Thousands of mourners are attending the funeral of renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe in his home town in Anambra state. Mr 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. Mr 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. The writer and academic 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 paralysed and in a wheelchair, returning to Nigeria infrequently. The BBC’s Will Ross reports from the funeral that Mr Achebe is being given a colourful, grand send off in his home town of Ogidi. Thousands have thronged St Philips Anglican Church here in Ogidi to bid farewell to an African giant. Surrounded by the lush green countryside of Anambara state this church is overflowing – thousands are outside under white tents and trees. Even those outside the compound are in no danger of missing the proceedings taking place inside as huge speakers are belting out the hymns and shouted sermons easily drowning out the din of the generators. Much of what Mr Achebe abhorred is on full display at the service – political patronage and the trappings of power. Local politicians are escorted into the church by men from the State Security Service wielding sophisticated weapons whilst a large number of men are women came dressed head to toe in political party outfits. Today people are not just mourning the loss of Mr Achebe. They are also celebrating his extraordinary life which lives on through his powerful writing. 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, our reporter adds. 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 (04:00 GMT) 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. Mr 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.
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