Ikem on True Radicalism

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

After Ikem has related the traditional tale related to him by one of the impressioned protestors, he explains the way storytellers threaten those in power and provides his (and Achebe's?) theory of the role of the writer and intellectual in African society. He concludes this crucial episode by propounding a "new radicalism"


clear-eyed enough to see beyond the present claptrap that will heap our problems on the doorstep of capitalism and imperialism . . . Please don't get me wrong. I do not deny that external factors are still at the root of many of our problems. But I maintain that even if external factors were to be at the root of all our problems we still must be ready to distinguish for practical purposes between remote and immediate causes. . . . When your fat civil servants and urban employees of public corporations march on May Day wearing ridiculously undersize T-shirts and school-boy caps . . . and spouting cliches from other people's histories and struggles, hardly do they realize that in the real context of Africa today they are not the party of the oppressed but of the oppressor." [Ch 12, pp. 145-46]

According to Ikem, those "who preside over the sabotage of the nation by their unproductivity and fraud" are the real villians, the real oppressors, who make sure that all the rural inhabitants of Kangan remain powerless and in poverty. Ikem's speech appears about two-thirds of the way through Anthills of the Savannah. How does Achebe build upon, qualify, or dramatize the ideas here put forth, and how does chief axis of the novel -- the movement down the social scale from elite to the people -- relate to these ideas?

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