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Traversing pre-colonial Nigeria with the last nomad

A review of Krisina Kaka’s novel ‘The Last Nomad’ (Media Range Publishers Abuja, 2015. Pages 146 pages) Reviewed by Salamatu Sule ‘The last Nomad’ a…

A review of Krisina Kaka’s novel ‘The Last Nomad’
(Media Range Publishers Abuja, 2015. Pages 146 pages)

Reviewed by Salamatu Sule

‘The last Nomad’ a historical fiction set in colonial Nigeria and speaks about the livelihood and socio-cultural practices of the nomadic herdsmen of Nigeria.
Bapetel, a young Fulani lad from Daura (in modern day Katsina State) takes us through the realities of life as encountered by a typical nomad in the face of a mad pursuit for wealth, power and respect. He traverses many lands to acquire ill-gotten wealth including illegally possessing lands and on several occasions, inflicting injuries on the inhabitants of the places he settled.
He marries women as a means of showing off strength and wealth.
The novel starts with Bapetel at his Qur’anic school in Zaria, North-West Nigeria. The tale continues again in his hometown Daura. It narrates his numerous socio-cultural experiences and how it shaped him into the man he eventually became. Fearless, strong and angry, his lack of control for his primitive instincts of survival leads him into many troubles. His greatest fear was not ‘death’ but the fear of being thought of as a weakling.
At various periods in his life, Bapetel in succession, kills his younger brother over food and a rival over an extra-marital affair; he assaults a commercial sex worker whom he suspects to of having infected him with a sexually transmitted disease and only seems to realize his weaknesses as a human while in custody in Calabar where he is subsequently jailed for a brief period. This incarceration which denies him movement was undoubtedly the worst experience the nomad, used to living freely, has ever experienced.
Upon returning to Daura after what seems like eternity to him, Bapetel seeks more power after the death of his father, leading him to explore spiritual power in any form it could be found.
His ambition for more wealth, power and increase leads him to migrate from his home town and settle in Kebbi. Unsatisfied, Bapetel moved once again to the present day Niger State where he was beset by still more conflicts, many of them of his making.
In the end, Bapetel’s life depicts that of a nomadic herdsman in his many quests for knowledge, power, wealth and spiritual meaning and the extent he was willing to go to achieve this desires.
‘The Last Nomad’ is a historical tale showcasing Fulani culture and the social struggles that play out in the life of a typical nomad. Betrayal, lust, hypocrisy are brought in conflict with love, loyalty and brotherhood. Following Bapetel, The Last Nomad and understanding the circumstances and situations that make him the person he is –  a ‘selfless’ guardian of his culture and wealth, fanatical about his religious beliefs, conservative about social and cultural status – which constantly pit him against others and the authorities.
In this historical fiction, we can only journey with The Last Nomad in pity for the ignorance that dogged a life spent over charms, deceit, betrayal and belief in acquisition of all that he assumed an interest in, by force. The travesties portrayed through Bapetel’s tale takes us through the challenges which religion and socio-cultural context foist on many nomads.
(Sule is an Abuja-based book reviewer and writer)

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