision" stemming from misinformation, since the author no longer lives in Nigeria.
In a published statement, the president said Achebe's claim "clearly flies in the face of the reality of Nigeria's current political situation" and he expressed hope that the writer would "find time to visit home soon and see the progress being made by the Jonathan administration for himself."
A master of modern African literature and a noted literary critic, Achebe's writing has probed the political failures, corruption and widespread poverty in his oil-rich homeland.