Arresting house. The house, because it is so arresting, led to my arrest as its owner and builder. They came to arrest the house—not just the architect.

The house is the culprit. They came to place it behind bars. They had no problems with setting the designers and builders free as long as they are able to lock away the arresting building.

“People have come to lodge a complaint that you are building an occult house,” the police officer informed me. “What to do you have to say about this?”

I looked around the room. The police released the head mason immediately I arrived with a crew, including a lawyer, at the police station. The room was packed with people against me and those in my support.

I told the entire room full of people about the story behind the emergence of AKODI ORISA, the divine abode we are constructing at the Oke Akintade, in Ile Ife. It is the center of the GownTown Project we began at Ile Ife as a project of the University of African Art. The project has conceptualized the entire city as an intellectual, research and educational metropolis, with the support of the His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni Ogunwusi Ojaja II, the king of Ile Ife, also the Grand Patron of the university. Called the Akodi Orisa, the building holds and embodies the sacred, secular, spiritual, aesthetic, philosophical and ecumenical aspects of the GownTown experience. The building will serve as a studio for the artists in the residency program of the University of African Art. It will function as a meditation space to release toxic physical and emotional tension, as part of the healing of the individual within the community.

The spokesperson for those who brought accusations against me stood up and began his long and winding speech with an apology that he and his people were concerned about security when they heard that an orisa house was being constructed in their neighborhood. He was relieved, he said, to learn that his fears were unfounded. Second, he blamed me for causing the whole misunderstanding by not coming straight to the community to explain what I was about to do, even before I started doing it. Had I done this, he said, we would not be in such a difficult situation. The members of his community had run to him as the chairman of the community to complain about the building, and given the Yahoo-Yahoo situation in the country, he saw no reason to wait before running to the police.

I reminded the chairman that there is no community present at the spot where the Akodi Orisa stands. The nearest household is more than half a mile down the hill on top of which Akodi Orisa peaks. Under construction are a couple of buildings near Akodi Orisa, and the owners of those buildings are in great relations with me. Their builders come to my well to draw water for their construction.

My lawyer cautioned that two matters were being confused. The first is legal and the second moral. The first matter of legal concern, he argued, was whether I, his client, had a legal right to erect this building. Though my building appears to be about orisa indigenous traditions, it was my right, he claimed, to construct a place of worship dedicated to my beliefs. He noted that the chairman of the community and his people were wrong to try and deny me the right to erect the building, because it does not seem to serve Christian or Islamic values. The complaints arose, the lawyer claimed, because they tried to stop a project that appears to support indigenous African spiritual values and entities.

The second matter of morality is a distortion of the first matter of legality. That his client did not choose to publicize the project in the community before starting to build was simply a matter of social morality and choices. The complainants clearly would have preferred otherwise. But his client was not morally bound to respect the complainants’ desire for notification before commencements of construction.

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