Restoring Igbo dignity: Ike and Adichie on the University of Nigeria

Ugochukwu, Francoise (2010). Restoring Igbo dignity: Ike and Adichie on the University of Nigeria. In: Nigeria at 50: The Igbo Experience - Commemoration of Nigeria's 50th Independence Anniversary, 9-10 Apr 2010, Howard University, Washington D.C., USA.


Someone said that the University of Nigeria, which, fifty years on, remains one of the country's major achievements, was a dream come true. Envisioned many years before Independence, it eventually opened its gates on 7th October 1960 and classes began ten days later with an enrolment of 220 students and 13 academic members of staff. Since then, thousands of students and staff from all over the world have settled on its Nsukka and Enugu campuses to study, research and join in a unique experiment. This chapter considers the impact of UNN on Nigerian literature, focusing on Ike's Naked Gods (1970), and Adichie's Purple Hibiscus (2004) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), the only three Nigerian novels focusing on the University of Nigeria. It shows these texts as key documents, revealing UNN, the only Nigerian HE institution developed in a rural setting, as both a citadel of learning and a world in itself, whose influence permeated the whole region and extended far beyond. Whereas The Naked gods (1970) evokes the beginnings of the University, its main campus under construction and the negotiating of the University administrative structures between the British and the Americans under the critical eye of the side-lined indigenous staff and local traditional authorities, Adichie's novels, published in 2004 and 2006, complement Ike's picture as they paint a very different University, now totally manned by Nigerians and where expatriates are on the way out. They equally differ in other ways: whereas Ike chose to focus on the University as a workplace, Adichie presents it as a residential area, a village and a web of close-knit relationships. This comparative study highlights UNN's intellectual impact on both its students and staff and on the nation-building process.

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