Audu Swasun Lafiagi Nupe Short Story

By Ndagi Abdullahi

From ‘The Landzun Master Story- Teller’ Series

I was born during a rainy season of 1942 or so. My village was Logi, hillside the mountains of Zhima and Dancitagi. Farming was our primary occupation. Nupe was our total culture. From my childhood my passion for Nupe was inestimable. I was enrolled at a primary school at Zhima. That was my first contact with Western culture. I was a bright pupil in primary school. I later attended Bida Provincial College, now Government College, Bida, where I was a distinction candidate.

In 1968 I completed my college studies. In the house of my uncle in Bida I became popular among my friends as a Nupe culture activist.

When our results were released, the Northern Regional Ministry of Education gave me a scholarship to study in Russia.

I went back to Logi, my village, with jubilation. But my enviers in the village were not happy about my going to study abroad. I didn’t mind them. On the 24th of August 1969 I bade my parent farewell and headed back to Bida. We, however, got involved in a ghastly motor accident. Everybody in that lorry died except me. I incredibly escaped without a scratch. Being late for the journey to Kaduna I didn’t return to Logi village, I continued my journey to Bida and thence to Kaduna.

At Kaduna I met other international exchange students with whom I took the flight to Moscow. Throughout the long flight I kept on remembering the near-death motor accident on the 24th of August 1969.

We arrive Russia in the middle of a blistering winter. I studied engineering. Student life in Moscow was hectic but interesting. I was a distinction candidate again. My classmates have never seen a black man before. Aleksei became my closest classmate. He was keenly interested in black people. He said he had African blood; that his grandfather was a black man from Nigeria. He said his grandfather was a member of an elite battalion of the Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force that saw brief action during the collapse of the Bulgarian Front in September 1918. After the Great War his grandfather travelled through Belgrade to Kyiv and eventually settled in Voronezh, Russia, where he married a Russian girl. Aleksei took me to his family in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod. I was shocked when his mother told me that her father was actually a Nupe man from Lafiagi. His daguerreotype picture was of a typical Nupe man with Nupe tribal marks. His name was Audu Swasun Lafiagi.

Swasun Lafiagi’s story rekindled my passion for Nupe culture. I discovered - from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan through Georgia and Romania to Estonia and the Ukraine - that several pockets of people of Nupe genealogy exist in Russia and the USSR in general. But I had to face my studies back at the university. I eventually graduated with excellent grades. Strangely enough I didn’t think of going back home to KinNupe. Instead I immediately enrolled for a masters programme. After my masters I still couldn’t make up my mind to go back to KinNupe. And this was despite my lifetime passion for Nupe and KinNupe. I started a PhD. programme and became a lecturer.

After my PhD. I still hesitated to go back to KinNupe. I don’t know why I couldn’t make up my mind to go back home. Instead I became the spokesperson of all Nupe communities in the USSR.

That was when I learnt that the largest Nupe Diaspora outside Africa was in Brazil. I was instantly fascinated with the Nupes in Brazil. In 1978 I travelled to Brazil. I was so enthralled with the Nupe Diaspora in Brazil that I eventually packed to Brazil. I left Russia for good. The Nupe descendants of Brazil welcomed me warmly. The Brazilian Nupe community is truly the largest Nupe Diaspora in the world. Descending from the Nupe slaves of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Era, almost every Brazilian today has Nupe blood.

Two hundred million Nupencizhi living outside KinNupe! The Nupe Brazilians have been waiting for an international Nupe leader and liberator in the like of me. I became so popular and famous because I was a native Nupe man from KinNupe. They changed my name to Eugenius, the Portuguese for ‘Native Born’. And, they effectuated my marriage to a Nupe Brazilian girl from Feira de Santana. I immediately became the spokesman of the Brazilian Nupe community. Hailing from the Reconcavo region I became a national leader of Brazil.

Soon I was in politics and I was elected the mayor of Bahia which has the highest concentration of Nupe people in Brazil. I became the most favoured Nupe man in Brazil. But, uncaningly enough, I was still hesitating to pay a visit to KinNupe, my original homeland. I still don’t know why I couldn’t go back home to KinNupe despite my obsession with everything Nupe. In the end, however, the urge to pay a visit back home to KinNupe became unbearable. I have been out of KinNupe for over forty years. At last I broke the jinx and, on the 3rd of May 2010, I took a flight back to KinNupe.

I first arrive Abuja, the new FCT of Nigeria. I learnt Nigeria is now divided into 36 states. But there was not a state for the Nupe people. From Abuja I went down to Bida. I paid the Etsu Nupe a courtesy visit.

Then I rushed to the house of my uncle in Bida. My uncle, however, didn’t recognise me. After much explanation my uncle eventually recognised me. But then, he fainted when he did realised I was the one standing before him. When my uncle recovered I received the shock of my life: he said I died over forty years ago in that ghastly motor accident on my journey from the village to Bida on my way to Russia. My uncle said I died and they buried me on the 24th of August 1969! I was destabilised. I couldn’t believe that I was a ghost all those forty- something years I spent in Russia and Brazil.

My uncle insisted that I was the only person who died in that ghastly motor accident. He said they brought back my dead body to our Logi village where they buried it that very day. I still couldn’t believe the story.

So, my uncle led me back to Logi village, to show me my grave. But another shock awaited us at Logi.

When we got to the village nobody, except my uncle, could see me. I was invisible to all the people of my village. Right in front of me the Ndazhitsu village head and the very old village elders recanted the story of my death over forty years ago. They were not aware that I was standing beside my uncle right in front of them. The elders led us to my grave where they buried me over forty years ago. I cried profusely as I stood there in front of my grave and invisible among my own village people. Only my uncle could see or hear me. Now I know that my enviers used witchcraft to kill me on the 24th of August 1969 – ever since then I was a ghost. All my life in Russia and Brazil I was a Fara ghost! I came back to Bida shattered. Back in Bida I was visible to everybody again. I became quite philosophical: I told the Etsu Nupe that I regretted nothing since I have become a great success and a national leader in Brazil – things I will never have become in my village full of enviers. The Etsu Nupe said I didn’t actually died; I was only spiritually banished by the witches to Russia and Brazil.

Brazil is now my home. But I will continue to cherish everything Nupe. I will continue to fight for the International Nupe in Diaspora. That was my promise to the Etsu Nupe. I went back to Brazil and resumed my struggle for the Nupe people worldwide. I settled down permanently in Brazil with the intention of never visiting KinNupe again. I didn’t tell my family or anybody else in Brazil of my unsavoury experience in KinNupe. My children and grandchildren insisted they want to visit KinNupe. I ask them to wait till they bury me in Salvador, Brazil. I hope that when they eventually get to my Logi village there will be no elder left to tell them that I have a second, actually first, grave in the village.

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