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Online Magazine of Contemporary Nigerian Writing

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sentinel nigeria | Issue #3 | August 2010

Issue #3 Index | Editorial | Drama | Essays | Fiction | Poetry



By Ndagi Abdullahi

Zhenti is the worst practice in Nupe culture. It is used to transform a normal person into a zombie. The person is given a potion to drink, then the person is taken round a tree seven times. I didn�t know about Zhenti until it was performed on someone so dear to me.

By the way, I was born in the bustling town of Tsudifu on the Lavun river, thirty kilometres from Bida. My father was the Ndazhitsu of Tsudifui. He said we are the direct descendants of Tsudi the Founder of Nupe. But the Goyi Fulanis have overtaken KinNupe and transformed Bida into the capital of their Nupe Emirate.

I wasn�t saddened by all that history. This is because Ndakoba, my twin brother, is an interesting person. We are un-identical twins though. I am tall, Ndakoba is short. I am easygoing, timid and very quiet. Ndakoba is a very querulous, difficult, fearless and violent person.

Afterwards I became the Ndazhitsu of Tsudifui. But Ndakoba arrogated my ruling powers. He became the de facto ruler. I couldn�t stop him because he is my twin brother.

Then Ndakoba began to espouse Nupe supremacist theories. He became possessed with hatred for the Goyis at Bida, Agaie, and Lapai. Though I warned him, Ndakoba vowed to organise a revolution against the Goyis. He said he is going to re-establish the Tsudi Nupe Empire.

He began a KinNupe-wide secret recruitment of revolutionaries and mercenaries.

In the farming season of 1868 a gargantuan battalion of Kwenti revolutionaries and mercenaries headed by Ndakoba marched on Bida. But the Kwenti rebels were routed by the powerful military machine of Bida. The rebels were apprehended. Tsudifui was sacked and I was arrested.

But, at the subsequent hearings at Bida, I proved that I tried to stop Ndakoba. Witnesses vindicated me and the court acquitted me. Etsu Masaba became very happy with me. He turbaned me the Sokyaran Raban Nupe.

But the erstwhile Sokyara saw me as a threat. To spite me he pushed for the death sentence for Ndakoba, my twin brother. I begged Etsu Masaba to spare my twin brother�s life. Sokyara in due course insisted on the Zhenti for Ndakoba.

Sokyara also pushed for the irreversible form of Zhenti. But I was able to secretly obtain a reversible Zhenti for Ndakoba. I hoped that one day a zombie Ndakoba may come back to his senses.

In the end the Zhenti was performed and Ndakoba became a zombie. Ndakoba was sent across the Atlantic as a slave to America. I was deeply depressed.

But mischievous Sokyara made life a hell for me in Bida. He eventually discovered that I got a reversible Zhenti for Ndakoba. Etsu Masaba became angry with me. Sokyara and others called for my banishment from KinNupe.

It was around that time that Sir William Baikie, the White man, came to visit Etsu Masaba. Baikie was the British Empire consul at Lokoja. Etsu Masaba appointed me the ambassador of KinNupe to Europe and the Americas. It was Etsu Masaba�s dexterous way of banishing me from KinNupe honourably. Sokyara celebrated. But I was happier; it is an opportunity for me to search for Ndakoba in the Americas. I took the Zhenti antidote potion with me to use in reversing Ndakoba�s senses whenever I meet him in America.

I left for Lokoja with Sir Baikie. He cultured me into a well-educated and well-informed English diplomat. I left for England on the 31st of July, 1869. I was in London for close to a year. Queen Victoria gave me a red carpet reception as the ambassador of the famous Nupe kingdom of the River Niger. I later left for the USA.

I was well-received by the US Congress at Washington, D.C., as the ambassador of the Nupe kingdom. In the USA I became a prominent member of the Abolitionist movement. Abolitionism was my undercover way of looking for Ndakoba who was a slave. But though I searched hard, there was no news about the whereabouts of Ndakoba in the USA.

I became extremely famous as a pacifist Abolitionist. Particularly the White politicians and the Black slave underclass of the USA liked me.

In 1874 a major slave rebellion broke out in North Carolina. The leader of the rebellion, known as Louverture d�Palmeres, declared he was re-enacting, on a greater scale, the notorious slave revolt that ravaged the Currituck and Camden counties of North Carolina exactly a decade before. In a week Louverture d�Palmeres have killed over 100 white men. The politicians in the White House were scared to death.

I was appointed to head a team of negotiators to Louverture d�Palmeres�s hideout somewhere in the vicinities of Charlotte. The White House reasoned that Louverture d�Palmeres might listen to me a Black diplomat. We left Richmond for the Albermale Sound of North Carolina. But we were ambushed by by Louverture d�Palmeres�s men on the Roanoke river.

And you can imagine my shock when I discovered that Louverture d�Palmeres was none other than Sokyara � the same mischievous Sokyara I left behind in Bida some six years ago!

Sokyara my archenemy.

The story of Sokyara is interesting. He fell out of favour with Etsu Masaba when he sided with Gogo Habiba from Baddegi to Bida to overthrow Etsu Masaba. Upon the suicide of Gogo Habiba, Sokyara was arrested, sold into slavery and shipped to the Americas. He arrive Brazil as a slave but ran away and became the leader of rebel slaves who lived as outlaws in the woods. These were remnants of Ganga Zumba�s Black Republic of Palmares.

Sokyara learnt of and fell in love with the personality of Francois Dominique Toussaint Louverture who led the Haitian slave revolts of the 1790s. That was when Sokyara changed his name to Louverture d�Palmeres.

From Brazil Louverture d�Palmeres moved into the USA with the intention of organising a successful slave revolt as that of Toussaint Louverture. His Separatist plan was to transform a part of the USA into an independent, sovereign Black Republic into which all the Black people of the USA can move. That was how came about this gigantic slave rebellion in North Carolina.

Sokyara wasn�t surprised to see me. He have heard all about me as the leading Black diplomat in the USA. He was happy he will have me executed. But he said before killing me he had a surprise for me.

And you can imagine my shock again when Sokyara brought out Ndakoba, my twin brother, as his surprise for me!

But Ndakoba is still a zombie, and a prisoner to Sokyara. We were taken for hard labour in the fields. Out in the fields I was able to surreptitiously give Ndakoba the Zhenti antidote potion to drink. Then I took him round a tree seven times and Ndakoba came back to his senses. The violent, fearless and militant Ndakoba immediately overpowered Sokyara�s guards, killed them and organise the prisoners into a militia against Sokyara.

That very night Ndakoba overthrew and killed Sokyara.

Ndakoba and I became American heroes overnight. I was decorated by the White House for effecting the death of Louverture d�Palmares and for bringing an end to the largest slave rebellion ever.

But Ndakoba was still restless. He espoused Black supremacist theories. He had secret meetings with American Black nationalist leaders. He eventually told me he is going to transform a part of the USA into an independent, sovereign Black Republic into which all the Black people of the USA can move. Same as Louverture d�Palmares!

Ndakoba almost killed me when I opposed him. I ran away for my dear life.

A great slave rebellion, organised by Ndakoba, broke out immediately. It spread in the slaveholding, Southern part of the USA from state to state. America was scared to death. Washington, D.C., appointed me, once more, to head a team of diplomats to dialogue with the Black rebels.

But I went to Ndakoba alone. I met him in his heavily guarded estate. In his garden I told him I came to support his rebellion. I secretly poured the Zhenti potion into a cup which he unsuspectedly drank. Then I took him round a tree seven times in the garden and Ndakoba became a zombie once more!

With me in control of a zombie Ndakoba, I told Ndakoba to tell his officers to lay down their arms. I used him to disband and dispersed his army of Black rebels. Then I took Ndakoba to Washington, D.C., as a repentant, former rebel leader.

For the upteenth time the whole of America applauded me as the greatest diplomat in history. I was showered with all manners of accolades and national honours. But I asked permission to come back home to KinNupe. The Americans were surprised, why go home at the height of your fame?

They didn't know that I couldn't risk going about with a deadly Ndakoba around in the USA. What if, by any chance, Ndakoba regained his senses again?

I came back to KinNupe with a zombie Ndakoba. I settled down in Tsudifu which is now a village after the Kwenti sack by the now late Etsu Masaba. I resumed my duty as the Ndazhitsu of Tsudifu. Now Ndakoba, a zombie, didn�t disturb me.

I am always depressed whenever I see Ndakoba in that zombie state. But I dare not perform Zhenti antidote on him because a Ndakoba in his senses is a Pandora box of endless troubles as my story so far have shown.


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