ENGLISHMAN IN BENIN CITY, 1981, (PART TWO)
Rufus was in a murderous mood. Steve, the one who Obaseki pummeled, became worried when Rufus went into his room. “What’s he gone to do in his room?” I asked Steve, whose only interest at that moment was diving into the fried rice we just brought for him.
Steve said, “He’s gone to change into his shorts. Looks like he’s really upset. He is changing into loose clothes to take out that guy who attacked me.”
“What?” Steve asked.
“I said, na shakara.”
Josephine began to laugh. She said, “Don’t mind Moyo! He’s talking about Fela.”
“No, Fela Kuti,” Josephine explained.
“Oh, Afro beat artist?” Steve asked. “I like Fela’s music.”
“Fela has a song titled ‘Shakara,’ and that’s what Moyo is talking about.” Josephine explained. “Fela says it is ‘shakara’ when you are yapping that you need to take off your shirt before you get into a fight. If you are really spoiling for a fight, you don’t talk, you dive straight into the fight.”
Rufus came storming out of his room. He said, “Moyo, let’s go.” He was now wearing a t-shirt and shots.
“Where?” I asked him. Steve was already eating his fried rice. The sweet aroma of the dish wafted in my direction.
Josephine chimed in, “You guys probably should eat the amala first before you go and fight Obaseki. It’s already getting cold. I wrapped the bowl in layers of towel to keep it warm a little.”
“Papa Ru, she’s right,” I said. “He is in the police cell now. They won’t let us beat him up. Unless you bribe them to arrange a beating for him at the police station because….”
Josephine jumped in, “What! The three policemen who came almost killed him right here before taking him away. He was bleeding from cuts. They tore off his shirt.”
Rufus relaxed. “Serves him right. He will spend tonight in the police cell. His cellmates will beat the daylight out of him in addition to what the police already did to him.”
Looking tired, Rufus sighed, and slumped on a seat. He was looking at the unwrapped amala on the table.”
“So, Steve, what exactly happened between you and Obaseki? What did you do?” I wanted to know.
“Nothing! There was a knock on the door and because Josephine was in the kitchen, I went to get the door. I opened it just a bit. That guy saw me, flung open the door, and attacked me.”
“Bizarre,” Josephine said.
“And it’s your first day in Nigeria! The day is not even over yet” I added. “Do you now regret coming?”
“Oh no,” responded Steve. “As long as this attack is not a daily or regular thing.” He laughed heartily.
Rufus didn’t like my question, by the way he looked at me. “We will go to the police station in the morning and press charges against him.”
We fell on the amala and egusi dish and wolfed it down. The night began to unwind slowly. With some bottles of very cold beer we went to the balcony at the back to smoke and enjoy the beer. Almost immediately, there was a knock on the front door.
We all looked at one another, bursting into laughter at the same time.
“Who is it?” Rufus shouted at the front door.
“It is us,” a voice answered. I recognized Ibrahim’s voice. He was Obaseki’s younger brother and they came together several times to visit us. “It’s Ibrahim,” I said.
Rufus marched with his shorts to the front door and opened it wide. Ibrahim and an elderly woman entered.
“This is our mother,” Ibrahim said, pointing to the elderly woman. “We are just coming from the police station. We heard all that happened”
Rufus asked them to sit down. And the moment she sat down, the elderly woman fell on her knees and was rubbing her head against the floor, begging.
TO BE CONTINUED
Portrait of Moyo Okediji by Lanre Idowu, 2020
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