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

Ugochukwu, Francoise (2011). Restoring Igbo dignity – Ike and Adichie on the University of Nigeria. In: Nwauwa, Apollos O. and Korieh, Chima J. eds. Against all Odds: The Igbo Experience in Post-Colonial Nigeria. The African Studies Series. Glassboro, NJ (USA): Goldline & Jacobs Publishing, pp. 377–395.



Someone said that the University of Nigeria was a dream come true. Conceived many years before Independence, it eventually opened its gates on 7th October 1960, and classes began on 17th October 1960 with an enrolment of 220 students and 13 members of the academic 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 paper examined the impact of UNN on Nigerian literature, focusing on Ike’s Naked Gods (1970), and Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus (2003) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), the only three Nigerian novels featuring the University of Nigeria. It showed 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 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 2003 and 2006, complement Ike’s picture as they paint a very different University, now totally manned by Nigerians and where expatriates have become a rarity. They equally differ in other ways: whereas Ike chose to focus on the University as a workplace, Adichie presents it as a secluded place of learning, 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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