Anthills of the Savannah

by Chinua Achebe
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In what ways is Sam corrupt as a leader in Anthills of the Savannah?

In Anthills of the Savannah, Sam is shown as a corrupt leader by cutting off the water of the people in a province that opposes him and by persecuting and killing his former friends for their suspected disloyalty.

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When the novel begins, Sam’s old friends Chris and Ikem are still his primary political allies, but the situation changes rapidly after the national referendum. Sam had expected to be confirmed nationwide, but the residents of his own native province, Abazon, fail to support him. Although Sam had previously at...

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When the novel begins, Sam’s old friends Chris and Ikem are still his primary political allies, but the situation changes rapidly after the national referendum. Sam had expected to be confirmed nationwide, but the residents of his own native province, Abazon, fail to support him. Although Sam had previously at least given lip service to democratic ideals, his fury at what he considers betrayal uncovers the true extent of his lust for power. Sam’s embrace of corrupt tactics is revealed by the drastic measures he takes to punish Abazon’s people: in the midst of a drought, he orders their scant water supplies cut off.

As Ikem and Chris begin to grow alarmed, Sam first directs his wrath toward Ikem, whom he suspects of colluding with Abazon’s dissidents. Sam’s corrupt manipulation of power deepens as he tries to use Chris to get Ikem fired from his newspaper editor position. Chris’s hesitation adds fuel to the fire, as Sam threatens him with blackmail over his ostensible corrupt practices in years past.

Although Sam succeeds in getting Ikem fired, this measure does not silence his former friend. Instead, it motivates him to freely criticize Sam. A joking reference to deposing Sam is taken as a threat.

Rather than confront his former ally and settle their differences, Sam orders his men to detain and execute Ikem. This makes Chris realize his own life is in danger; when he goes underground, Sam issues orders for his arrest—presumably intending to kill him as well.

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