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Chinua Achebe rejects an honor from Nigeria

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Axel Seidemann/STR/AP

(Read caption) In response to Chinua Achebe (pictured) rejecting the honor, a spokesperson for the Nigerian president said President Jonathan 'continues to hold Prof Achebe in very high esteem in spite of his regrettable decision.'

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Nigerian author Chinua Achebe rejected the title of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic from his home country, saying he would not accept it because he disagreed with the government.

Achebe, who is the author of the classic 1958 novel “Things Fall Apart" among others and lives in the US, had refused the same award in 2004, citing similar reasons.

“The reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved,” the author, who last visited Nigeria in 2009, said in a statement. “It is inappropriate to offer it again to me.”

Reuben Abati, a spokesperson for the country’s president Goodluck Jonathan, said in a statement that Achebe’s refusal to accept the prize surprised Jonathan. Abati said that “politically, Nigeria cannot be said to be where it was in 2004 as the Jonathan administration has embarked on extensive electoral reforms.”

Abati said Achebe must not know what’s really happening in Nigeria.

“The president continues to hold Prof Achebe in very high esteem in spite of his regrettable decision... and hopes he will find time to visit home soon and see for himself the progress being made by the Jonathan administration,” he said.

When he first refused the award in 2004, Achebe mentioned particular problems in his home state of Anambra in Nigeria when he wrote a letter to the president.

“[A] small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom,” the author wrote in his letter. “I am appalled by the brazenness of this clique and the silence, if not connivance, of the Presidency.”

Abati said in his statement that Jonathan considered Achebe to be “a national icon, a Nigerian of high attainments, indeed one of the greatest living Africans of our time.”

Jonathan won elections in April that the international community said were conducted fairly, but violence in the northern area of the country erupted after an opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change party, said the election results were fraudulent. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands were forced out of their homes.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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