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A MAN OF THE PEOPLE by Chinua Achebe

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TITTLE: A MAN OF THE PEOPLE

AUTHOR: Chinua Achebe

SETTING: NIGERIA

YEAR: 1966

THE FORM OF THE NOVEL

THE TITLE

The title of the book “A Man of the People” is ironical, since a person who is called a man of the people is in no way a man of the people but an enemy of the people.

Chief Nanga –the minister of culture is named A man of the people by his people in his home village Anata but he is in no way a man of the people.

SETTING

Although the book does not mention the names of real places, and uses imaginary places, tracing through the book we can estabilsh a conclusion that the novel is set in post-colonial Nigeria.

it satiricises the challenges of most newly independent African states emanating specifically from the leaders who took power from the colonialists and ideally simply replaced the coloniser. However, the language that people use (Pidgin English) and names like Odo, Odili, Chief Nanga, etc reflect Nigerian names.

Futhermore, the setting can be categorised in terms of rural and urban.

Rural setting

This is portrayed by;

The mentioning of villages like like Anata, Urua, etc, these help us to understand that there are people living in rural areas where even the mode of transport is mainly walking on foot or at the best using bicycles.

Poor social services like no electricity, no piped water and the hospitals are far away.

People in the villages are extremely illiterate and ignorant thus giving way to the few like Chief Nanga, Chief Koko and Josiah to exploit then unawares.

Urban setting

There is a small trading town of Giligili, where Odili lived with his half-sister when he was twelve. Additionally, there is the capital city of Bori, where Odili visited Chief Nanga after his unexpected invitation.

The city life is quite different from that of the countryside. Here, there are luxurious houses like chief Nanga’s, there is adequate supply of water and electricity, major means of transport is motorcars.

People have access to information through Television and newspapers like Daily Chronicles and Daily Matchet.

There are night parties like the one Chief Nanga attended leaving Odili with his wife at home.

PLOT

This is the arrangement of events in a literary work. It is the sequence of events/incidences in a story. The story is told chronologically.

The novel therefore has a chronological plot arranged in a succession of 13 chapters each one building the foundation upon which the subsequent chapters develop.

We see Chief Nanga visiting Anata, then back to the city (Bori), in campaigns with Odili, up to the end when the army takes the Government.

However,  there are some few instances of flashback;

When Odili tells the story when Chief Nanga was still a teacher. In page 2 he says “I had not always disliked Mr Nanga. Sixteen years or so ago he had been my teacher in standard three…(p.2)

When Odili tells a story how people hated his father, during colonialism when he was a District interpreter. He says (p.28) “My father was a district interpreter. In those days when no one understood as much as ‘come’ in the whiteman’s language…..”

When odili narrates his experience at the time he was twelve and was living with his elder half-sister in the small trading town of Giligili. (p.41)

STYLE

This is a way of doing things . This novel is very rich in its style as the author has employed various techniques to pass his message across. Some of the techniques employed are;

It has used a straightforward Narration. From the beginning at Anata the story goes straight in a succession of 13 chapters up to the end when the army takes over, with exception of few flashbacks.

He has used first person point of view. The narrator is also a character (Odili) and tells a story in 1st  person singular though in some cases 3rd  person is used. From the beginning of the novel he makes it clear that the narrator is none other than Odili Samalu;

“No one can deny that Chief the Honourable M. A. Nanga, M. P., was the most approachable politician in the country. Whether you asked in the city or in his home village Anata, they would tell you he was a man of the people. I have to admit this from the outset or else the story I’m going to tell will make no sense.”

Achebe has also used other genres of literature in the novel.  For example a poem, a song and a letter.

A poem- Dance Offering to the Earth  mother.

I will return home to her-many centuries I have wondered

And I will make offering at the feet of my lovely mother

I will rebuild her house, the holy place they raped and plundered.  (p.81)

Song

For they are jolly good follows

For they are jolly good follows

For they are jolly good follows

And so say all of us (p.122)

A letter

A letter has been used to show close relationship of characters and a means of communication. Odili and Edna exchange letters as a means of communication. Edna for instance writes to Odili

Dear Odili,

Your missive of 10th  instant was received and contents well noted. I cannot adequately express my deep sense of gratitude for your brotherly piece of advice. It is just a pity that you did not meet me in the house when you came last time. My brother has narrated to me how my father addressed you badly and disgraced you. I am really sorry about the whole episode and I feel like going on a bended knee to beg forgiveness. I know that you are so noble and kindhearted to forgive me before even I ask [smiles]…

I have noted all that you said about my marriage. Really, you should pity poor me, Odili. I am in a jam about the whole thing. If I develop cold feet now my father will almost kill me. Where is he going to find all the money the man has paid on my head? So it is not so much that I want to be called a minister’s wife but a matter of can’t help. What cannot be avoided must be borne.

What I pray for is happiness. If God says that I will be happy in any man’s house I will be happy.

I hope we will also be friends. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision but today’s friendship makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

         Good-bye and sweet dreams.

                     Yours v.  truly

                        Edna Odo

CHARACTERISATION

There are two main characters in this novel: Chief Nanga and Odili

Chief Nanga

He is an ex-teacher and scoutmaster.

He taught Odili when he was in standard three. Odili says “Sixteen years or so ago he had been my teacher in standard three and I something like his favourite pupil. I remember him then as a popular, young and handsome teacher, most impressive in his uniform as a scoutmaster” (p.2)

He is currently a minister of culture and a member of P.O.P.

He left the teaching profession and became a great politician although he started like an unknown back-bencher in P.O.P (p.3).

He is a corrupt and selfish leader.

Like other African leaders who took power after independence he uses his position for his own private inerests. He gives and receives corruption. For example he gives Odili a bribe and a scholarship to step down for him. He gives the editor some money to have his speech printed. He receives bribes from British companies like British Amalgamated and Antonio and sons.

He is an infidel and a great womanizer.

He is married but he is not satisfied as he plans to marry Edna after financing her education. He sleeps with many women like Elsie, etc. and he tells Odili that he could bring him six girls for him to have sex with them in compansation for Elsie.

He is a cultureless minister of culture.

Although he is a minister of culture, he is himself not cultured because it is so surprising to note that Chief Nanga as a minister of Culture does not know about the Book Exhibition and famous writers in his society but he knows Western writers like Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, Bernard Shaw,  Michael West and Dudley Stamp. (p.65) He warns Jalio not to dress in African dress but he should wear a suit.

He is illiterate and uneducated but pompous.

He is just a standard six school leaver but people call him, Chief the Honorable Doctor M.A. Nanga. LLD. He is pompous and brags about his education level. “Yes I use to tell them that standard six in those days is more than Cambridge today” (p.11)

He is a very rich politician who lives luxury life while his voters live in poverty.

He has a big house with many rooms and 7 bathrooms while his people use pails latrines. He is building a four-storeys building and drives expensive cars like a Cadillac.

He is a hypocrite.

He pretends to offer Odili a scholarship and the money as a way of helping him but he wants him to step down for him during the election.  He is a minister of culture but he dresses and lives like Europeans.

He tells Odili that teaching is a nobel profession while he left teaching and became a politician instead. “That is very good. Sometimes I use to regret ever leaving the teaching field. Although I am a minister today I can swear to God that I am not as happy as when I was a teacher” (p.9). He tells Odili that if someone wants to make him a minister he should run away. What a hypocrite!

He is oppressive and cruel.

He beats odili when he attends his campain meeting, and denies him to sign the nomination papers. When the Minister of Finance presents his plan to rescue the financial situation, he pronounces that the ministers who supported him deserved to be hanged. (p.5)

He is tribalist and supports nepotism.

He advises Odili to leave the teaching profession and take up a strategic post in the civil service because most of the people there are from other tribes. He says “By the way, Odili I think you are wasting your talent here. I want you to come to the capital and take up a strategic post in the civil service. We should’nt leave everything to the highland tribes. My secretary is from there; our people must press for their fair share of the national cake.” (p.12)

Odili Samalu
He is a main Character and the narrator of the story.

He is the one telling the story from his own 1st person point of view as he says in page one that “…the story I’m going to tell will make no sense”

He is a university graduate and a school teacher.

After graduating he was employed as a teacher at Anata grammar school where he came to meet Chief Nanga and changed the trajectory of his life into politics.

He is anti-corruption and nepotism.

He is given corruption and a scholarship by Chief Nanga to step down for him but he refuses and goes on with his plans. He even objects Maxwell’s idea of taking the money he was given by Chief Koko to step down for him, since it will ruin the reputation of their newly formed party.

He is revengeful.

He wants to revenge against Chief Nanga who slept with his girlfriend-Elsie. He wants to tell it to Mrs Nanga and prevent Edna from marrying him. He also becomes a politician and among the founders of CPC ( Common Peoples Convention) and contests against Chief Nanga as a revenge against him in which case he loses his job and the election. He says “I was anxious to play down my humiliation but even more because I no longer cared for anything except the revenge.” (p.76)

He is a victim of oppressive regime.

He is beaten up by chief Nanga when he attends one of his campaign meetings. He is denied the opportunity to sign the nomination paper to qualify him as an election candidate. He loses his job after contesting againt Chief Nanga.

He is promiscuous and a fornicator. He started dating and sleeping with Elsie when he was at the university and they were not married. He continued with the same when he went to the city he wanted to have sex with her. He had sex with Jean the wife of John when the party was over.

He is an agent for change. 

He wants to bring changes in his society but the presence of ignorant citizens and corrupt but politically powerful people like Chief Nanga, Chief Koko and the oppressive police organs make his movement almost impossible.

He has true love for Edna.

He loves Edna and convinces her to marry him warning her against marrying Chief Nanga.

He has a firm stand.

He tells Chief Nanga to keep his dirty money because he was not so cheap to be bought with a few dirty pounds. He says “Do you want an answer? It is NO in capital letters! You think everyone can be bought with a few dirty pounds. You are making a sad mistake.” (p.119)

MINOR CHARACTERS
Maxwell Kulamo
He is professionally a lawyer.

He is one of the founders of C.P.C – a political party founded to overthrow P.O.P from power.

He is creative.

He takes the money given to him by chief Koko (£ 1,000/=)  to step down for him but uses the money to hire a minibus for campaign.

He is a poet.

Back when he was at school he was a Poet Laureate of the school  as Odili confirms: “He was the Poet Laureate of our school and I still remember the famous couplet of the poem he wrote when our school beat our rivals in the intercollegiate Soccer Competition.” (p.73)

He is assassinated by Chief Koko.

Following his refusal to step down for Chief Koko he is knocked by one of Chief Koko’s jeeps and dies on spot and his girlfriend revenges for him by shooting Chief Koko .

He is an agent for change.
 He plans to bring about changes in his society but his plans are cut short by Chief Koko who plans his assassination. People call him a hero after his death.
Chief  Simon Koko

He is a minister of Overseas Training and a member of P.O.P.

He is among the corrupt leaders of the government in power who have enriched themselves while their citzens suffer in dire poverty.

He is a corrupt leader.

He offers Max one thousand  (£1000) pounds so that he may step down for him, but Max uses that money to hire the minibus for campaigns. Max says “Chief Koko offered me one thousand pounds, I consulted the other boys and we decided to accept. It paid for that minibus” (p.126)

He is a murderer.

He hires an assassin who knocks Maxwell with a jeep and kills him on spot for political reasons. The author explains “But as soon as he (Max) alighted from his car, one of Chief Koko’s jeeps swept up from behind, knocked him over and killed him on the spot”. (p.142)

He is killed by Eunice.

(Max’s fiancée). Following the death of Max, Eunice revenges for her fiance by shooting him dead as well. The author narrates “Eunice had been missed by a few inches when Max had been felled. She stood like a sone figure, I was told, for some minutes more.

Then she opened her handbag as if to take out a handkerchief, took out a pistol instead and fired two bullets into Chief Koko’s chest.” (p.142)

Edna Odo

She is the daughter of Odo.

She comes from a poor family.

She leads a poor life something that makes her father force her to get married to Chief Nanga as a way of getting his wealth. In a way she is a victim of forced marriage. When Odili gives her a lift on a bicycle and the food is spilt she says “My mother will die of hunger today”. Meaning that there was no any other alternative to get the food.

She is educated.

Her education is funded by Chief Nanga so as a result she is forced to marry him because by the way he has already paid part of the bride price.

She is sympathetic.

She witnesses chief Nanga beating Odili and she is the only one who helps him up. But also she visits him in the hospital to see his progress in which case their bond of friendship is strengthened.

She is apologetic.

She apologises to Odili on behalf of her father because he mistreated Odili when he visited her home. She says “My brother has narrated to me how my father addressed you badly and disgraced you. I am really sorry about the whole episode and I feel like going on a bended knee to beg forgiveness. I know that you are so noble and kindhearted to forgive me before even I ask [smiles]…” (p110)

She is appreciative and thankful.

She thanks Odili for the pieces of advice he gives her. “I cannot adequately express my deep sense of gratitude for your brotherly piece of advice. It is just a pity that you did not meet me in the house when you came last time.” (p. 110)

Lastly she becomes Odili’s wife. She ends up marrying Odili when Chief Nanga is arrested.

Hezekiah Samalu

This is Odil’s father and a member and a local chaiman of P.O.P

He is a polygamist.

He has five wives and 35 children (p.30) Right now he has five wives – the youngest a mere girl whom he married last year. And he is at least sixty-eight possibly seventy.” (p.30)

He is superstitious.

Being a district interpreter made him hated by many people, as a result he had to use protective medicine to protect his family. Odili says: “Our father had protective medicine located at crucial points in our house and compound” (p.28)

He has a firm stand.

When Odili and Max launch their campaings on his compound, he is forced to sign a document that dissociates him from his son’s lunatic activities and  that the launching of C.P.C. was done without his knowledge and consent. All he said was “A man of worth never gets up to unsay what he said yesterday. I received your friends in my house and I am not going to deny it.” (p.135)

He was a District interpreter.

He worked as a district interpreter during colonialism and he was hated by people because they considered him part of the colonial regime. Odili says: “So interpreters in those days were powerful, very rich, widely known and hated.” (p.28)

He is a local chairman of P.O.P.

After retiring as a district interpreter he plungs himself into politics of his village and was the local chairman of the P.O.P. (p.30).  He loses his post when he allows the C.P.C. to launch their campaigns on his compound. He is charged of the business he doesn’t run.

He is corrupt since he wants Odili to take bribe from Chief Nanga.

Eunice

She is professionally a lawyer and Max’s Fiancee.

She is a revolutionist and a co-founder of C.P.C.

She joins other revolutionists to form a new political party that exposes the evils of the party in power so as to bring about changes in the cociety. She represents women who take part in the struggle for rights.

She is courageous.

She is portrayed as a courageous woman as she revenges against Max’s death by shooting Chief Koko. Odili later comments about this by saying “Max was avenged not by the people’s collective will but by one solitary woman who loved him.” (p.148) She is arrested but later released after the revolution.

Elsie

She is a university graduate who works in a hospital.

She is unfaithful in love affairs.

She is immoral as she sleeps with any man e.g. Ralph, Odili, Chief Nanga, etc.

She is a betrayer.

She betrays Ralph by sleeping with Odili at the university. She also betrays Odili by sleping with Chief Nanga instead of Odili who brought her in the house.

She was beautiful and happy.

In the words of Odili despite her beauty she never made demands whatever. (p.25)

Margareth Nanga

She is Chief Nanga’s wife.

She is a victim of gender steriotype.

She passes to secondary school after finishing standard six but is denied the opportunity because she is a woman and ends up marrying chief Nanga. She feels sorry for Edna who wants to marry Chief Nanga but she fails to help her.

She  likes African culture.

She takes the children to the village to learn African roots.

She represents voiceless women who are oppressed by men and the patriarchy system.

Josiah

A trader who owns a shop and a bar.

He is corrupt, superstitious and exploiter.

He takes Azoge’s stick as a medicine to maximize his profit by giving him the food and palm-wine to eat and drink.

He runs bankrupt.

Because of what he did to Azoge, people decide not to buy from his shop and he runs bankrupt in a week.

He represents corrupt people who have robbed the wealth of poor ignorant people.

Other minor Characters
  • Agnes,
  • Mr Nwege,
  • Jean,
  • John,
  • Jalio,
  • Hon. T.C. Kobino(Minister of public Construction),
Other minor Characters
  • Odo(Edna’s Father),
  • Prime Minister,
  • Editor of the Daily Matchet,
  • Dr. Makinde (Minister of Finance)
  • Azoge etc

LANGUAGE USE

Although the writer has used much of pidgin English  which may not be well grasped by some readers, generally speaking the language used is understood.

Pidgin is used to show the language used by people with low level of education like Chief Nanga or those occupying lower positions like gatekeepers, houseboys, bodyguards, etc

E.g. the cook says “Abi my head no correct? And even if to say I de craze Why I no go go jump for inside lagoon instead to kill my master” pg 34. The language is also full of figures of speech not only to colour the work but also to pass the message through literary devices.

FIGURES OF SPEECH/LITERARY DEVICES
METAPHOR

This is a figure of speech that compares two things without the use of conjunctions “as”, “like”. In the book we have the following metaphors;

  • He has become an earthworm. (p.42)
  • He led the pack of back-bench hounds straining their leash to get at their victims. (p.5)
  • Imagine such a beautiful thing wasting herself on such an empty-headed ass. (p.23)
  • That was Irre for you a real monster. (p.25)
  • I heard some remark, ‘the white man is a spirit’ (p.123)
SIMILE

The comparison that uses conjunctions.

You are eating all the hills like yam.  (p.93)

My in-law is like a bull and your challenge is like the challenge of a tick to a bull. (p.106)

Edna’s voice came back from the interior of the compound like a distant flute. (p.90)

Giving things to him (Odili’s father) was like pouring a little water into a dried-up well. (p.27)

What I objected to was standing in a line like school children. (p.19)

Then his bodyguard whom we had seen dressed like a cowboy hurried in from the front gate…(p.33)

His huge body was quivering like jelly. (p.34)

The towels as large as a lappa. (p.37)

He looked as bright as a new shilling in his immaculate white robes. (p.38)

(Chief Nanga)…came back at two looking as fresh as a newly-hatched chick….(p.43)

Some of my people are narrow as a pin – we have to admit it. (p.44)

I ease my shoulders away like one avoiding a leper’s touch.

He turned on me then like an incensed leopard. (p.72)

I was just flappping about like a trapped bird when I suddenly saw the opening. (p.76)

Now he sang it like a dirge. (p.80)

MORE SIMILES

Some people’s belly is like the earth. (p.86) (meaning-they are not satisfied)

So I raced up all the little hillocks until my heart raged like a bonfire…(p.93)

I sprang to my feet like some woman-fearing Englishman. (p.91)

I felt a tingling glow of satisfaction spread all over me as palm-oil does on hot yam. (p.108)

A big fellow like you should be ashamed of gossiping like a woman. (p.129)

Her tongue when he spoke stung into me like the tail of a scopion. (p.129)

On the contrary my mind was as clear as daylight. (p.130)

Those days he walked like a fowl drenched by rain. (p.136)

The roar of the crowd was now like a thick forest all around. (p.140)

She stood like a stone figure. (p.142)

I have behaved like an animal. (p.144)

I feel like a beast. (p.144)

PERSONIFICATION

You must thank your stars that I am not a wicked man. (p.19)

This is why the outside world laughs at us. (p.23)

 Chief Nanga’s house where things tumbled over one another in a scramble to happen first…(p.43)

Memorable events were flying about his stately figure and dropping at his feet, as those winged termites driven out of the earth by late rain dancing furiously around street lamps and then drop panting to the ground. (p.46)

Ocassionally words like ‘Good Heavens’ escaped me and came out aloud. (p.70)

My watch said a few minutes past four. (p.70)

What money will do in this land wears a hat. (p.85)

Let her come quick-quick to enjoy Chief Nanga’s money before it runs away. (p.88)

My thanks died in my throat. (p.102)

But Anata had not finished with me yet. (p.102)

Suffering should be creative, should give birth to something good and lovely. (p.104)

Every goat and every fowl in this country knows that you will fail woefully. (p.118)

There is one word he said which entered my ear more than everything else – not only entered but built a house there. (p.125)

A goat does not eat into a hen’s stomach no matter how friendly the two may be. Ours is ours but mine is mine. (p.125)

The village  of Anata has already eaten, now they must make a way for us to reach the plate. (p.125)

The owner was the village, and the village had a mind; it could say no to sacrilege. (p.148)

IRONY

This is a statement which means the opposite of what it says.

The title “A Man of the People”, is ironical since Chief Nanga who is called a man of the people does not deserve the name he is actually an enemy of the people..

Chief Nanga tells Odili “ teaching is  noble profession”  the opposite is true that’s why he left teaching and joined politics.

He tells Odili if someone wants to make you a minister  run away.

Chief Nanga is a cultureless minister of culture. “Just imagine such a cultureless man going abroad and calling himself Minister of Culture”. (p.23)

SATIRE
The figure of speech that ridicules a subject with the intention of inspiring changes. It ridicules people, practices, or institutions in order to reveal their failings (weaknesses)

People are ignorant to the point that they clap their hands to reinforce useless points.

\Odili says “For how else could you account for the fact that a Minister of Culture announced in public that he had never heard of his country’s famous novel and received applause – as indeed he received again later when he prophesied that before long our country would produce great writers like Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Aussten, Bernard Shaw and – raising his eyes off the script – Michael West and Dudley Stamp. (p.65)”

It is surprising that Chief Nanga as a minister of Culture does not know about the Book Exhibition, or famous writers in his society but he knows Western writers, and he confuses a song with a book.

MORE SATIRE

He tells Odili, he can bring him six girls for Odili to have sex with them. As a minister of culture this is not expected of him. That is why Odili wonders; What a country! You call yourself minister of culture. God help us’ (p.72)

The president of student union who used to criticize the government but now is  corrupt man in the government.

Chief Nanga is called Honorable Doctor M.A. Nanga MP L.L.D. while he doesn’t have even a diploma.

  EXAGGERATION

The laughter that went up must have been heard a mile away. (p.13)

He looked as bright as a new shilling in his immaculate white robes. (p.38)

You could ‘hear’ the smell of the town ten miles away. (p.41)

He said it was a fitting and appropriate tribute to his concern for African Culture – a concern which was known all over the world – (p.63)

Oh, we crack such expensive jokes. (p.82)

She asked with round-eyed, surprised innocence that could have melted a heart of  stone. It melted mine. (p.99)

As the whole world knows, our Minister of Foreign Trade….(p.99)

EUPHEMISM

She said she was thirty and I took her to my room for a drink of water. (p.24) (Actually he went to have sex with her)

She was one of those girls who send loud cries in the heat of the thing. (p.24) (when having sex)

BIBLICAL ALLUSION

There are some verses taken from the Bible that state:

A voice was heard in Ramah

Weeping and great lamentation

Rachel weeping for her children

And she would not be comforted, because they are not.

SYMBOLISM

Refers to the use of one thing to represent another. Some symbols in the novel include;

Gun and gunpowder =power

National cake= national resources (wealth)

Azoge’s stick = the wealth/resources of the majority stolen by few rich people.

Azoge= represents poor ignorant people (masses)

The poem. Dance offering to the Earth Mother.= promises given by politicians during colonialism to care for their countries but later betrayed the people

It must be very enjoyable going to all these embassy parties and meeting all the big guns. (p.36). the big guns symbolise people with political and economic power. (the high claass)

Busket (pail) latrines symbolise filthiness and moral decay in the society.

The bicycle represents poverty in the society.

PROVERBS AND SAYINGS

If alligator comes out of water one morning and tells you that crocodile is sick can you doubt his story. (p.120)

A man of worth never gets up to unsay what he said yesterday. (p.135)

It didn’t matter what you knew but who you knew (p.17)

To lick any Big Man’s boots. (p.17)

Anyway it is none of my business. (p.23)

Do the right and shame the devil (p.11)

Not what I have but what I do is my kingdom. (p.3)

They have bitten the finger with which their mother fed them (p.5)

Once a teacher always a teacher. (p.10)

A man who is my senior must still be my senior. (p.11)

The ninisters excellent behaviour was due to the sound education he had received when education was education. (p.11)

It is better the water is spilled than the pot broken. (p.28)

When one slave sees another cast into a shallow grave he should know that when the time comes he will go the same way. (p.36)

A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry clothes is reluctant to go out again than another who has been indoors all the time. (p.37)

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. (p.61)

If you respect today’s king others will respect you when your turn comes. (p.63)

When an old woman hears the dance she knows that her old age deserts her. (p.67)

Apart from everything else it (C.P.C.) would add a second string to my bow when I came to deal with Nanga. (p.78)

But without trying to put a cat among your pigeons ….(p.78) (meaning – including an irrelevant or dangerous person)

We will drop cats among their pigeons here and there stand aside and watch. (p.80)

Do we commit suicide every day we feel unhappy with the state of the world? (p.83)

It is only when you are close to a man that you can begin to smell his breath. (83)

He holds the knife and he holds the yam. (p.90)

If you fail to take away a strong man’s sword when he is on the ground, will you do it when he gets up? (p.91)

For a man who avoids danger for years and then gets killed in the end has wasted his care. (p.109)

What cannot be avoided must be borne. (p.110)

MORE PROVERBS AND SAYINGS

What I know is that he is poking his finger into my in-law’s eyes. (p.106)

He that knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool. (p.117)

When a mad man walks naked it is his kinsmen who feel shame not himself. (p.118)

A mad man may sometimes speak a true word, but you watch him, he will soon add something to it that will tell you his mind is still spoilt. (p.120)

My son, why don’t fall where your pieces could be gathered? (p.120)

You have lost the sky and you have lost the ground. (p.120)

If Alligator comes out of the water one morning and tells you that Crocodile is sick can you doubt his story? (p.120)

Man no fit fight tiger with empty hand. (p.113)

I believe that the hawk should perch and the eagle perch, which one ever says to the other don’t, may its own wing break. (p.122)

If the very herb we go to seek in the forest now grows at our very backyard are we not saved the journey? (p.126)

CONTENT

THEMES

The novel has presented a number of themes including the following:

CORRUPTION

Corruption is a common theme in African literature. It involves people’s misuse of power or public office and resources for private gain. It is a result of moral decay in any society engaging in corruption. In the novel there are many cases of corruption. Let us examine some of them:

Chief Nanga bribes Odili by giving him some money and a scholarship so that Odili can step down for him. However, Odili refuses the offer.  Chief Nanga tells Odili to take the money and a scholarship to go and learn more books since the country needs young people like him (Odili) and leave the dirty game of politics to people like Chief Nanga who know how to play it.

Likewise, Chief Koko bribes Maxwell £ 1000 to step down for him, but Max uses the money to hire a minibus for campaigns.

Chief Nanga bribes the Editor of the Daily Matchet so that his speech can be printed and for the journalist to write only good things about him. He says “ if I don’t give him something now tomorrow he will go and write rubbish about me” (p.66)

Boniface asks Odili to provide them with more money since the money he gave them the previous day was used to bribe the police and the court clerk to get their case cancelled. (p.144)

Chief Nanga receives “a dash” From British Companies like Antonio and Sons after giving them a contract worth a half a million pounds. The story goes;

 “The house in question was the very modern four-storey structure going up beside the present building and which was to get into the news later. It was, as we were to learn a ‘dash’ from the European building firm of Antonio and Sons whom Nanga had recently given the half-million-pound contract to build the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.” (p.96)

Also Max is complaining that he has paid for telephone connection charges, but for two months he has been on the waiting list since he does not know any big person in the government and he has not given bribe to anybody.

IRRESPONSIBILITY

It involves people not taking actions or playing their roles effectively. In this country both leaders and citizens are not responsible. This becomes an obstacle to development. The following are the cases of irresponsibility in the novel.

Max complains that he has paid for telephone connection charges but for two months he has been on the waiting list. This shows that the officers in the telephone company are irresponsible.

Also when Max visits Odili at Urua, they complain that Max sent a telegram but it has taken 4 days and Odili says it will reach there after 2 days later. This is irresponsibility for the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. However when they are told it has reached the 4th day instead of the same day it was sent, they satirically congratulate the Minister.

The people are also irresponsible since they have failed to take actions against irresponsible and corrupt leaders like Chief Nanga, Chief Koko and other Ministers. They believe on lies told by these leaders and they end up saying “Let them eat”, Let’s wait our chance.”

Chief Nanga proves an irresponsible leader. He is a minister of Culture but he does not know the famous writers in his country, he doesn’t know what book exhibition is, he confuses that Jalio has composed a song instead of a book. etc.

Mrs Nanga knows about the immorality of her husband but does not take any action to change him. She only blames and even feels sorry for Edna who wants to fall into the same trap but does not help her.

The minister of Public construction Hon. T.C Kobino is an irresponsible leader since the Cabinet has approved the completion of the construction of the road between Giligili and Anata since January but he has been dallying and dallying the project because it is not in his constituency. (p.42)

IGNORANCE

Ignorance is the lack of knowledge about something. Most African leaders have been taking advantage of the citizens’ ignorance and continue exploiting them and establish themselves in their positions of power. In this novel, specifically speaking, most people in this society are ignorant and do not know what is taking place just around them.

They are exploited by the very leaders they chose, but they remain passive and support their leaders. Someone who tells them the truth or tries to expose the ills of the leaders is ironically considered an enemy to them. Let’s examine the cases below.

Odili comments about the villagers at Anata village and the way they are treating Chief Nanga portraying their ignorance. “Here were silly, ignorant villagers dancing themselves lame and waiting to blow off their gunpowder in honour of one of those who had started the country off down to the lopes of inflation. (p.2)

People call Chief Nanga “a man of the people” and if anyone tells them otherwise they hate him. For example, Odili tells them the truth about Chief Nanga and they hate him and call him a traitor. This gives a chance for few individuals to exploit the masses. Proving their ignorance one man says :

Let them eat”, let’s wait our chance” after all when the Whiteman used to do all the eating did we commit suicide? And where is the Whiteman today? He came, he ate, he went, but we are still around. The important thing is to stay alive”(143/4)

Leaders like C. Nanga are ignorant. Despite the fact that he is a minister of Culture, he doesn’t know what Book Exhibition is. He is a standard 6 leaver but a minister.

Edna is ignorant since she is told about Chief Nanga that he is not a good man and still she wants to marry him.

Azoge’s story (a blind beggar) symbolizes the ignorance of the majority who are exploited but they don’t notice it. Leaders give them gifts during the campaigns and forget them later by embezzling the public funds.

EMBEZZLEMENT OF PUBLIC FUNDS {MISUSE OF RESOURCES}

This is the act of stealing the money that you are responsible for or that belongs to your employer. Many leaders embezzle and misuse the public funds for private interests.

The leaders are rich, live in luxury houses, dress in expensive European robes while their voters are poor. There are many cases portraying the misuse of public funds in this novel;

In chapter one, we see Chief Nanga buying a lot of expensive beers for people to drink. He is sticking notes (money) on the faces of dancers. All these are done for political reasons of attracting approval from the people for re-election. Odili says “To one group alone he gave away five pounds” (p.14)

Chief Nanga uses the public funds to pay for Edna’s Education, bride price, and financing her family.

He uses the money to bribe Odili to step down for him. He tells Odili “Take your money and take your scholarship to go and learn more book; the country needs experts like you. And leave this dirty game of politics to us who know how to play it.” (p.119) Chief Koko also uses the public funds to bribe Max to step down for him.

Chief Nanga buys six buses for the route from Giligili to Anata. He drives an expensive car {Cadillac} bought with public funds. He has a big house and is building another four-storey building sponsored by Antonio and Sons company after giving it a contract worth a half a million pounds. He has also built three blocks of seven-storey luxury flats at 300,000 pounds each in the name of his wife. (p.99)

Chief Koko and Chief Nanga use the public money to pay their thugs and buy them weapons to cause troubles to their opponents. E.g. The “Nanga’s Youth Vanguard or Nangavanga for short.” (p.112)

The president of the student union was poor but after becoming the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Labour and Production he becomes rich, wealthy and corrupt.

Odili uses a ministerial car with the national flag to visit his girlfriend Elsie at the hospital.

CONFLICT

This refers to misunderstanding between people, groups of people or contradictory ideas. The following are some of the conflicts in the novel.

  • Personal conflicts

The conflict between Odili and Chief Nanga. This is caused first by Chief Nanga sleeping with Elsie {Odili’s girlfriend}, later when Odili contests against Chief Nanga and lastly when Odili attends Chief Nanga’s campaign meeting in which case, he is beaten up by Chief Nanga.

The conflict between Odili and his father. This arises from Odili’s refusal to take Chief Nanga’s money and Scholarship and instead he announces to contest against Chief Nanga.

Odili and Edna’s father. This occurs when Odili announces to contest against Chief Nanga who is his supposed son-in-law.

  • Political conflict

The conflict between Max and Chief Koko. This arises when Max takes Chief Koko’s money but does not step down for him, instead he continues with the campaigns. Chief Koko murders him and he is also murdered by Eunice, Max’s fiancée.

This results into an intensive political conflict between Max’s followers and Chief Koko’s. The author puts it this way; “The fighting that broke out that night between Max’s bodyguard and Chief Koko’s thugs in Abaga struck a match and lit the tinder of discontent in the land.” He continues to say; “then they went on a rampage, sacking one market after another in the district, seizing women’s wares and beating people.” (p.143)

  • Social Conflict

Þ    The conflict between Josiah and the villagers. This comes forth when Josiah takes Azoge’s stick as a medicine to enrich himself in exchange for the food and wine he gives the blind beggar. Villagers decide not to buy in his shop and bar, as a result he runs bankrupt.

POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE SOCIETY

Women have been portrayed differently in this novel; mostly negatively and in few cases positively. Let’s have a look at it:

Women are portrayed as weak people.

Women are seen as weak and are not involved in decision making. Margaret is forced by her parents to marry Chief Nanga though she has passed to secondary school. Edna is also forced to marry Chief Nanga by her parents. Chief Nanga sleeps with other women although he is married. He doesn’t care about his wife.

Women are portrayed as marginalized and humiliated individuals.

Women are denied access to further education as compared to men. Mrs. Nanga has passed to sec school but being a woman is denied the opportunity. She says “I passed the entrance to a secondary school, but Eddy’s father and his people kept at me to marry him, marry him, and my own parents joined in; they said what did a girl want with so much education? (p.88)

Women are portrayed as tools of pleasure for men.

In the novel we see men using women to satisfy their sexual desires. For example Elsie is used by Ralph, Odili, Chief Nanga etc., Agnes, Elsie, Edna, Mrs Nanga are used by Chief Nanga. Chief. Nanga tells Odili that he can bring him six girls for him to have sex with them. Hezekiah Samalu has 5 wives for the same reason etc.

Women are portrayed as parents and caretakers

We see Mrs. Nanga planning to take her children to the village to learn African roots. Hezekiah Samalu has 5 wives and 35 children but it is his wives who take care of them. Odili himself was brought up by his step-mother like one of her own children. (p.27)

Women are portrayed as revolutionists

Eunice represents women who can take part in the revolution to bring changes in the society. She is portrayed as a courageous woman as she revenges against Max’s death by shooting Chief Koko. Odili later comments about this by saying “Max was avenged not by the people’s collective will but by one solitary woman who loved him.” (p.148)

BETRAYAL

Betrayal is the act of hurting somebody who trusts you, especially by not being loyal or faithful to them. This is also a common theme in African literature.

Many leaders who took power from colonialists have betrayed their people because they only care about themselves and their relatives.

Chief Nanga and other leaders have betrayed their voters. They live in luxury houses and drive expensive cars while their voters live in dire poverty.

Elsie betrays Ralph by sleeping with Odili, later betrays Odili by sleeping with Chief Nanga.

Jean betrays her husband John by sleeping with Odili out of wedlock.

Chief Nanga betrays his wife by sleeping with many women out of his marriage including Elsie.

Max betrays Chief Koko by taking his money and not stepping down for him instead he uses the same money to hire the minibus for campaigns. As a result Chief Koko plots to kill him.

The president of student union has betrayed his fellow revolutionists by becoming corrupt, contrary to what they were fighting for when in college.

Odili says “He was now an ice-cream-eating Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Production and had not only become one of the wealthiest and most corrupt landlords in Bori but was reported in the Press as saying that trade-union leaders should be put in detention.” (p.109)

EXPLOITATION

Leaders exploit their subjects. E.g. Chief Nanga has an expensive car and big houses.

Josiah exploits his customers, when they notice it they say that Josiah has taken enough for the owner to notice. One woman says “So the beast is not satisfied with all the money he takes from us and must use a medicine to turn us into blind buyers of his wares” (p.85)

Hezekiah Samalu is charged of the business that he does not conduct. Odili says “The next day, however, the palaver came closer home. The local council Tax Assessment Officer brought him a reassessed figure based not only on his known pension of eighty-four pounds a year but on an alleged income of five hundred pounds derived from ‘business’” (p.132). This is exploitation.

VICTIMIZATION/BRUTALITY/OPPRESSION

This is the act of making somebody suffer unfairly because you do not like them, their opinions, or something that they have done. There are several cases of victimization in this novel.

The prime minister victimises the ministers. When a financial crisis hits the country, the Minister of Finance who was a first-rate economist with a Ph.D. in Public Finance presents to the Cabinet a complete plan to recure the situation but the Prime minister objects. He instead suggests that the Nationa Bank should print fifteen million pounds.

The ministers who supported the minister of finance were sacked and accused of being conspirators and traitors who had teamed up with foreign saboteurs to destroy the new nation. (p.3).

After his dismissal, the Minister of Finance faced another tragedy “That week his car had been destroyed by angry mobs and his house stoned. Another dismissed minister had been pulled out of his car, beaten insensible, and dragged along the road for fifty yards, then tied hand and foot, gagged and left by the roadside.” (p.4/5)

Chief Nanga mistreats Odili by beating him when he attends his campaign’s rally. Chief Nanga beats him and finally they arrest him. His car is overturned and set on fire. Odili is not only tortured but also denied to sign the nomination paper. (p.141)

Hezekiah Samalu is victimised because of allowing C.P.C. to launch their campaigns on his compounds. He is ignominiously removed from his office for subversive anti-party activities, he is charged the tax for the business he doesn’t run, and his pension funds of eighty-four pounds a year is reassessed.

Max is victimized by Chief Koko and killed on spot. When he investigated the scandal that Chief Koko’s wife would be leading the Women’s Wing of the P.O.P in the operation of smuggling into the polling booths wads of  ballot papers concealed in their brassiers. As soon as he got out of his car he was knocked by Chief Koko’s jeep and died on the spot. (p.142)

HYPOCRISY

This is a behaviour in which somebody pretends to have moral standards or opinions that they do not actually have. Chief Nanga represents the hypocrites we have in our societies who preach water and drink wine. He pretends to offer Odili a scholarship and the money as a way of helping him but he wants him to step down for him during the election.

He is a minister of culture but he dresses and lives like Europeans. He tells Odili that teaching is a nobel profession while he left teaching and became a politician instead. “That is very good. Sometimes I use to regret ever leaving the teaching field. Although I am a minister today I can swear to God that I am not as happy as when I was a teacher” (p.9).

He tells Odili that if someone wants to make him a minister he should run away. Later the same man tells odili that he is wasting his talent in the teaching profession instead he should take up a post in the civil service.  “By the way Odili you are wasting your talent here. I want you to come to the capital and take up a strategic post in the civil service. We shouldn’t leave everything to the highland tribes.” What a hypocrite!

AFRICAN TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS
  • Polygamy

This is one of the mostly reputed Africa traditions. Marrying many wives in Africa has become a fashion. There are some cases of poligamy described in the novel.

Odili’s father, Hezekiah Samalu had five wives something that makes him unable to take care of the family fully and leaves the responsibility to the wives. Odili says “The trouble with my father was his endless desire for wives and children. Or perhaps I should say children and wives. Right now he has five wives – the youngest a mere girl whom he married last year. And he is at least sixty-eight possibly seventy.” (p.30)

Chief Nanga is another case. Although he is married to Magreth Nanga, he has many concubines, he still wants to marry Edina Odo the young girl he has already paid the bride price for and had financed her education for the same. Mrs Nanga tells Odili “We are getting a second wife to help me” (p.36)

  • Superstition

This is another aspect of African traditional beliefs in which most people believe that there are some powers that control human lives. As a result people have to put protective medicines to defend themselves from the harms associated with these supposed witchcraft. This is portayed in different scenarios;

  • Protecting the home.

Odili’s father being a District interpreter during colonialism, he believed that people hated him, so he had to protect his home using protective medicine and he warned his children from visiting some homes or accepting the food from certain homes as Odili narrates;

“We grew up knowing that the world was full of enemies. Our father had protective medicine located at crucial points in our house and compound. One, I remember, hung over the main entrance; but the biggest was in a gourd in a corner of his bedroom. No child went alone into that room which was virtually always under lock and key anyway. We were told that such and such homes were never to be entered; and those people were pointed out to us from whom we must not accept food” (p.28)

  • In marriage relationship

Another case of superstition is shown in marriage relationship. A man puts juju on his wife’s breasts to scare her into faithfulness. However, this was believed to work only if she exposes her breasts to another man. As a result a woman would have sex with another man without taking her brassiere off. In that case the juju didn’t work. Odili says;

The best I thought was about the young married woman who never took her brassiere off. It was not until after many encounters that Chief Nanga managed to extract from her that her husband (apparently a very jealous man) had put some juju on her breasts to scare her into faithfulness; his idea being presumably that she would not dare to expose that part of her to another man much less other parts” (p.50)

  • In business/trade

Many people believe that they cannot run a successiful business without having to associate it with some juju. Most of them visit the witch-doctors who give them some juju to attract more customers. Josiah the shop-owner is a case in point. He invites Azoge – the blind beggar to his shop and gives him the rice to eat and plenty of palm-wine to drink. Meanwhile, he takes his stick away and replaces it with a new one. One villager narrates to Odili “Yes, the blind beggar, Josiah is not touched by Azoge’s ill-fortune and he is not satisfied with all the thieving he does here in the name of trade but must now make juju with Azoge’s stick” (p.84)

  • Bride price

Just as in many African traditional societies, men have to pay bride price before they officially take a girl for a wife. In this society the story is the same as we can see Chief Nanga has paid the bride price for Edna and on top of that he financed her education. However, we come to learn that the custom dictates that if the courtship is to be broken then the bride price paid should be refunded fully.

This is definitely what happens when Chief Nanga is arrested and lets go of Edna and Odili becomes the only bird in hand. Odili summarizes it this way “Therefore we made rapid progress with Edna’s father who no doubt, saw me as a bird in hand. He told us that Chief Nanga had paid a bride price of one hundred and fifty pounds for his daughter and another one hundred pounds on her education and other incidentals.”

So in a manner of speaking they had to refund the bride price according to the custom as Odili observes; “‘Our custom,’ said my father firmly, ‘is to return the bride price – finish. Other bits and pieces must be the man’s loss. Is that not the custom?’ Our party said yes that was the custom.”

  • Forced marriage.

In African setting many girls are forced into marriage relationships against their wishes and to men who are not of their choices. The whole issue is prearranged by the parents –mostly male parents – who fix up everything and the girl’s duty in that arrangement is to say yes. Edna finds herself cornered  and has no way to escape as she narrates in her letter to Odili.

      I have noted all that you said about my marriage. Really, you should pity poor me, Odili. I am in a jam about the whole thing. If I develop cold feet now my father will almost kill me. Where is he going to find all the money the man has paid on my head? So it is not so much that I want to be called a minister’s wife but a matter of can’t help. What cannot be avoided must be borne. (p.110)

  • Tribalism

Tribalism is portrayed in different scenarios.  Chief Nanga is a tribalist as he advices Odili to leave the teaching career and take a strategic post in the civil service lest they leave those posts to be taken by the highland tribes.

The minister gives the journalist a ‘dash’ of five pounds to go and clear the rent arreas avoiding to attract tribalism. He says “Apparently it was not a straightforward case of debt, since the landlord and the journalist came from different tribes, the element of tribalism could not be ruled out” (p.66).

INFIDELITY AND MORAL DECAY

This is the act of not being faithful to your wife, husband or partner, by having sex with somebody else. There are many cases of infidelity in this novel.

Elisie is infidel as she slept with Odili the same day at campus while she was Ralph’s girlfriend – a fellow medical student. (p.24)

Odili’s neighbour nicknamed Irre (Irresponsible)  was known to be the most ruthless and unprincipled womanizer in the entire university campus.

Chief Nanga is an infidel and a great womanizer. He is married but he is not satisfied as he plans to marry Edna after financing her education. He sleeps with many women like Elsie. He tells Odili that he can bring him six girls for him to have sex with them in compansation for Elsie.

Odili and his fellow university students also show moral decay in the society. Odili started dating and sleeping with Elsie when he was at the university and they were not married. He continued the same when he went to the city he wanted to have sex with her. He had sex with Jean the wife of John when the party was over. So Jean is also infidel and a betrayer as she betrayed her husband by having extamarital sex with Odili.

NEPOTISM AND SELFISHNESS

This is the act of giving unfair advantages to your own family if you are in a position of power, especially by giving them jobs.

Max and Odili started their campains with the spirit of nepotism. They told the villagers in Urua that it was their turn to elect the son of their land and not Chief Nanga from Anata.

One elder supporting what Max had said commented that Max had spoken with wisdom and he added “That word entered my ear. The village of Anata has already eaten, now they must make way for us to reach the plate. No man in Urua will give his paper to a stranger when his own son needs it; if the very herb we go to seek in the forest now grows at our very backyard are we not saved the jouney?

Chief Nanga also buys six buses but all of them are directed to provide transport for a route from Giligili to Anata his home village. Chief Nanga complains against Hon. T.C Kobino the minister of Public Construction for dillying and dallying the completion of the road from Giligili to Anata because it was not in his constituency.

He wanted to the road to be tarred preparing for the next election and the buses that were coming. He complains “If it were in his constituency he would listen to the experts. And who is the expert? One small boy from his town – whom we all helped to promote last year” (p.42) This shows that job provision and promotions are based upon nepotism.

UNITY

When the villagers decided to unite together and in one voice they declared not to buy from Josiah’s shop and bar because of what he did to Azoge the blind beggar, Josiah ran bankrupt. Also they united against the oppressive and corrupt government led by the P.O.P. and overthrew the government arresting the corrupt leaders like Chief Nanga. This shows the power of unity.

SELF-AWARENESS

The villagers were ignorant and Josiah used that advantage to exploit them. However, from Azoge’s story they came to their awareness and Timothy the carpenter said “Josiah has taken away enough for the owner to notice.

If anyone ever sees my feet in this shop let him cut them off.” (p.86) This paints both a picture of awareness and an act of protest. The same statement was given by Odili’s father refering to Chief Koko when he said “Koko has taken enough for the owner to see” (p.148)

CLASSES

There are two major classes in this society. Rich class and lower class.

  • High class

tHE ROYAL class is represented by rich politicians like Chief Nanga, Chief Koko and other ministers who live luxuriously and drive expensive cars while the majority are suffering. They also send their children to expensive schools run by Eropeans. Odili says “Mr Nanga always spoke English or pidgin, his children, whom I discovered went to expensive private schools run by European ladies spoke impeccable English…” (p.32)

There are residential areas for high-class members and for poor people. When Jean drives Odili around the city she takes him though the areas where poor people lived and then to those of high class as Odili says “we were now back in the pleasant high-class area.” (p.54)

  • Poor /lower class 

Poor class which comprises the majority of the citizens live in dire poverty. The following are few cases showing poverty in this society.

In Giligili Odili’s sister was living a poor life when Odili visited her. They lived in a house with only two rooms and had to fight with rats in the house. He says “My sister, her husband and two small children slept in one and the rest of us – three boys – shared the other with bags of rice, garri, beans and other stuff. And of course the rats.” (p.41)

When Edna and Odili get a bicycle accident and the food spills down she cries saying that “My mother will die of hunger today.” Odili has the following to say “Actually I think her crying was probably due to hurt pride because the food lying on the road showed how poor her family was” (p.94)

Poor people who are lucky are using pit latrines but the disadvantaged ones are using bucket latrines. This includes Odili’s half-sister in Giligili who were using bucket latrines. In the city poor people are using bucket (pails) latrines and when the night soil men went into a strike the smell was all over. This shows the highest state of poverty.

I WILL MARRY WHEN I WANT

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