PROFESSOR NADEL’S WRONG TSOEDE
The official version of the Tsoede story as recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel in his hugely popular book titled ‘A Black Byzantium’ has become so widespread and so popular that even Nupe people don’t know anymore of any other version.
Interestingly enough recent scholars, professors for instance, have started questioning this official version of the Tsoede Myth as it was recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel in the 1960s.
Professor Michael Mason, for instance, is convinced that Professor S.F. Nadel’s record is not the true story of Tsoede.
The problem is that a meticulous scrutiny of the Tsoede Myth as recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel will reveal quite a number of inconsistencies in the main plot and gist of the story.
For instance when you meet the Igala people you will discover, to your great surprise, that the Igala kingdom never ever, either in history or prehistory, conquered KinNupe. Neither in the traditions of the Igalas nor in the traditions of the Nupe is there any hint whatsoever that the Nupes were once conquered or ruled by the Igala.
Another glaring flaw in Professor S.F. Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth is the fact that we are told, for instance, that Tsoede escaped from Igalaland to Biniland with a collection of royal regalia which were made of bronze and brass castings. But funny enough, and to this very day, the Igala people have never known how to work with brass or bronze. This, of course, implies that the Igala people never cast anything in brass or bronze for Tsoede to be able to escape with to Biniland.
A careful and meticulous scrutiny of Professor Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth leads to further inconsistencies in such a manner that one is forced to accept that something is radically wrong with or missing in this story.
We will dedicate a greater number of the following paragraphs to a detailed study of some of the most salient faults with the Tsoede Myth as recorded by the learned Professor S.F. Nadel.
The Igala, the Nupe and the Gara
A major point that needs to be noted as regards the Tsoede Myth recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel is the fact that when the Professor was in KinNupe in the 1930s and he was going round the villages to collect and record Nupe traditions and mythologies, the local Nupe villagers in those days were telling Professor Nadel the story of Gara and not Igala.
The Nupe villagers and informants who Professor Nadel interviewed in the 1930s kept on telling the Professor that the father of Tsoede was a Gara man – they never said the father of Tsoede was an Igala man. It was Professor Nadel himself who erroneously translated and transcribed the name ‘Gara’ as ‘Igala’. This great mistake by Professor Nadel was due to the simple fact that in those 1930s days the Igala people also refer to themselves as ‘Gara’ or ‘Igara’.
We can now see how this confusion and error came in. The Nupe villagers, informants and interpreters who were telling Professor S.F. Nadel about the Tsoede Myth never ever mentioned that the Nupes were ever dominated or conquered by the Igala people. They told the Professor that the father of Tsoede was a Gara man; they didn’t say he was an Igala man. But because Professor Nadel knew that the Igala people refer to themselves as ‘Gara’ and because Professor Nadel also did not see any people throughout the length and breadth of the Central Sudan bearing the name ‘Gara’ apart from the Igala people, the Professor precipitously concluded that the Igala people were the Gara people that the Nupe villagers and his informants were talking about.
One other aspect of the Igala error in Professor S.F. Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth is the fact that Professor S.F. Nadel was trying to show that Tsoede must have lived around the mid-fourteenth to the mid-fifteenth century.
But the interesting point here is that even if we take it as late as the middle of the sixteenth century, the Igala people today were not yet located at their present location below the Confluence of the Niger-Benue confluence.
When did Tsoede lived?
Another problem with Professor S.F. Nadel’s record of the Tsoede Myth is that regarding the date when Tsoede lived.
After recording and studying the Tsoede Myth, Professor Nadel concluded that Tsoede must have lived in the fourteenth to the middle of the sixteenth century.
But then so many other scholars of Nupe studies who came after Professor Nadel concluded, after serious researches, that Professor Nadel’s fourteenth to the sixteenth date is practically not feasible for the era of Tsoede. This is because so many inconsistencies emerge whenever the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries period are assigned to the Tsoede era.
For instance a lot of foreign globetrotters and explorers came into Africa from the thirteenth through to the seventeenth centuries and none of these travellers and explorers mentioned Tsoede or any great Central Sudan emperor that can fit into the Tsoede description.
The Portuguese sailor, Jao Affonso d’Aveiro, who came to the West African Coast in 1485, that is towards the end of the fifteenth century, did mentioned a great Nupe emperor called the ‘Ogane’ who fits perfectly into the Tsoede-type of description. But d’Aveiro mentioned that the Ogane was a descendant of an ancient Nupe dynasty that must have reigned for centuries before the 1485 period.
Then there is also the various traditions of all the peoples of the Central Sudan and West Africa available to us. All these various traditions spanning the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries never mentioned Tsoede or any Tsoede-type personality.
The implication here is just as Professor Michael Mason pointed out, namely, that Tsoede must have lived far back before the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries that Professor Nadel attributed to him.
As a matter of fact so many other scholars and students of Nupe studies alike have come to the conclusion that the fourteenth to sixteenth date of the Professor Nadel is quite wrong. These scholars and students are of the view that Tsoede must have lived a very long time ago – probably up to a half a millennium years before the fourteenth century that Professor Nadel was trying to give Tsoede.
The Tsoede Tribal Marks
Another problem with Professor S.F. Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth is that aspect that purports to explain the origin of Nupe scarification or tribal marks.
According to the Tsoede Myth as recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel, the father of Tsoede, that is the AtaGara, fall sick and no cure could resuscitate him back to full health. It was not possible to cure him of his illness. Then a doctor came along and maintained that the sap of a particular coconut is what will cure the AtaGara. The problem was, according the mythological plot of the Tsoede Myth, nobody could climb the very tall coconut tree except Tsoede.
Tsoede did climbed the coconut tree and did plucked the coconut to be used for the cure of his father, but Tsoede fall down from the tree and had such gaping bruises over his face and marks which were later adopted as Nupe tribal marks by latter generations who idolised Tsoede.
A careful and an anthropological look at this story will show that this explanation for the origin of Nupe tribal marks is a blatant fiction. For anybody that is well at home with the sociology of the sacredness of scarification marks knows that scarification mark is a phenomenon that was practised in KinNupe since very ancient times. Even if Tsoede lived a thousand years before the fourteenth century, scarification or tribal marks were practised in KinNupe hundreds of thousands of years before the birth of Tsoede. So there cannot be any connection whatsoever between the fall of Tsoede from a coconut tree, his having deep-cut bruises over his face and body and the origin of the Nupe national scarification and tribal marks.
As a matter of fact, for anybody who is familiar with the anthropological basis of scarification marks, it is a well known fact that scarification marks are supposed to have divine, occult and sacred significance – they are not supposed to be accidental developments out of the fall of somebody from a tall tree.
The Birth and Breed of Tsoede
Another problem with Professor S.F. Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth is that aspect that has to do with the manner in which Tsoede was born and brought up in different nations.
According to the story of the Tsoede Myth, Tsoede was actually born in Biniland but when he grew up and was some thirty or so years old he was taken to Garaland as a slave but was recognised by his father, the AtaGara, and was subsequently crowned as a crown prince. He became very close to his father and was initiated into the cult of power. He accordingly became a very powerful prince who had to be pursued by his envious half-brothers back to Biniland after the death of their father.
A meticulous and studious look at this aspect of the Tsoede Myth shows that this an ancient plot that is recurrently found in all olden mythologies. The manner in which Tsoede was born in Biniland but had to be taken as a slave to Garaland where he learnt the cult of power and then the manner in which he now came back to Biniland to consolidate great politico-religious powers is nothing new to all scholars and students of mythology and anthropology. It is the same olden plot that we found in the mythological, so-called scriptural, stories of Moses, Joseph and Jesus.
We see this same story of double-nationality coming up wherever there have to be an explanation for the appearance of a foreigner on a conquered territory: this is the story of Sargon, Asoka, Krishna, Buddha, Kanta of Kebbi, Bayajida, etc, etc. Whenever the ancient griots have to explain the reason for the appearance of a foreigner they always come up with this story that the foreigner was not really a foreigner in the first place, that he was actually born here, that he left KinNupe for a greater land, and that after becoming powerful in the greater land he came back later to dominate his land.
Another problem with Professor S.F. Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth is that aspect of the story that related that Tsoede has a harelip.
The story is that when Tsoede fall down from the tall coconut tree his upper lip was split into two and he ended up with a harelip. They said that is how he ended up with the name ‘Edigi’. This is because in the Nupe language the name Edigi is applied to a person with harelip.
Actually this Edigi harelip story is another ingenious way of inventing a fiction to explain a purported historical or prehistorical event. The fact is that Tsoede never had a harelip. The incident of his developing a harelip from an accidental fall from a tall tree is a fiction.
The point is that the name Edigi, as it is applied today to people who have harelips, is a modern development. It is the Modern Nupe people’s misunderstanding of Middle Nupe and Old Nupe language. And that is why they applied the name ‘Edigi’ wrongly to harelip. Edigi in Middle Nupe means somebody who is speaking a foreign, a language that cannot be understood by the listener.
In Old Nupe the term ‘Edigi’ simply means ‘language’. In Middle Nupe ‘Edigi’ came to refer to a language that is not understandable. So what is happening here is that this name ‘Edigi’ as applied to foreigners or to people who are speaking a language that cannot be understood was also applied to people who are stammerers or any other person who in any other way show signs of not being able to speak the language fluently or correctly. In this classification or group are included also people who have harelip. This is how people with harelips ended up as people who are referred to as Edigi.
The point is that Edigi is a general name applied to anybody whose language or mode of speaking is not understandable.
The bottom line is that the Edigi story of Tsoede having an harelip is actually a fiction. It is just another way of Modern Nupe people who don’t understand Old Nupe language inventing a story to explain the Modern Nupe meaning of an Old Nupe word that has lost its original meaning.
The name of Tsoede has nothing to do with Edigi as it is applicable to people with harelips. Edigi, in Middle Nupe, referred to language as we have said before. The name Tsoede is a shortened form of the Middle Nupe term ‘Tsoedegi’ or ‘Etsu Edigi’ which literally meant ‘The Foreign King’. Tsoede was referred to as the Foreign King simply because he was a foreigner.
Tsoede was a foreign king to the Bini, Ife or Nupe people because he came from Gara or AtaGara. His father was the AtaGara – he himself was the AtaGara. Tsoede came from Gara. So Tsoede was a foreign king. And that was the literal meaning of that word: ‘The Foreign King’.
In fact ‘Tsoede’ is not a personal name, it was a title in reference to the ‘foreign king’. This is because ‘Edigi’ means ‘foreign language’ so when we say ‘Edi’ we are still referring to ‘foreignness’. Since ‘Etsu’ means king, a combination of ‘Etsu’ and ‘Edi’ will give us ‘Etsu Edi’ or ‘Tsoede’ which simply means ‘foreign king’.
But then we need to point out the fact that even though Tsoede was a Gara man, and therefore a foreign king, in those days Gara was KinNupe. In fact KinNupe was known in those days not as KinNupe but as Wangara or Gwangara both of which means ‘Garaland’. As late as in the days of Mungo Park, KinNupe was still being referred to as Gwangara.
Tsoede being referred to as a foreign king by the Nupe people doesn’t actually mean that he is not a Nupe man in the national sense or context of the name. It is very true that Tsoede was a Gara man, but then in the days of Tsoede it is the very people, the very nation and the very geopolitical entity that we today refer to as Nupe that was referred to in those days as Gara. Accordingly, Tsoede was a Nupe man in the anthropological sense of the name Nupe.
Tsoede was not a Nupe man in the linguistic sense of the name. But then, Tsoede’s being a Gara man means that he is a Nupe man in the anthropological sense of the name because in those days Gara, AtaGara or Wangara was the same place and national entity that we today refer to as KinNupe.
As we have discussed in exhaustive details in a previous section of this present work Gara was a super power empire with headquarters located here in the heart of KinNupe and Ife was also a super power empire with headquarters also located right here in the heart of KinNupe. This can be illustrated in a modern context by pointing out the fact that both the Dibo nation and the Nupe nation are resident here in Central KinNupe and both are Nupe at the same time.
This seeming confusion surrounding the Nupe ethnicity of Tsoede can further be cleared by reminding ourselves of the fact that Nupe is in fact a national name applied to a comprehensive collection of various dialects and sub-tribes which were all resident here in the KinNupe River Niger valleys. Some twenty four different dialects are conventionally listed today as being sub-languages under the general Nupe language nationality.
Alhaji Ibrahim Saidu listed the following among the various Nupe sub-dialects: Kakanda, Dibo, Gupa, Kupa, etc, etc. The Encyclopaedia Britannica listed even more – including Gbagyi, Igala, etc, etc. – as Nupoid languages. In ancient times there were also the following Nupe dialects and sub-languages: Koro, Gara, Gwari, Bini, Gbidigi, Gwagba, Kyadya, Ife, Ifa, Nupe, etc, etc.
All the sub-languages and dialects listed above go together to constitute the national language called Nupe. In other words Nupe is not a single language or a single dialect; Nupe is a national linguistic term for a large collection of a cluster of dialects and sub-languages in the Niger valleys and its vicinities.
The father of Tsoede was Gara while the mother of Tsoede is Bini. And, as the list in the preceding paragraphs show, both Gara and Bini are simply dialects of the same Nupe language. Accordingly Tsoede was a Nupe man through and through because both Gara and Bini were sub-languages of the national Nupe language.
The Tsoede Cities
Another problem with Professor S.F. Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth is that regarding the great cities mentioned in the story.
Professor Nadel recorded that the first city that was founded by Tsoede was called Dokomba; then after that Tsoede also founded Nupeko; then after that there was Gbara. The story also related that even before his founding of Dokomba, Tsoede was the king at Nku; that is after overthrowing his uncle from power.
But then, a careful and studious look at this aspect of the Tsoede Myth as recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel will reveal quite a number of problems. According to the Tsoede Myth each of the cities mentioned in the story were mighty cities. These cities include Idah, Nku, Dokomba, Nupeko, and Gbara.
But all we need to do practically is to take a field trip to each of these ‘cities’ and we will be shocked by the fact that these are not cities but tiny villages. The classical explanation is that these once great cities have deteriorated and dwindled over the centuries from being great cities to being minor villages.
But then we are startled by the fact that at the geographical site of each of these cities there are no archaeological traces at all indicating that these tiny villages have once been great cities. If these were mighty cities in the past we should see architectural ruins and archaeological remains of the once mighty cities. There are no any archaeological evidences whatsoever to indicate that the present village of Nku had at any time in the past been a great or mighty city. This also applies to Nupeko. As for Dokomba, there is no any village – whether in the past or in the present – that is called Dokomba. Dokomba simply never existed.
These disturbing discrepancies between the mythological cities mentioned in the Tsoede Myth and the actual villages bearing those names today implies that something is fundamentally wrong with the mythological record of those cities mentioned by the Tsoede Myth as recorded by Professor S.F. Nadel. We cannot practically see what the Tsoede Myth told us about those ancient cities in the present villages that bear that name. Archeologically there is no any evidence whatsoever that any of these villages have ever been a great or mighty city in the past. The logical conclusion here is that these villages were not the cities established or founded by Tsoede in the Tsoede Myth…
… That is if Tsoede ever established or founded any city at all!
According to Professor Nadel’s version of the Tsoede Myth, Nku became a very mighty city to the extent that Tsoede decided to leave Nku and establish a new capital called Dokomba. Even though there is today a village called Nku there is no any trace of a great and over-crowded city around the site of the present village of Nku.
Professor Michael Mason actually talked of a lack of archaeological evidences to the effect that Nku was, once upon a time, a great and almighty capital city as narrated by the Tsoede Myth. If there was ever any such great capital city called Nku then it definitely isn’t today’s village of Nku as archaeological testaments speak against the present village of Nku ever being a mighty city in the past.
The truth of the matter is that the Nku referred to in the Tsoede myth was actually an entire Nupe Nation or kingdom that is now extinct having disappeared back into history a long time ago right in the very days of Tsoede himself.
They said Dokomba was a very big city. Tsoede was, for instance, said to have up to five thousand horses inside stables at the city of Dokomba. In fact the very name ‘Dokomba’ means ‘Stables’ or ‘Place of horses’ in the Nupe language to this very day. The story goes that it was because of the immense size of the city of Dokomba that Tsoede decided to leave the city and establish a new capital city at Nupeko.
The truth, however, is that the Dokomba mentioned in the Tsoede myth has also become extinct a long time ago.
Nupeko was the biggest city in the story of the Tsoede Myth. Nupeko was a megalopolis according to the story. As a matter of fact the story goes to relate that such was the great size of Nupeko that Tsoede was forced to relocate his capital from Nupeko, which was mainly located on an island, to a new settlement, Gbara.
Today we are told that the present village of Nupeko is the degenerated remnant of the once great and glorious grand city of Nupeko.
The fact, however, is that it was only recently that the present village of Nupeko adopted the name Nupeko. Until very recent times in history, today’s village of Nupeko was originally known as Esheti, Bisheti or Bishetiawogi. And, interestingly enough, the villagers to this very day take pride in referring to their village as Bishetiawogi rather than as Nupeko. This implies that the village called Nupeko was originally a village called Bishetiawogi and was never at any time in the past a mighty city founded by Tsoede and called Nupeko. The village of Bishetiawogi is not the Nupeko founded by Tsoede.
Furthermore there is no any archeological evidence whatsoever that shows that the village of Bishetiawogi, also known as Nupeko, has ever been a big and mighty city in the past.
The logical conclusion that can be reached here is that at a time in history somebody or some people just came and renamed the village of Bishetiawogi as Nupeko.