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RATIONALE (Rationale: 296 Words | Written Task: 998 Words | Total: 1294 Words)
As I was reading Chinua Achebes Things Fall Apart, I noticed that on several
occasions, it seemed as if Chinua Achebe was not completely for Igbo culture and customs.
As I began to draw the lines between these observations, I began to find that instead of
portraying Igbo culture as a treasure worth keeping, Achebe showcased it as lacking in
humanity and in logic.
This observation has spawned an interest directed towards the second learning
outcome of Part 4, which is to analyze elements such as theme and the ethical stance or
moral values of literary texts. The question being raised here is Is it possible to find
evidence for and draw the conclusion that Chinua Achebe was actually against the
continuation of Igbo culture?
I have decided to explore this question in the form of a formal legal judgment on the
basis of defamation by a Nigerian Federal Judge found in the archives of the Nigerian
Supreme Court. The audience of the text would be legal practitioners in Nigeria, and the
purpose is to inform these legal practitioners of reasons why Chinua Achebe was either found
guilty or acquitted of the crime of defamation so they are able to use the ruling on their own
cases.
One reason I chose to write the text in the form of a formal legal judgment is to allow
me to cite textual evidence in the book without hindrance. A court case is very specific in its
citation that it will cite phrases or sentences from a book, past judgment, or a witness
statement word-by-word. Also, a court case would allow me to analyze these citations in
greater detail, like what a court would usually do.

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Michael Jonathan
Mr. James Springall
11 IB English Language and Literature SL 1
17 March 2014
Luke Okonkwo Achukwu V. Albert Chinualumogu Achebe
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
On Wednesday, the 17th Day of June 1961

Before their Lordship


Adetokunbo Ademola (Chief Justice of the Federation) Unsworth (Federal Justice) John
Idowu Conrad Taylor (Federal Justice)

FSC 137/1961

Between

Luke Okonkwo Achukwu


(For himself and on behalf of the Igbo ethnicity)

Appellant

Respondent

And

Albert Chinualumogu Achebe

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Judgment of the Court
Delivered by
Adetokunbo Ademola, C.F.J.

The following question has been referred to this Court by the appellant in accordance with
section 108 of the Constitution of the Federation:

(1) Whether the provisions of 24 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federationin so far as
they allow Albert Chinualumogu Achebe the freedom of writing and publishing a work,
namely Things Fall Apart, deemed defaming by the Igbo ethnicityhave been invalidated by
the same provisions of the same article due to their genuine defamation of the Igbo
ethnicity.

After a thorough investigation of the material deemed defamatory by the appellant Mr.
Achukwu, I fully accept his submission to this court. I shall thus endeavour to explain my
reasons for acceptance through summarizing his argumentation as follows:

(i)

The novel, Things Fall Apart, includes defamatory descriptions of tribal customs.

(ii)

The novel, Things Fall Apart, includes characters whose questions and actions
contradict the tribal customs of the Igbo, thereby presenting the customs as being
illogical and unethical.

I uphold the legitimacy of submission (i). The plaintiff cited a portion of the novel on its 18th
page, which describes the Igbo custom of burial. In this portion, the respondent describes the
death of the character Unoka, in which [Unoka] died of the swelling which was an

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abomination to the earth goddessHe was carried to the Evil Forest and left there to
die[and] was not given the first or the second burial. I find this a clearly negative
portrayal of the Igbo customs because it depicts Igbo custom as inhumane for leaving Unoka
to rot away above the earth, which is a humiliating form of burial. The plaintiff then
continued his submission by citing another portion of the novel in question on its 32nd page,
which portrays the Igbo custom with a sense of irony. In this portion, the men of the
Umuofian clan comment on the relative mildness of Okonkwos punishment when Okonkwo
had beat his third wife, Ojiugo. One of the men, Ogbuefi Ezeudu, describes a custom in
another fictional village, Obodoani, where those who die during the Weak of Peace are
thrown into the Evil Forest. Ogbuefi Ezeudu remarks that this only leaves their clanfull of
the evil spirits of these unburied dead, hungry to do harm to the living. According to the
plaintiff, this is ironic, since the Umuofians also threw away many corpses into the Evil
Forest, as is evidenced by the four sets of twins that were thrown away by the tribe on the
151st page. I fully agree with the plaintiffs assertion that this irony serves to show the
capricious nature of Igbo customs, which applauds and deplores the disposal of the dead in
the Evil Forest, undermining the Igbo culture in the process.

As regards to submission (ii), I agree that the novel Things Fall Apart contains characters
who, through the nature of their questions and actions, contradict or aim to contradict the
tribal customs of the Igbo. On the 61st to 62nd page of the novel, the respondent includes a
description of Nwoyes thoughts on the killing of Ikemefuna and the custom of throwing
twins away into the Evil Forest. In this portion, when Nwoye passes the Evil Forest and hears
the cries of babies, A vague chill descended on him[and] something [gave] way inside
him. It descended on him again when his father walked inafter killing Ikemefuna. I find
the respondents description of Nwoyes reaction towards both these Igbo customs appalling,

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as it presents them both as being startling even to an Igbo person, which means it was meant
to be startling to the reader. This clearly puts the blame of defamation on the respondent. A
further example the appellant cited comes from a portion of the text from the 125th page of
the novel. In this section, the character Obierika questions the reasoning behind the Igbo
justice systems punishment of exile for inadvertent murder. Besides asking Why should a
man suffer so grievously for an offense he had committed inadvertently? He remembered his
wifes twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? I accept
the appellants argument that these questions serve to spark further questions in the readers
minds on the legitimacy of Igbo laws, portraying them as being inhumane. I find that this is
clear defamation. I also find the appellants closing argument on this submission to be true. In
his closing argument, the appellant refers to the repetition of the motif of the inhumanity of
throwing twins away. The plaintiff argues that Nwoyes doubts in the 62nd page are repeated
in the 147th page. In this section, Nwoye has just finished hearing a hymn sung by the
Christian missionaries. The hymn seemed to answerthe question of the twins crying in the
bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed. He felt a relief within as the hymn
poured into his parched soul. I accept the plaintiffs reasoning that in portraying the
Christian hymn as life giving and good, it portrayed the Igbo customs of throwing twins away
and killing innocent boys as evil. I find this contrast reasonable, and thus find this section a
clear showcase of defamation.

Without hesitation, I accept the submission of the appellant to prove the defamatory nature of
Albert Chinualumogu Achebes novel Things Fall Apart. On the grounds of negatively
describing Igbo tribal customs and the inclusion of characters who question or feel strongly
against Igbo customs, I hereby find the respondent, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, guilty of
defamation.

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Judgment delivered by Unsworth. F.J.

I concur.

Judgment delivered by John Idowu Conrad Taylor. F.J.

I concur.

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Works Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Anchor, 1994. Print.
Brett, Lionel. "J.S. Olawoyin versus Commissioner of Police." Supreme Court of Nigeria
Judgment Information System. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.
<http://judgment.supremecourt.gov.ng/pdf.php?case_id=132>.