Africa needs real men of the people

African politics, in most cases is a dick-measuring exercise, which is usually done to settle scores either between the two contestants or some disgruntled people behind one of the contestants.
In analysing Chinua Achebe’s narrative ‘A Man of the People’, this observation proves very correct.
In short, former teacher Chief Nanga, who becomes a politician, meets his former student, Odili.
Chief Nanga is now the minister of culture whose responsibility is to preserve traditions and norms ‑ a critical position that should be held by an honest and reliable man. Instead, Chief Nanga is a corrupt, dishonesty and cheating bastard who can even betray those closest to him.
When Chief Nanga invites his former student, Odili into politics, he has no idea how this move would impact his future and life.
His belief is that since he has invited Odili, the young man will kowtow and lick his feet for survival.
But three things ‑ lifestyle, cultural beliefs and political issues ‑ bring the two into conflict.
These three can be underlined by the age gap between the two, with Odili Samalu representing the young while Chief Nanga symbolising the ageing class.
Odili learns about how Chief Nanga creates his wealth by being close to him and how such acts do not make him think twice about other people.
 Slowly but surely, Odili becomes disillusioned with politics until when Chief Nanga laid his girlfriend, Elsie, who has been taken by the glitter of the chief’s wealth.
He then goes into politics with vengeance just to take down his former teacher and political mentor thereby making it a dick-measuring exercise.
After failing to get revenge by laying Chief Nanga’s girlfriends, Odili takes him on in his constituency as well as courting Edna, Chief Nanga’s girlfriend.
But without money and experience, Odili is defeated at the polls; is brutally savaged by Chief Nanga’s thugs and his lawyer friend, Maxwell Kulamo is murdered.
While it appears set that Chief Nangas would be in charge of the country and continue stealing, a coup takes place, which overthrows the government and ends the corrupt regime’s rule.
It is only after the coup that Odili gets to have his take on politics, and even succeeds in marrying Edna.
Written in 1966 when most of the African countries that had gained self-rule had fallen to coups, ‘A Man of the People’ captures the struggle that characterises the continent ‑ corruption, ruthlessness, insensitivity, run-away theft, anger, violence and intolerance.
It also puts forward the generational gap issue which characterises present-day African politics where the youths are restless and impatient with old people still in power.
The narrative also questions whether some politicians practise for their concern for the people or it has more to do with their own selfish ends. Can there be a real man of the people? But most of all, ‘A Man of the People’ clearly underlines how newly-independent African states lose out on the economy where governments still have to rely on companies owned by erstwhile masters.
It also outlines that the fight for Africa’s soul is no longer being done by foreign powers but by those who fought to liberate the continent.
In addition, the narrative states how Africa is still being dragged backwards by personality cults, which put mostly corrupt politicians at par with God.
This is done even when such men have destroyed the spirit of nationalism is their quest for self-enrichment.
This narrative does not only talk about Nigeria but Africa where there were coups and elections are always violent and questionable. Such ‑ the absence of men of the people ‑ is the struggle for Africa.


November 2012
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