Chinua Achebe’s fourth novel, “A Man of The People”, is a book of political, social, economic and moral contrasts. Written in first person, the books invites readers to experience the flow of emotions, fears, tensions, suspense and the pain that Odili, the main character in the book, undergoes.
At the center of the plot is the conflict between Chief Nanga, a politician cum Minister of Culture and Odili Samalu, a teacher, and erstwhile pupil of the Minister. Their differences at many levels – culture, lifestyle, politics – are symbolic of the generational divide between the young (represented by Odili) and the old (represented by Nanga).
Chief Nanga invites Odili over to his place. It is here that Odili has a deep soul searching on how the politicians in this society enrich themselves through corruption and engage in other forms of moral decadence without second thoughts. Elsie, Odili’s girlfriend, is so excited by the immense affluence of Chief Nanga that she ends up sleeping with him. On learning that Elsie has slept with Chief Nanga, Odili is worked up. Ignoring the Minister’s attempts to appease him with promises to get him other women to sleep with, Odili resolves to seek revenge by all means. So, Odili casts the first stone by expressing interest in Chief Nanga’s seat, and is set to run against him during the elections. He is also determined to woo Edna, Chief Nanga’s wife-in-waiting.
For one who lacks the might and the financial muscle to engage in the murky water that is politics, Odili’s bid to tussle politically with Chief Nanga, can only be compared to the desperate search of a needle in the darkness.
Chief Nanga knows well the dirty tricks that characterize politics and he holds nothing back in his fight to fend off Odili. “A Man of The People,” he defeats the young pretender and secures another term in office. Poor Odili pays a huge price for his troubles. Not only is he brutally beaten up by Chief Nanga’s stalwarts, Maxwell Kulamo, his lawyer friend is killed by his rival Chief Koko, only for Maxwell’s girlfriend to avenge his death by killing Chief Koko.
A military coup occurs, and this marks the death of Chief Nanga’s political career. Odili finally secures Edna’s hand in marriage.
This satirical, humorous and melancholic novel will enthrall and excite the reader to its end. Apart from the clever spin of political satire therein, the book has deep sexual overtones.
In many respects, “A Man of the People” is a true depiction of life and politics in many African countries.