Ezeulu calls a meeting of the important men of Umuaro to tell them he’s been summoned to Okperi. Nwaka teases him, claiming that he wanted to be the white man’s friend six years ago, when he testified against his own people in the Okperi land dispute. Ezeulu retorts he has called the gathering not to ask for advice but to tell them what he plans to do, since his mind is already made up.
Winterbottom is planning a visit to headquarters, but is feeling unwell. He puts Clarke in charge in his absence. He is incensed by Ezeulu’s failure to comply with his messengers, and puts out a warrant for his arrest. He instructs Clarke to leave the Chief Priest locked up until he returns from his trip, but before he can leave he falls into a feverish delirium and is taken to the hospital.
Two policemen travel to Umachala to Ezeulu’s compound only to discover that he set off that morning for Okperi with his son. They make a show of intimidating the people of the village and the household, taking food and palm wine and staying the night before they return.
Meanwhile, rumor spreads around Government Hill and Okperi that the Igbo Chef Priest vindictively caused Winterbottom’s illness. Ezeulu and Obika arrive in Okperi, where Clarke sends them to the guardroom for the night. John Nwodika and his wife bring food, but Ezeulu refuses to eat. The policemen who went to Umuaro to arrest Ezeulu are afraid the Chief Priest will curse them as well, and, on the advice of a medicine man, they leave an elaborate sacrifice along the highway.
Ezeulu has a nightmare vision in which the people of Umuaro are accusing his grandfather of being unable to defeat the white man. They call for the burning of Ulu, just as the people of Anita once dispensed with their god, Ogba (an incident that is brought up as a cautionary tale for Ezeulu a number of times throughout the text). Ezeulu eventually becomes his grandfather and is jostled and spit at by his people. He awakes shaken and vows to take revenge on his people, who, he reasserts, are the real problem—not the white man.
Clarke and Wade find the policemen’s sacrifice on the way to the hospital to visit Winterbottom, and Wade desecrates it by removing the English florin they have used. Clarke is shocked that anyone would disrespect such an elaborate ritual arrangement.
Obika returns to Umuaro and reports on the situation in Okperi. Akuebue is concerned to learn that Nodikwa, from the antagonistic Umunneora, is feeding Ezeulu, and insists on going to Okperi himself. He sets out with Ugoye, who brings food, as well as Edogo and others. Akuebue also worries that Ezeulu might orchestrate a situation harmful to himself out of pure spite for his people.
The caravan arrives. Nodikwa tells the story of how he came to work for the white man, describing how his opportunistic friend told him he would be foolish to miss out on the race for the white man’s money. He describes his plans to establish a tobacco trading post, and also details his shame at the people of Umuaro, who are failing to take advantage of the opportunities colonial presence offers.
After roughly two months, Clarke finally summons Ezeulu. He confuses and insults him by repeatedly asking him if he is indeed Ezeulu (an interrogative formulation very strange to the Igbo man), before telling him they intend to make him Paramount Chief. To Clarke’s shock and offense, Ezeulu is irreverent and says he is no one’s chief but Ulu’s. Clarke is incensed and sends Ezeulu back to detention.
The ostensibly assimilated policemen who intimidated those in Ezeulu’s compound nonetheless fear his power to the extent that they are compelled to leave the elaborate sacrifice. This, and the rumors of Ezeulu’s curse that spread among the presumably more westernized Africans on Government Hill, suggest the degree to which the confrontation of a British, Christian worldview with the native belief system produced messy, hybrid results. As postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha argues in The Location of Culture, the colonized often adopted the colonial religion foisted on them, yet without fully dispensing with their own religious beliefs, yielding an uncanny mixture as old ideas and traditions are reconfigured within new frameworks. A visual symbol of this strange hybridity might be seen in the roadside sacrifice featuring the English florin bearing the head of George the Fifth.
There is a moment of foreshadowing in these chapters when Nwafo sees the new moon in Ezeulu’s absence and wonders what happens if the Chief Priest is not there to see it and sound the drums. In Okperi, Ezeulu’s vision seems to augur the downfall of Ulu and himself, yet the prideful Ezeulu focuses on the enmity between him and his people that it underscores, using it to strengthen his resolve against them.
Nodikwa’s story testifies to a class of opportunistic Africans seeking to profit from colonialism. Ezeulu’s attitude toward the white man and his decision to send Oduche to the church also result from opportunistic thinking, so it is not surprising that, despite their coming from antagonistic villages, Ezeulu and Nwodika find they have a mutual respect for one another. Akuebue notes this similarity in the thinking of the two men. In this regard Nwodika too functions as a foil for the Chief Priest; while he overtly associates himself with the white man for the sake of his own advancement, Ezeulu quietly allies himself in his fight against Umuaro.
The text betrays the inconsistencies in Clarke’s idealistic colonial mentality. He is aghast when Wade desecrates the policemen’s sacrifice, yet, when confronted with Ezeulu’s refusal of the new title at the end of chapter 15, his rosy ideas are replaced by rage at the powerful Igbo man’s insolence. The reversal feels like a jab at an idealistic strain of colonialism that holds romantic views about imperialism’s benevolent potential.
The gears in these chapters are turning toward the book’s tragic conclusion. Throughout his detention, Ezeulu remains prideful and self-possessed as he schemes against his own people. He is seemingly in control until the last moment.