A Man of the People
First US edition
John Day (US)
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Preceded by||Arrow of God|
|Followed by||Anthills of the Savannah|
A Man of the People is a 1966 satirical novel by Chinua Achebe. It is Achebe's fourth novel. The novel tells the story of the young and educated Odili, the narrator, and his conflict with Chief Nanga, his former teacher who enters a career in politics in an unnamed modern African country. Odili represents the changing younger generation; Nanga represents the traditional customs of Nigeria. The book ends with a military coup, similar to the real-life coups of Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Yakubu Gowon.
A Man of the People is a first-person account of Odili, a school teacher in a fictional country closely resembling post-colonial Nigeria. Odili receives an invitation from a former teacher of his, Chief Nanga, who is now the powerful but corrupt Minister of Culture. As Minister, Nanga's job is to protect the traditions of his country, and though he is known as "A Man of the People," he instead uses his position to increase his personal wealth. The Minister's riches and power prove particularly impressive to Odili's girlfriend, who cheats on him with the minister. Seeking revenge, Odili begins to pursue the minister's fiancee.
Odili agrees to lead an opposition party in the face of both bribes and violent threats. Although his party fails, in some sense Odili triumphs over the Minister when a military coup forces his old teacher from office.
Similarity to future events
Upon reading an advance copy of the novel, Achebe's friend, Nigerian poet and playwright John Pepper Clark declared: "Chinua, I know you are a prophet. Everything in this book has happened except a military coup!"
Later in 1966, Nigerian Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu seized control of the northern region of the country as part of a larger coup attempt. Commanders in other areas failed, and the plot was answered by a military crackdown which resulted in the presidency of Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Achebe's first three novels were all clearly set in Igbo villages in Nigeria. A Man of the People, however, was set in a fictional African country as Achebe sought to write African literature on the condition of the continent in more general terms. The novel does not include any specific ethnic or cultural groups. The problems portrayed in the book, such as bribery, incompetence and governmental apathy, were experienced by many West African nations in the neocolonial era. As Nigeria had not experienced a coup when Achebe wrote A Man of the People, his model for the novel's events must have been military coups in other African nations. Despite his intentions, however, the subsequent coup in Nigeria meant that the book was again seen as being principally about Nigeria.
- "A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe". Time. August 19, 1966. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- Mercedes Mackay (January 1967). "Review: A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe". African Affairs 66 (262): 81.
- Ezenwa-Ohaeto (1997). Chinua Achebe: A Biography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 109. ISBN 0-253-33342-3.
- Joanna Sullivan (Fall 2001). Research in African Literatures 32 (3).