The narrative follows Ugwu now, and a few years have passed. Ugwu is visiting his family at their village and talking to his sister Anulika. She is engaged to a man named Onyeka, and Ugwu is suddenly repulsed by the idea of his sister as sexually mature. Ugwu prepares to leave and says goodbye to his family. Anulika walks with him to the main road, and on the way they meet Nnesinachi.
Part One showed the optimism but also the simmering tensions that filled Nigeria after it gained independence, and Part Two now shows the explosion of these tensions. Ugwu is still viewing women as objects, seeing his sister as he did Olanna, something to be kept under glass.
Ugwu hasn’t seen Nnesinachi in four years, but he recognizes her immediately. She hugs him and then flirts with him. After he leaves Anulika comments on her behavior, and Ugwu asks if Anulika has slept with Onyeka. Anulika confirms it. Recently Ugwu has been having an emotionless sexual relationship with Dr. Okeke’s housegirl Chinyere. Ugwu bids Anulika farewell while complaining about the village food, and she says that he has forgotten where he came from and become a “Big Man.”
Ugwu is now very close to achieving his “ideal” of Nnesinachi, but she will soon disappear again. His experience with romantic love solely revolves around sexual lust at this point. In the years between Part One and Part Two Ugwu has gone from marveling at meat in the refrigerator to having refined and picky tastes.
Ugwu returns to Nsukka. Odenigbo and Olanna are there, and they have a baby they call Baby. Ugwu tells them that Anulika will be married soon, and he helps Olanna feed Baby. Olanna tells Ugwu that her cousin Arize, who is pregnant, will come to Nsukka to have her baby. Odenigbo is listening to the radio in the other room, and he suddenly hushes them.
Adichie means us to assume that Baby is the child Olanna and Odenigbo were trying to conceive years earlier. Ugwu was already feeling protective and responsible for Olanna and Odenigbo, and now he takes care of Baby too.
A voice comes on the radio: it is Major Nzeogwu of the army, saying that there has been a coup and the government is overthrown. The Major promises to respect everyone’s rights, rid the nation of corruption, and to make people proud to call themselves Nigerians. After the announcement Baby calls for “Mummy Ola” and Ugwu tickles her.
In this scene Adichie juxtaposes the news of revolution and bloodshed (which will eventually lead to war) with Baby’s innocent antics. The hope and optimism of the early sixties is about to be destroyed.
There is more talking on the radio, and the deputy president says “the government is handing over to the military.” The prime minister and the premiers of the North and West are all missing. There are many guests in Odenigbo’s house, and most of them are overjoyed at the coup. They make fun of the politicians who were killed, which included Chief Okonji the finance minister.
This is the novel’s first political “betrayal” within the Nigerian government. As Britain had left mostly Northern politicians in charge, it was mostly Northerners killed in the coup. Chief Okonji was the man who tried to seduce Olanna at the dinner party, and an example of the many corrupt politicians being violently overthrown.
The BBC is calling it an “Igbo coup,” as it is mostly Northerners who were killed, but Professor Ezeka says that it was mostly Northerners in government, which was the fault of the English. Odenigbo praises Major Nzeogwu for having a “vision,” even though another (American) guest accuses the Major of being a communist. Meanwhile Ugwu remembers a quarrel from months before, some vague turmoil that resulted in Richard not coming around anymore.
The coup actually involved mostly Northern soldiers, but it was immediately portrayed as an “Igbo coup” because many of its plotters were Igbo. This anti-Igbo sentiment was exacerbated by Britain (as in the BBC) who wanted to keep tensions high to maintain their influence in Nigeria.
Olanna is the only one not excited about the deaths of the politicians, and Ugwu thinks about how “politicians” are like a lower form of life. That night Chinyere knocks on his window and he lets her in. As they have sex he pretends she is Nnesinachi, and he wonders if she is imagining that he is someone else as well. When he sees her during the day, she doesn’t even smile.
Olanna is saddened by Okonji’s death, even though she disliked him in person. One of the most chilling things about the novel is how quickly violence can become normalized – civilians and children cheer for bloodshed and find it easy to dehumanize the “other side.”