A Man of the People – Characters

A Man of The People is the last of the African trilogy by Chinua Achebe.

A Man of the People

A Man of the People – Summary and characters

“A Man Of the People” tells the story of Odili and Chief Nanga, who got into a tense rivalry due to conflicting ideas. Nanga is Odili’s former secondary school teacher, whom he reunited with as the story began. Their relationship soon became messy after Nanga got a prominent position in the government and used his influence and dirty money to sleep with Odili’s girlfriend.

Although Odili, before now, had reviled Nanga’s corrupt practice, which made him reconnect and collude with his university friend, Max, to unseat Nanga from the cabinet. He also planned to take revenge on Nanga by wooing Nanga’s wife-to-be, Edna. In the end, Odili joined CPC, a political party chaired by Max, to remove Nanga from the cabinet. Unfortunately, Nanga used his urchins to stop Odili from registering his candidacy, and they beat him to a coma. While in the hospital, he learned about the death of his friend and the unrest in the country. Sometime later, the military seized power and arrested Nanga.


Odili Samalu

Chauvinistic and self-centered Odili is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. He feels different and sees himself as privileged in the community due to his strong educational background. The story opens up with him working as a teacher at a school in Anata, where he reunited with his secondary school teacher, Chief Nanga. Achebe portrays him as a progressive-minded person who hates how his country is run, which brings him to a conflict with his earlier idol, Nanga, in the closing episode of the novel. When Nanga spotted him as one of his promising former students, he invited him to his luxurious home in the country’s capital, Bori. Odili, before learning about Chief’s ulterior motives, wished to live a luxurious lifestyle and asserted that he would not like to leave office if he, fortunately, gets a position like that of Chief.

His relationship with Chief turned sour when he invited his girlfriend, Elsie, to Chief’s house, where he hoped Chief would offer him a chance to sleep with her again. Elsie was his university girlfriend. Their relationship was strained, but they were still close. He wishes to lay her down once more. To his surprise, Chief secretly visits Elsie’s room and sleeps with her. When he learned about the Chief’s unethical act, he kicked against it. He realised the Chief’s political crookedness and that he was less of what he thought of him. Consequently, he joined the newly formed political party, the “Common People’s Convention “(CPC), to oust the Chief from the cabinet.

Through his narration, readers learn about the death of his mother. She died during his birth, making his father marry other women he is unable to cater to, staining his relationship with his father.

In the story, Odili’s character is introduced as sheer and selfless. He’s always critical of the corrupt nature of politicians. However, he reconciles with himself to accept Max’s advice to take advantage of the opportunity his political aspiration offers him.


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Chief Nanga

He competes with Odili and antagonizes him at the same time throughout the novel. Chief Ngaga was respected and forgiven for his corrupt practice by the neglected masses for his involvement in the liberation struggle of his country against great Britain, except the likes of Odili. 

He recognized Odili as his former student when he visited a school, where he once served as a teacher; therefore, he invited Odili to his luxurious home in the capital, Bori. At the beginning of the story, Odili adores him and desires to get to his height someday.

At his house, Odili invites his long-time school girlfriend, Elsie, over to Nanga’s house in the hope they will bond together for the moment. He was disappointed when he found out that Chief sneaked into her room to sleep with her, charging him to take a dreadful decision against Chief. He joins an opposing party to drive Nanga out of power and goes further to woo Nanga’s new wife, Edna.

When Chief learns about Odili’s motive, he tries to buy it off with the money, but Odili is too determined to be stopped. As a result, he uses other brutal means to curtail Odili’s threatening ambition from materializing. On one of Chief’s political campaigns, Odili sneaks into the venue in disguise. Nanga calls him out after spotting him in the crowd and calls him out, disgraces him, and orders his thugs to beat him up. He only learns about Chief’s victory in the hospital.



She’s Odili’s university girlfriend and also a nurse. When Chief invited her boyfriend to Bori, the country’s capital, Odili saw it as the right opportunity to meet his long-time girlfriend, who also lives in the capital. His relationship with Elsie is unspecified, and when Chief inquires about the nature of their relationship, he described her as “a good-time girl.” Chief slept with her. This angered Odili, who swore to retaliate.


Maxwell Kumalo

He is Odili’s university friend. He is also a lawyer beside his fiancee, Eunice, whom she works with within the country’s capital. Max is the founder of the Common People’s Convention (CPC) — a political party inspired by Marxism and hopes to pursue the interest of the poor masses. After Odili’s relationship with Chief strained, he colluded with Max to contest a seat against Chief. Odili is hurt knowing Max accepted bribery from Koko to finance the party against his principles. Odili learns in the hospital that Max has been shot dead by Koko, and Eunice killed Koko in retaliation.



She’s Chief’s intended second wife. Although she doesn’t love him, she has no choice since her poor father relies on the dowry paid by the Chief for survival. Odili sees her as a way to avenge Chief after he slept with his girlfriend, Elsie. 

We learn her father is strict when Odili visited her father. Initially, Edna is mad at Odili before calming down to break things down for him. He reconciled to marrying her and brushed aside his rash decision to use her as a means to revenge on Chief. He saves up money to pay her dowry to enable them to marry.


Hezekiah Samalu

He’s Odili’s father. He once worked as an interpreter to the white British colonizers, something that makes him appear different from others in society. Odili’s pride and privilege are rooted in his well-educated background and make him feel classy. It’s as a result of this privilege he stood out at his school, and Chief got to recognize him.

Samalu’s relationship with his son is sour due to his fondness for women. He had married several women since the death of Odili’s mother, something his income could not afford. This puts him come into conflict with his son. Besides this, Hezekiah was strongly against his son’s involvement in politics, staining their relationship even more. Despite this, the father-son bond between them remained unbroken. He stays with his son in the hospital when Chief’s mobs almost beat him to death.


Mrs. Nanga

She is the Chief’s wife. According to Odili, she’s family-oriented, feminine, and speaks poor English. After Chief succeeds in sleeping with Elsie, Odili resorts to her to learn more about Chief. Her relationship with Odili turns sour when he appears as a threat to Chief’s political ambition.


Comments (1)

  1. Hey, thanks for the article post. Cool.

    January 17, 2024 at 1:12 pm

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