A Man of the People

A Man of the People is a story by Chinua Achebe, about warlords, mentorship, revenge and romance.

It begins with the narrator, Odili, who is a teacher in a small African village, central to a corrupt and debased government. Odili receives a letter one day from his mentor and former teacher Mr. Nanga, who has risen in the ranks of government and has become the Minister of Culture in their unnamed African country, he now goes mainly by Chief Nanga.

The letter informs Odili of Chief Nanga’s arrival to his home village, where they meet, reminisce and Odili is offered a chance to come back with Nanga to the capital city, where Nanga will help him leave the village and study abroad.  Odili agrees to visit Chief Nanga’s city, and as they became friendlier, Odili learns more about his mentor’s part in the African government.

Although he finds himself entranced by his old teacher’s charisma, he despises what he stands for politically, and especially loathes the corrupt ways he achieved his status. Odili also learns that despite being a Minister of Culture, Chief Nanga knows nothing about the culture, and is only residing in this position because of the extravagant living comforts that come with it.

As they spend more time together, Odili finds himself enamored with Edna, a woman who travels with Chief Nanga, and is betrothed to be his second wife. This causes Odili to find his own woman, Elise, who he seduces and brings back with him to Nanga’s home, to stay with her during the night; however Chief Nanga ends up spending the night with her instead. Odili is both hurt and furious because of this, and sets his sights on Nanga’s fiance, Edna.

Along with pursuing Edna, Odili agrees to join an opposition party against Chief Nanga’s organization, despite his hate for politics, however revenge is now more important to him, and begins to work towards taking Chief Nanga’s position away from him.

To counter his distaste for government, Odili decides on running an honest organization, however he finds it more difficult than he had first thought, as every other official is only after filling their pockets, and the people of this African country are both used to and have accepted corruption as the status quo.

This jaded view of the village people also contributes to the fact that Odili is unable to smear the current government, because the people have lost complete faith in the concept as a whole, and he is unable to gain the upper hand.

Other issues Odili has to deal with are considering taking a large sum of money to drop out of the political race, trying to prove that the current government is corrupt and taking bribes to the unreceptive people, and having his family and his village threatened as well as being browbeaten into stepping down.

A Man of the People is the fourth novel by Chinua Achebe.

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