a picture showing moyo okediji with his legs crossed poised for the camera



His jaw was clenched as Rufus advanced toward Obaseki. I realized that he was shutting off the reasoning valve and pressing on the throttle of turmoil within the engine of his brain. His sense, judgment, calculation and intelligence was at this point on vacation. The agents of automation were now in control of his anatomy. He was more machine than person, and his entire being was on remote control as Rufus began to press forward.

I turned to fully face his direction and backed Obaseki, with my body acting as a shield. But I knew it was not going to work. Rufus was either going to push me out of the way, or I was going to become collateral damage in this titanic clash that had been heating up for almost an entire year. It was not beyond Rufus, while in remote control mode, to use a chair, a table, or whatever else in sight as a weapon of mass destruction on Obaseki, who, sensing the tense atmosphere, began to back away. My back was already touching Obaseki’s body, and truly, I caught the intoxicating scent of marijuana that was coming out Obaseki’s flared nostril: he truly had been inhaling cannabis. I also braced myself to be tossed off the path between the two gladiators, get crushed in, or hit by blows coming from the front or the back assailant.

Then, suddenly, Rufus froze. It was a total halt. Imagine a charging pit bull suddenly pulling up his forelegs, instantly realizing that the very next step was going to lead off the cliff and down a deep ravine. His gaze went past my head and he was looking in the direction of the entrance, which I was backing.

“There you are Rufus,” said a familiar sound. It was the sweet voice of Professor Solomon Wangboje. “I had never been inside this restaurant before and someone told me that the food is good here but nobody said everybody was going to be here it seems the entire faculty and students at Ekewan is here I now know where to look for anybody and everybody because I see Moyo and Damijo and Samson, oh also Philip and Badamosi too and there you are Dede Mabiaku I don’t think I have seen you in two and a half years since that raining day how is your father this place needs to be repainted the colors are too garish and they need more light and larger windows for a place light this for better ventilation who did the interior decoration with iron bars everywhere anyway it’s good there is a place where people can eat and come together outside the studio Ekewan needs a place like this it was good we found the money to convert it and to think it used to be a classroom and I was reluctant when they said we should make it a restaurant because I thought people could eat nearby the campus and interact with the community that is the idea of this place artists need to be in direct contact with people otherwise they shut themselves in and get sucked into the large Ugbowo campus and never get out we are not trying to create ivory tower artists we want community artists a place where art students and lecturers in painting sculpture ceramics and mixed media interact with drama majors and choreography film television and art history art education mix theory with practice this is why we created an entire faculty of creative arts there is no other such environment in the country and it is a model that all other universities would envy as times goes on but they wouldn’t be able to match because just don’t have a place like this and in addition we have the Owoseni workshop for printmaking have you been to Owoseni workshop Moyo its not too far from here just about ten minutes your beetle is still working?”

“Yes, sir,” I said, dazed. The entire atmosphere changed. It was like paradise was on fire and Olodumare arrived on the scene like a firefighter and breathed a cool wind into it and the fire evaporated into thin air.

Professor Wangboje was thin and no more than five feet tall. He was light complexioned with the freshest and smoothest face in the universe. Never perturbed, he always smiled, was forever genial, without the tiniest wrinkle of worry on his mien, with a twinkle in each eye as he looked at you with full concentration. You felt as if you were the most important person in the world in his presence because it seemed that nothing else mattered to him but you. He called you by your name and recalled the last time the two of you met even if it was a decade ago. Once you told him your name, his brain-computer saved it and it could never be deleted and was always on the tip of his tongue when he saw you.

The volume of energy packed into the compact cell of his tiny body was larger than the voltage that blew up both Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The difference between him and nuclear energy is that the intensity of his power was convertible only to the goodness and betterment of whatever he touched with his gaze of Midas. He was the central force that pulled the University of Benin together. And the moment you met him, you got sucked into the vortex of his voltage that held you mesmerized and breathless until he gently let your feet touch the ground again of his own total volition.

We all gasped as Professor Wangboje spoke, each person searching for the point of reference to him or her in the unpunctuated draft of sound that flowed out of his mouth. Behind him was Madam Etso Ugbodaga Ngu, the woman who was Wangboje’s undergraduate professor, and who Wangboje brought out of retirement to start the graduate art school at the university. I was, at that time, the only graduate student in the entire Faculty of Creative Arts. In other words, I was Madam Ngu’s sole property.

She looked at me with total contempt. She said, “Muyo, who let you out of the studio? Did you comb your hair this morning? Why are you dressed like a scarecrow? Have you had anything to eat in weeks? Rufus, are you starving this boy?”


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