Review: A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe
“And as long as men are swayed by their hearts and stomachs and not their heads the chief Nangas of this world will continue to get away with anything” -Odili Samalu-
Chief Nanga, also known as M.A Nanga, is a former teacher turned politician. Although he has been appointed minister of culture, chief Nanga cares little about the contemporary Nigerian Culture. Instead, he portrays an image of a politician eager to raise his people from the grip of poverty while at the same time fighting against white supremacy. Through his humor and charm, Chief Nanga gathers the support of the common people. Everybody adores him and believes that he is the answer to their prayers- thus the name “a man of the people.” Everybody worships Nanga, except Odili and a couple of his friends.
Odili, a young teacher and a former student of Chief Nanga, was born and raised in the same village as Nanga. At the beginning, he had been swayed by the same comedic and jovial nature of Nanga and agreed to stay with him in the capital city as his guest. In fact, he had even considered his offer to pay for his education in London. When a romantic conflict erupts between both men, Odili decides to become Nanga’s political opponent and run against him in the upcoming elections, supported by a small party that was yet to gather the people on their side. Motivated by his disgust at the conduct of nigerian politicians and the need to spite his once admired teacher, Odili ventures into the dangerous world of politics.
Through vigorous campaigns, bribes, greed and badmouthing, Nanga and Odili expose the reader to a world of bloody post-colonial politics where money speaks louder than intellectualism, with Nanga representing the old ways of bush politics and Odili representing a new era of politics
motivated by a fire of change. As the two clash and struggle to gain the people’s support and eventually win a sit in the government, what was a war of words turns physical and Nanga starts getting blood on his hands.
Achebe satires political matters in post independence Nigeria through Odili’s perspective, which motivates the reader to pick a side and eventually understand the world of corrupt politics upheld by greedy politicians stealing from the pockets of the poor and honest citizens that has governed post-colonial Africa. Achebe explores the power of words; the power of a voice, by elevating Chief Nanga over Odili because his speeches have managed to sway the people into thinking that he is the hero. Achebe presents politics, the power of motif, colonialism and white supremacy as the major themes. By developing both opposing characters to everyone’s liking, Achebe manages to capture the audience from the first sentence to the last one, with no prediction of who will win over the other.
If you have no big plans this Christmas season, consider giving this mind-blowing story a shot. You might be surprised by the way it makes even the most serious matters quite humorous.
- Author: Chinua Achebe
- Published by: Heinemann(UK) | John Day(US)
- Published in: 1966
- Pages: 167