Summary of A Man of The People

Summary of A Man of The People

Here is a summary of “A Man of The People” by Chinua Achebe. The story is set in a fictional country that resemble neocolonial Nigeria.


A man of the people - book

A Man of The People – Summary

Man of The People is Chinua Achebe’s 1966 novel. It received praise from literary critics and one from JP Clark, a Nigerian poet, and playwright who said, “I know you’re a prophet. Everything you wrote here had happened except a coup,” after reading an advance copy of the book. 

In the same year the novel was published, there was a military coup led by Chukwuemeka Nzeogwu, who toppled the civil government, paving the way for the emergence of Aguyi Ironsi as the first Nigerian Military Head of State.

Man of the People has its setting in a fictional country resembling post-colonial Nigeria. The novel chronicles the lives of an anticipating-school teacher – Odili, and Nanga, who was formerly Odili’s school teacher before joining politics. Nanga, also referred to as Chief Nanga and self-acclaimed “Man of The People”, wields a lot of political power and has strong Political connections, which he uses to enrich himself and intimidate his subjects. He’s the Minister of Culture. However, he prefers working with white people and loathes the culture he’s meant to protect. He uses his political position to enrich himself and flaunts his wealth to attract a girlfriend of Odili.

The rivalry between Odili and Chief Nanga, which ends up throwing the fictional country in West Africa into tumult, starts when Odili learned of his idolized secondary school teacher’s intention to impoverish the masses and enrich himself. As a result, he tries to counter him by joining a new-formed political party to unseat him from his position. Nanga has used his ill-gotten wealth to lure Odili’s girlfriend, Elsie, making Odili desperate in search of means to retaliate.

At first, Odili idolized Nanga, who was once his secondary school teacher. On visiting Nanga’s home in Bori, Odili confesses to loving Nanga’s luxurious home and wishes to live in such a house in the future. However, he prefers to be a teacher; to him, that will give him more autonomy than having a position in the civil service. When he discovers the ulterior intentions of Chief Nanga, he turns against him unexpectedly. 

His relationship with the Chief worsened when he brought Elsie, his girlfriend, to the Chief’s home. He expected to have intimacy with her but was shocked when Chief Nanga invaded Elsie’s room, prompting him to leave Chief’s house immediately to wander around in Bori, the capital city of the fictional country of the novel.

He went to Max Kuramo’s home to stay. Kuramo is a Bori-based lawyer. He persuaded Odili to join the new political party – Common People’s Conversation- and use the party to run a post against the tyrant Minister. Odili asserts that defeating Nganga in a poll will not be brutal revenge. He rather wished to sleep with Edna, Chief’s girlfriend, whom Chief wishes to make his second wife.

Chief Nanga became more hostile towards Odili after learning his intention to unseat him, hence sending his thugs to harass him. Odili expresses love to Edna in pretext to retaliate against Chief, but she ends up shouting at him and sending him away.

Kuramo gets arrested, and Odili denied registering his candidacy. He gets beaten up by the mob during his political campaign. Odili was taken to the hospital, where he learned the election had passed, and his friend, Max, was killed by the mob of Nanga, who unleashed mayhem on the streets. The election resulted in unrest, which lead to a military coup that overthrows the oppressive government. Chief Nanga gets arrested, and Kuramo is declared a hero, while Odili finds real love in Edna.



The novel is set in neocolonial Nigeria, where corruption is prevalent, although Achebe tries to use an anonymous country to convey his message. Odili is the protagonist of the novel. The story revolves around him from the beginning to the end. Chief Nanga, who antagonizes Odili after learning about his intent to unseat him with a newly formed Political party, is the antagonist.


How did the “A Man Of the People” end?

Odili, the protagonist of the story, turns against Chief Nanga, the Minister of Culture and Odili’s school teacher. This was after he learned the Minister only uses his position to enrich himself at the masses’ expense rather than represent them. Despite declaring himself “Man Of the People”, he uses his influence and affluence to intimidate his subjects and snatch their girlfriends. When Odili learns Nanga has visited his girlfriend, Elsie, he bemoans it and leaves Chief’s house to wander on the street. He plans to do the same to Chief’s girlfriend, Edna, but she shouted at him. 

Odili joins the new political party, but Nanga uses his political thugs and power to stop him from registering his candidacy. They beat him up, and he ends up in the hospital, where he learns the election has passed him by and unrest in the country has cost the life of his friend. As a result of the unrest, the military seized power and arrested Nanga. 

Odili finds genuine love in Edna and marries her afterward.



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Read Also:

A Man of The People: Characters

Other works by Chinua Achebe



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