The edition, Saturday September 16, 2023.

By Adeze Ojukwu

Dear Chimamanda,

Today, I join the world to celebrate you, at your 46th birthday, with this open letter. Millions of your fans, see you as “an enigma.” I concur, because, clearly, you are a gift to humanity and this generation, torn and worn out by the deficiencies and dysfunctions of society, including advanced nations.

The 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi took to his X platform (formerly Twitter), on Friday to praise Adichie at her birthday.

Obi wrote: “My Very Dear Sister and Internationally Renowned Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, @ChimamandaReal, I rejoice with and congratulate you today on your birthday anniversary. I celebrate the many achievements you have made on the global stage, and especially, for following the path of sincerity and integrity in your life’s journey. Your courageous voice of truth has continued to resonate in our nation and beyond.”

Indeed it is difficult not to admire you and your fearless personality. Your sterling qualities and achievements, in so short a time, commend you to the world’s hall of heroes and heroines.

Though, we have never met, we share some connections. Firstly, we are both Ndi-Ada Ndi-Igbo and Ada Ndi-Anambra. Next is the shared influence, from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN). We both lived at the lush and serene Nsukka campus, which produced or hosted some of the world’s top echelons in various spheres of learning. The list includes former Vice Chancellors, Prof. Frank Ndili, a nuclear physicist, Prof. Chimere Ikoku of Pure and Industrial Chemistry, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, former Minister of Power, former Deputy VC, Prof Isaac Asuzu, an accomplished Veterinarian and late Prof. Maximus Ikeme also of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

Interestingly, you were raised in the very house, where Prof. Chinua Achebe, the literary colossus of African literature lived in. Your residence was located situated at Imoke street, next to “ours” at Odim street, where my father’s youngest brother, Prof Gaius Igboeli of Animal Science lived. I spent part of my teenage years, in that serene and beautiful hilly part of the campus, allocated only to professors, top level staff of the institution and its prominent guests. Prof. Igboeli was the first Vice-Chancellor, Paul University, Awka, former Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State and former, Pro-Chancellor, Enugu State University of Science and Technology.

You, briefly studied Medicine, at UNN, before your veered into Communication, Politics, as well as Creative Writing in the United States(US). I studied English language, at UNN, under the tutelage of a notable English Language experts, such as poetry critic, late Prof. Donatus Nwoga as well as other eminent but deceased Professors of literary studies. They include professors Mrs. Juliet Okonkwo, Onuora Enekwe, Felix Inyama, as well as late Esiaba Irobi, a remarkable poet and playwright of Drama Department. Prof Emeka Nwabueze and several other distinguished literary pundits were in the department.

I was always, awed, when I glanced at Prof Achebe’s office, as a fresh undergraduate, after I was admitted in the merit category of Department of English in 1984. Achebe’s name tag on his office door, was the first indication that Africa’s highly-famed literary maestro, was a towering figure in the institution. The late sage, who was appointed by the institution as a research fellow, rose to become a professor of English, a position he held from 1976, until 1981. He later became a professor emeritus from 1985.

While you proceeded and advanced in literature, I received Bachelor of Arts(BA), Second Upper Degree from UNN and acquired a Masters of Science(MSc) degree in Mass Communication, from widely acclaimed University of Lagos. This splendid academic background, amply prepared me for a distinguished career of about 25 years, as an accomplished journalist, with strings of awards to my credit. Eventually, I became the author of two pedagogical books entitled, A compendium of iconic articles and Green Your World, an advocacy publication on climate change. Another interesting link is this. Your town, Abba is next to Abagana, my homestead and the headquarters of Njikoka Local Government Area(LGA) in Anambra State.

I picked interest in your works, in 2008, when I received your award-winning novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, from an American journalist, Miss Ann George. During this period, we were, both lecturers, in the Department of Mass Communication, at the foremost West African University, Fourah Bay College, now in University of Sierra Leone. We were representatives of different diplomatic missions and international corps of experts, who were deployed to Sierra Leone to provide excellent academic and humanitarian assistance to the country, after its 10-year brutal war.

Incidentally, Miss George and I met at the rugged path to the department’s Mount Aureal Radio, station on our way to deliver lectures. The building nestled between, cascading hills of the pristine College. The 543-page fiction evoked mixed feelings in me. The title got me excited. Your names also seemed familiar. The encounter was brief, but pleasant. We parted with smiles at the coincidence. Since you shot to the world’s stage, the world has eulogized and honoured your dexterity. Top global leaders, university dons, literary giants and journalists celebrate your writing prowess, intellectual fecundity, legendary artistry and oratorical power. Your vivacious smiles, audacious jokes, African hairstyles and glamorous fashion are all part of your charm and admirable personality.

From the small agrarian town of Nsukka, you have evolved into a global citizen and the delight of the international media organizations notably, BBC, CNN among others. Your works and lectures are always celebrated by African and Nigerian journalists, as well as the intelligentsia. By sheer hard work and divine grace, you have gained global acclamation and incalculable laurels for your creativity, skills, passion and commitment to the world of literature, academia, human rights, democracy and good governance.

But your most outstanding accomplishments are your astonishing campaigns, which focus on ending discriminations against female folks. As a woman, I understand and share this passion. The challenges that afflict females, particularly in Nigeria, Africa and disadvantaged sections of the world are humongous. These vices are grossly evil and serious violations against the rights of women rights. Therefore, I salute you, for using your lofty platforms, to fight for women and the girl-child. This singular attribute remains one of your most staggering contributions to the global agenda for gender justice and women empowerment. Through your courage and sacrifice, you have shattered many walls and placed women and African culture in global limelight. Your life is already etched in the annals of human history and champions.

Happy birthday to you, our dear Chimamanda, the Odeluwa of Abba Kingdom. Keep making Nigeria and Africa proud, as a global citizen and a literary icon.

The review published, by Dr. Daniele Nunziata of University of Oxford, UK is noteworthy. “Her motivation to write stemmed from reading the novels of Chinua Achebe and seeing herself represented in the lives of his characters. After reading Adichie’s first two novels, Achebe announced: ‘We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers’. Her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus (2003), examines the political difficulties in contemporary Nigeria through the viewpoint of one teenaged character, Kambili, who faces violence from her father at home and then witnesses corruption in the wider society beyond the walls of their house. It won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.”

Her biography was captured, exquisitely, by Wikipedia. Find the excerpts below.
“Adichie has written several novels, among which Purple Hibiscus (2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), short stories, the book-length essays We Should All Be Feminists (2014) and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017), and a memoir. Notes on Grief (2021). In 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant. She was the recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize in 2018. She was recognized as one of the BBC’s 100 women of 2021. In 2002, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story “You in America”, and her story “That Harmattan Morning” was selected as a joint winner of the 2002 BBC World Service Short Story Awards. In 2003, she won the David T. Wong International Short Story Prize 2002/2003 (PEN Center Award).

Adichie was born in the city of Enugu in Nigeria, the fifth of six children in an Igbo family. She was raised in the university town of Nsukka in Enugu State. While she was growing up, her father, James Nwoye Adichie (1932–2020), worked as a professor of statistics at the University of Nigeria. Her mother, Grace Ifeoma (1942–2021), was the university’s first female registrar. They lived in a house on campus previously occupied by Chinua Achebe. The family lost almost everything during the Nigerian Civil War, including both her maternal and paternal grandfathers. Her family’s ancestral village is Abba in Anambra State. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and a half. During this period, she edited The Compass, a magazine run by the university’s Catholic medical students.

At the age of 19, Adichie left Nigeria for the United States to study communications and political science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) to be near her sister Uche, who had a medical practice in Coventry, Connecticut. She received a bachelor’s degree from ECSU, summa cum laude, in 2001. In 2003, Adichie completed a master’s degree in creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. Adichie was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005–2006 academic year. In 2008, she received a Master of Arts degree in African studies from Yale University. Also in 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. She was awarded a 2011–2012 fellowship by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Adichie has been awarded sixteen honorary doctorate degrees from universities including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Edinburgh, Duke University, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Catholic University of Louvain, where she received her sixteenth in a ceremony on 28 April 2022. In May 2021, Adichie released a memoir based on her father’s death titled Notes on Grief, based on an essay of the same title published in The New Yorker in September,2020. As described by the reviewer for The Independent, “Her words put a welcome, authentic voice to this most universal of emotions, which is also one of the most universally avoided.”

Later that year, Open Country Mag noted in a cover story about Adichie’s legacy: “Every one of her novels, in expanding her subject matter, broke down a wall in publishing. Purple Hibiscus proved that there was an international market for African realist fiction post-Achebe. Half of a Yellow Sun showed that that market could care about African histories. The novels say: We can be specific in storytelling.” In April 2022, Adiche’s first children’s book, titled Mama’s Sleeping Scarf, was announced for release in autumn 2023, dedicated to her daughter. In 2009, Adichie married Ivara Esege, a Nigerian doctor. They have one daughter, who was born in 2016.

Once again, I join the rest of the world to celebrate you, our own Ada Ndi-Igbo and super ambassador extraordinary.

•Ojukwu is a journalist, author and fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a US Fulbright scholarship. Kindly send feedback to

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