Thousands of mourners are attending the funeral of renowned author Chinua Achebe in his Nigerian home town of Ogidi in Anambra state.
Chinua Achebe’s body arrived back in Nigeria on Wednesday from the US, where he died in March at the age of 82.
Relatives and officials were at Enugu airport in southern Nigeria as the coffin was lowered from the plane.
Chinua Achebe is widely regarded as the founding father of African literature in English.
His 1958 debut novel, Things Fall Apart, which dealt with the impact of colonialism in Africa, has sold more than 10 million copies.
Writer and academic Chinua Achebe went on to write more than 20 works – some fiercely critical of politicians and what he described as a failure of leadership in Nigeria.
He had been living in the US since 1990 after a car crash left him partially paralyzed and in a wheelchair, returning to Nigeria infrequently.
Thousands of mourners are attending the funeral of renowned author Chinua Achebe in his Nigerian home town of Ogidi in Anambra state
Chinua Achebe is being given a colorful, grand send off in his home town of Ogidi.
Much of what he abhorred is on full display at the service – political patronage and the trappings of power, he says.
Local politicians were escorted into the church by men from the State Security Service wielding sophisticated weapons while a large number of men and women came dressed head to toe in political party outfits.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama flew in by helicopter to attend the service at the packed Anglican church in Ogidi.
Thousands of mourners are following proceedings from huge marquees erected outside.
Although people are mourning, the life of the influential Nigerian writer is also being celebrated, our reporter says.
“I left my house in Asaba [a nearby city] at 05:00 this morning in order to pay my last respects for this illustrious son of Nigeria who has done his people proud,” said Sylvanus John, a 31-year-old engineer, AFP news agency reports.
Chinua Achebe’s body will be buried near his family’s home in Ogidi, a small town in the hills of Anambra state, later on Thursday.
Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, one of Africa’s best known authors, has died at the age of 82 after a brief illness.
A statement from his family said Chinua Achebe’s “wisdom and courage” were an “inspiration to all who knew him”.
Chinua Achebe’s 1958 debut novel Things Fall Apart, which dealt with the impact of colonialism in Africa, has sold more than 10 million copies.
He had been living in the US since 1990 following injuries from a car crash.
Chinua Achebe wrote more than 20 works – some fiercely critical of politicians and a failure of leadership in Nigeria.
South African writer and Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer called Chinua Achebe the “father of modern African literature” in 2007 when she was among the judges to award him the Man Booker International Prize in honor of his literary career.
Things Fall Apart has been translated into more than 50 languages and focuses on the traditions of Igbo society and the clash between Western and traditional values.
The Anambra state government in Nigeria first made the announcement about his death.
Chinua Achebe’s 1958 debut novel Things Fall Apart, which dealt with the impact of colonialism in Africa, has sold more than 10 million copies
Analysts say in Igbo society the death of an important person must be announced by someone in authority.
Chinua Achebe s home state was in mourning for the death of “the illustrious son of the state, Nigeria and Africa”, said Mike Udah, spokesman for Anambra state governor Peter Obi.
A statement released on behalf of his family said Chinua Achebe was “one of the great literary voices of his time”.
“He was also a beloved husband, father, uncle and grandfather, whose wisdom and courage are an inspiration to all who knew him. Professor Achebe’s family requests privacy at this time.”
Last year, Chinua Achebe published a long-awaited memoir about the brutal three-year Biafran war – when the south-eastern Igbo region tried to split from Nigeria in 1967.
After leaving Nigeria, Chinua Achebe worked in the US as a professor. His 1990 car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair.
A statement of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory said it offered its condolences to the Achebe family.
The former South African president and anti-apartheid fighter, who spent 27 years in jail, “referred to Prof Achebe as a writer ‘in whose company the prison walls fell down'”, the statement said.