Anthills of the Savannah Themes


Nigerian corruption has become high tech, mechanized, and institutionalized. The henchmen for the generals in power now have military rank themselves and have been trained in Latin America. Their techniques have been refined: the dreaded Ossai is able to extract confessions by torture done with office staplers, making his predecessors in A Man of the People (1966), Dogo and Boniface, look incompetent and inefficient. At the very opening of the book, there is a public execution of so-called criminals which has drawn huge crowds, children among them; the narrator of that section, Ikem, notes that the
‘‘criminals’’ have just been imitating the behavior of the leaders of the country, who ‘‘openly loot’’ the treasury.

Such looting has also been expanded and refined. The illicitly funded Presidential Retreat, led up to by a road shaped like a spiral (recollective of the Tower of Babel?), and bordered by a huge artificial lake, is Chief Nanga's seven bedroom house. While it is beautiful, Beatrice recalls Ikem's objections, with his reminder that the people do not have clean water to drink. In startling contrast to the Retreat and what it represents is the myth of Idemili told later in the Beatrice section. She, a water/huntress deity and daughter of the sun, has descended in a pillar of water and ‘‘has wrapped around Power's rude waist a loin cloth of peace and modesty,’’ making the River Niger wind through the country to provide the people with water. The Idemili myth is part of the larger theme of the redemptive power of women.

Scams of personal aggrandizement at the expense of the common good are rife even among lesser government workers. Civil servants get their steady checks, doing as little as possible, and insisting on being driven in Mercedes rather than Peugeot.

Radio stations and newspapers, of course, are...

(The entire section is 770 words.)

Anthills of the Savannah Themes

Overcoming a History of Suffering
The end of the novel offers a little hope but also shows that the political unrest of Kangan cannot be addressed by simple solutions. The people want change and peace but are unsure how to attain a suitable system of government, especially when each successive regime is made up of members of the coup that overthrew the last regime. It is a system driven by sheer might and strength as opposed to justice, philosophy, or respect for the land. The novel also portrays a strong and enduring sense of community among the people, despite the fact that they have no political rights. Achebe suggests that this unity is what keeps the community and its heritage and culture intact even when it is ravaged by unjust political regimes.

Individual Power
In its depiction of Sam, Anthills of the Savannah provides a perfect example of the saying, ''Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’’ Unprepared for leadership beyond the military realm, Sam finds himself occupying the position of president of Kangan. Relishing his power, he insists on being called ‘‘Your Excellency’’ and decides that he wants to be elected President-for-Life. At the same time, he makes little effort to connect with the people of Kangan and relies heavily on his Cabinet while simultaneously belittling them. In the end his obsession, paranoia, and insecurity get the better of him, and he goes so far as to have a childhood friend (Ikem) killed because he is perceived as a threat.

At the beginning of the novel, Sam is still a ‘‘baby monster,’’ but as the action unfolds, Sam grows into a full-fledged evil dictator. Achebe shows the dangers of blindly pursuing power at the expense of the community. Sam has no regard for...

(The entire section is 740 words.)