Sonnie Ekwowusi savours an inaugural lecture at University of Nigeria

Penultimate week I found myself at the University of Nigeria attending the inaugural lecture of Professor Emmanuel Nebeuwa Obikili, a professor of Anatomy at the Department of Anatomy, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. It was the 153rd inaugural lecturer of the University of Nigeria. Prof Obikili’s lecture topic was: “Anatomy of the Head and the Heart of the Family.” The lecture afforded the numerous attendees the opportunity of drinking from the rich scientific, human, philosophical and cultural fountain of knowledge of the University of Nigeria.

The auditorium was packed full. Many University of Nigeria professors from different disciplines and others from other universities attended the lecture. Prof Obikili is indeed a friend of many people. In a university environment in which rancour, bitterness and mutual suspicion have almost been elevated to a norm, it is irresistible not to be edified, in the testimony of Prof Edith Nwosu, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, who represented the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria at the lecture, by Obikili’s refinement and friendly interactions with students, academic and non-academic staff of the university.

Prof Nwosu stated that Prof Obikili is a consummate wag with a tender heart and a good sense of humour. She is right. There was no dull moment throughout Prof Obikili’s lecture. Masterfully interlacing his delivery with anatomical jokes Prof Obikili so thrilled audience that many of were rolling on their seats with laugher.

I must say that throughout the presentation, the lyrics of Bob Marley’s Exodus kept welling up in my memory. “Are you satisfied with the life you`re living? Huh! We know where we`re going; We know where we`re from. We`re leaving Babylon, y`all! We`re going to our Father`s land. Exodus, all right! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people…Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move!” Yes, great movement of people inside the university auditorium. Who says that laughter is not medicinal? Buffet was served at the end of the lecture. There was plenty to eat and drink. I met many old friends.

I left the University of Nigeria a happier man. On leaving, I headed back to Iwollo Conference Centre, Aguobu, Ezeagu Local Council, Enugu State, where I had been attending a conference. Accessing the newly-renovated windy and zigzag Milliken Hill, Enugu was not a herculean task even though it was raining heavily and the visibility was poor. On getting to Iwollo market, I saw a huge crowd of villagers.

I mingled with the crowd in the pretext of being one of them except for my polished bespectacled face. This is the Masquerade Season in Iwollo town. That was why many masquerades of all sizes and colours (with the exception of Ijele Masquerade, the king of all masquerades) could be seen chasing villagers with their big sticks, cudgels and cutlasses.

In Igbo cosmology, masquerades are not human beings: they are spirits that cometh forth from the underworld. But one Iwollo masquerade behaved like a human being. It (he) was caught drinking a can of beer without paying for it. Surprisingly the lady selling the beer was not intimidated by the presence of the masquerade. She grabbed the masquerade by the waist and began screaming aloud in Igbo: “Pay me for my beer you drank”! Hearing the lady shouting on top of her voice, many villagers were attracted to the scene. While some were insisting that the masquerade should pay for the can of beer, others said the masquerade was a spirit from the underworld and therefore cannot be held liable for anything. I almost laughed my head off.