Having read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease and Arrow of God and having enjoyed each one of them, I was motivated to read this novel, A Man of the People. I started reading it with many expectations that it would not disappoint me. It sure did not.
A Man of the people is a satirical novel and it is Achebe’s fourth novel. The novel is written in the first person narrative which is merely a deviation from Achebe’s other novels which are mostly written in the third person narrative.
The novel begins with the following sentence:
‘No one can deny that Chief the Honorable M. A. Nanga, M.P., was the most approachable politician in the country.’
Right from the first sentence, the reader is introduced to a political character with so many titles being attached to his name. The novel tells the story of a young and educated man, Odili and his conflict with Honorable Chief M. A. Nanga. The narrator, Odili, is a school teacher in a fictional world. Chief Nanga is a former teacher of the narrator who has taken up a new career in politics in an African country that is not named in the novel but this unnamed country seems to be sharing some similarities with post-colonial Nigeria.
In the early chapter of the novel, Odili the Narrator meets his former teacher, the now powerful but corrupt Minister of Culture who had been scheduled to address the staff and students of the Anata Grammar School where Odili is a teacher. Upon meeting him, Odili receives an invitation to Chief Nanga’s house. When Odili has honored this invitation, there are series of conflicts that builds up as Chief Nanga uses his position, power and riches to pursue Odili’s girlfriend. Later, we see Odili’s girlfriend cheat on him. While reading, I became interested in this part of the novel because it clearly demonstrated the abuse of position and power and the actions thereof drew a wide gap between people in power or the high class and those in low class. Odili attempts to pay back by pursuing Chief Nanga’s fiancé.
Being the Minister of Culture, it was Chief Nanga’s duty to protect and maintain the traditions of his country but we see that he goes contrary to his line of duty and rather uses his position and power to increase his personal wealth.
All too soon, time catches up with the Minister, Chief Nanga and his government and there is a coup in the country. At the same time, Odili had joined and agreed to lead an opposition party.
I must admit that this novel is one of the most interesting satires I have ever read and it has traces of comedy which makes you want to laugh your heart out. And it is for some of those moments that makes you want to read on. Again, the story is straight forward, has simple language and there is a flow of events as one action builds upon the other. I will recommend this novel to all and sundry but most particular, I wish modern day African politicians could read it and laugh out, in shame, at some of the bad practices they themselves engage in. Perhaps, these politicians could take a clue from the once powerful Honorable Chief M. A. Nanga.