Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has expressed sadness over the death of Nigeria’s literary amazon, Florence Onyebuchi Emecheta, describing her passage as a monumental loss to the country and the literary world.
In a tribute by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, on Thursday in Asaba, Governor Okowa, extolled the immense contributions of the late writer to the growth and development of literature in Nigeria, Africa and beyond.
The Governor noted that the literary works of Emecheta promoted Delta State, Nigeria and Africa, hence she will be celebrated by lovers of literature all over the world.
Governor Okowa described Emecheta, winner of the 1979 New Statesman, Jock Campbell Award for The Slave Girl, 2005 Order of the British Empire OBE, as a consummate patriot, a great literary icon and a teacher par excellence, whose literary theme centred mostly on child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education.
The CPS stressed that the Governor On behalf of the government and people of Delta State, commiserate with the Emecheta family of Ibusa and the entire literary world over the demise of the late cerebral writer of “Second-Class Citizen” fame, adding that the state has lost a great woman who was once described as the most successful black woman novelist living in Britain.
While noting that She will be sorely missed by all and sundry whose lives she affected in many ways with her literary arsenal. Governor Okowa urged all who mourn the demise of the late Buchi Emecheta to take solace in the fact that she remains alive through her literary works.
He prayed God to grant her immediate family the strength to bear the irreparable loss, pointing out that her numerous achievements in the literary world will always be remembered.
The late Buchi Emecheta died in London on January 25, 2017 at the age of 72 years.
Buchi Emecheta’s Life (According to Wikipedia)
Florence Onyebuchi “Buchi” Emecheta OBE (21 July 1944 – 25 January 2017) was a Nigerian novelist, based in Britain since 1960, who had also written plays and autobiography, as well as for children. She was the author of more than 20 books, including Second-Class Citizen (1974), The Bride Price (1976), The Slave Girl (1977) and The Joys of Motherhood (1979).
Her themes of child slavery, motherhood, female independence and freedom through education won her considerable critical acclaim and honours, including an Order of the British Empire in 2005. Emecheta once described her stories as “stories of the world…[where]… women face the universal problems of poverty and oppression, and the longer they stay, no matter where they have come from originally, the more the problems become identical.” She has been characterised as “the first successful black woman novelist living in Britain after 1948”.
Emecheta was born on 21 July 1944, in Lagos, Nigeria, to Igbo parents, Alice (Okwuekwuhe) Emecheta and Jeremy Nwabudinke. Her father was a railway worker and molder. Due to the gender bias of the time, the young Buchi Emecheta was initially kept at home while her younger brother was sent to school; but after persuading her parents to consider the benefits of her education, she spent her early childhood at an all-girl’s missionary school. Her father died when she was nine years old. A year later, Emecheta received a full scholarship to the Methodist Girls School, where she remained until the age of 16 when, in 1960, she married Sylvester Onwordi, a student to whom she had been engaged since she was 11 years old.
Move to London
Onwordi immediately moved to London to attend university and Emecheta joined him. She gave birth to five children in six years. It was an unhappy and sometimes violent marriage (as chronicled in her autobiographical writings such as Second-Class Citizen). To keep her sanity, Emecheta wrote in her spare time. However, her husband was deeply suspicious of her writing, and he ultimately burned her first manuscript. She said that The Bride Price, eventually published in 1976, would have been her first book but she had to rewrite it after it was destroyed: “There were five years between the two versions.” At the age of 22, Emecheta left her husband. While working to support her five children alone, she earned a BSc degree in Sociology at the University of London.
She began writing about her experiences of Black British life in a regular column in the New Statesman, and a collection of these pieces became her first published book in 1972, In the Ditch. The semi-autobiographical book chronicled the struggles of a main character named Adah, who is forced to live in a housing estate while working as a librarian to support her five children. Her second novel published two years later, Second-Class Citizen (Allison and Busby, 1974), also drew on Emecheta’s own experiences, and both books were eventually published in one volume under the title Adah’s Story (Allison and Busby, 1983).
From 1965 to 1969, Emecheta worked as a library officer for the British Museum in London. From 1969 to 1976 she was a youth worker and sociologist for the Inner London Education Authority, and from 1976 to 1978 she worked as a community worker in Camden, North London.
Following her success as an author, Emecheta travelled widely as a visiting professor and lecturer. From 1972 to 1979 she visited several American universities, including Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
From 1980 to 1981, she was senior resident fellow and visiting professor of English, University of Calabar, Nigeria. In 1982 she lectured at Yale University, and the University of London, as well as holding a fellowship at the University of London in 1986.
From 1982 to 1983 Emecheta, together with her son Sylvester, ran the Ogwugwu Afor Publishing Company, publishing her own work under the imprint.
Among honours received during her literary career, Emecheta won the Jock Campbell Award from the New Statesman in 1978, and was on Granta magazine’s 1983 list of “Best of Young British Novelists”. In September 2004, she appeared in the historic “A Great Day in London” photograph taken at the British Library, featuring 50 Black and Asian writers who have made major contributions to contemporary British literature. In 2005, she was made an OBE for services to literature.
Buchi Emecheta suffered a stroke in 2010, and she died in London on 25 January 2017, aged 72.