Chinua Achebe’s ‘Arrow of God’ and its meaning for change and continuity

Arrow of God shows graphic representation of what people can do when they are faced with the choice of the unknown. Do they keep to the same way of doing things or evoke change.  It happens that change and continuity is at the heart of people, organisational, company, or project survival.

For the fear of facing probable famine the villages of Umuaro chose to abandon their traditional beliefs for Christianity- just because their chief priest, Ezeulu refused to succumb to the advice of Goodcountry, a British missionary, and Winterbottom, a British colonial overseer- who initially invited him to join his colonial administration, and on Ezeulu’s refusal led a campaign to prison Ezeulu. I will allow you go read the details from the book.

My interest here is that, though Arrow of God was published in 1964 it represents some guidance to companies and groups that are seeking to change strategy, structure, product, and services or staffing.


  • One, do you have a team that is aware of what your objective is and can show resolve during difficulties? The villages of Umuaro had lived with Ezeulu all these years aware of the power and spirit of what held them together. They knew what can and could not be done. However, under test they failed to pull through.
  • Changing a community is not a singular leadership responsibility. You cannot do it alone. Ezeulu may be the go to person, the chief priest for the villages. In fact he was that powerful- some believing he was half spirit half human. But when it came to survival, the villages abandoned him for their communal interest. And team interest can be that powerful to affect your intentions for good or worse. People matter, so matter to them.
  • Beware of external forces during the process of change or continuity. Until Goodcountry and Winterbottom came to the villages of Umuaro, the people never contemplated that they could stand against their own chief priest, never. When you become very sensitive to external drivers you can together with your team know what to do to reduce conflict, tension and misunderstanding either in change or continuity.
  • Finally, in some cases your team do not see what you see. Find a creative way of tagging them along. The villages were blind to the indirect influences from Goodcountry and Winterbottom. Only the Ezeulu, the chief priest could see; because he went to prison for the position he took. Even after serving his sentence he could not relate in a ‘language’ for his people to understand him. He could have done better to ‘’open their eyes’’ to what needed to be seen. That may have saved the situation. In change management or continuity, the leader is more ever needed to show responsive and responsible leadership. Unfortunately, in most structural changes at the corporate level, staff are rarely responsibly engaged.

Chinua Achebe used the Arrow of God to depict the political incidence that characterized the indirect rule by the British in Nigeria in 1920s, and depicts the downfall of traditional leader at the hand of colonialism.

What I want you to do now is go read it and find the kind of nuggets it can provide you in your change and continuity processes.

Go do something!

Written by: Benjamin Yaw Manu

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