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Down southwestern Nigeria, as well—precisely at the University of Ankara campus, a small tension also existed in a conversation at about the same time.
It was a monitored phone call. But the caller and the receiver would never be aware their private calls have been bugged.
It was one of those repetitive calls that’d go on to determine many big things.
A distinguished elderly professor at the Department of English and Literature was receiving a personal call from the University Vice Chancellor in his own office.
Oni, the professor of English literature, was answering a call from the Vice Chancellor Professor Boye, and who was also a nominee for a ministerial position. Particularly, the position of the nation’s minister of education.
Boye’s tenure as the University Vice Chancellor was winding down and he was going to retire from civil service just after his tenure. Now he so badly wanted the political appointment he’d garnered many recommendations for.
This was his chance, his golden chance. And it had to go down for him a golden win.
‘Oh you’re raising your voice at me again, Sir Vice Chancellor—or do we rather say Minister-of-Education-to-be?’
It was Professor Oni having a sarcastic laugh on this end of the phone call. He chose to take some time to enjoy a funny scenario with a good laugh.
Professor Boye’s voice at the other end was by now a hesitant cowardly tenor. ‘I’m… I’m sorry. I truly am. But what I meant to say—’
Professor Oni’s coarse, age-broken voice took on a mock serious demeanour, halting his fit of laughter mid-way. ‘No, no… it’s okay, haba? An ordinary professor like us doesn’t address the VC directly.’
It was Boye’s turn to get the awkward feel. ‘Baba, no, Baba—’
‘Oh… no, no Boye… oh—pardon me; how could I have called the-to-be Minister of Education by name? Could you pardon the brashness, Honourable Minister sir.’
‘No please; I understand, you know.’
‘Baba, please listen to me just once… ’
‘I should listen. Okay, I am.’
Boye’s voice was entreating from the other end, as decorously as he could bring it to be. ‘Er… I’m sorry for raising my voice on you, Baba… I’m really sorry.’
He paused to swallow and then resumed in a bit.
‘But what I’m trying to explain is that it’s a really tight situation what you’re asking me to do will place me. And that’s only because of the weight of this position.’
He paused for a bit. ‘Could you at least find another way to help me, Baba?’ he finished.
A light derisive chuckle barely escaped Oni’s throat. ‘The weight of the Vice Chancellor position.’
He scoffed again. ‘You know, that sounds somewhat novel to me. How couldn’t I have realised this is a lot different from other seats this little man here has brought you on before putting you on that throne up there.’
He shook his head while a sarcastic chuckle escaped his throat.
‘Age is definitely a burden. I so easily forget many important things nowadays,’ he said.
He swivelled around. ‘Come to think of it, I can recall a few just about now.
‘Wasn’t there a place in a national research and intelligence committee we got you during Obasanjo’s regime?Maybe also the Zonal ASUU Chairman, if my memory serves me correctly.
‘I guess there was also this place in your state’s gubernatorial election committee we helped you secure. I think we merely eased the bureaucracy and made you come ahead a whole list of entitled names.
‘Oh boy, my memory isn’t just as good as some thirteen years ago when I should be your age, I suppose. I hardly remember the details of so many things.’
He cleared his throat roughly. ‘I’ll turn sixty eight next year if there’s still life in this feeble body, you know.’
His voice dropped to a decorous, earnest tenor as he reclined his seat. ‘You know what to do, good fellow,’ he finished: ‘do it as soon as possible and save your ass.’
The Vice Chancellor hung up at the other end.
For the fifty four year old Vice Chancellor, desperation was beginning to be the name he answered by. He was simply in want of the political seat.
And the older professor was taking advantage of his dire need to prove a point.
The older don was not just an academician, or else the University Vice Chancellor wouldn’t have cowered at his voice.
Oni was also a man of stature in the political clime of both his geopolitical zone as well as the nation.
He’d helped in strategising on political moves for elections before and had helped his party win the gubernatorial seats in his zone during elections.
His party’s place in his geopolitical zone this election year was one which many party stakeholders had thought of as being impossible to regain. After it’d been overtaken by the opposition for some time already.
But then, in spite of his political success, Oni wouldn’t go for any political position in the country. The elderly man was content with his humble calling, lecturing students.
Boye knew what he needed from Oni was simpler than the drama the latter had been creating around it for some weeks already.
The Vice Chancellor needed Professor Oni to use the power of his influence with the nation’s president to give a sure deal recommendation for an appointment in his cabinet.
As the new Minister of Education.
All that the Vice Chancellor and intending Minister of Education needed was simple, yes. But all that the older professor and political godfather wanted was simpler.
Or, so it seemed.
Professor Oni had weeks earlier asked Professor Boye to come see him for help only in his office at the Department of English and Literature.
And only during work hours.
But that was if Boye perhaps still needed his humble recommendation, he’d said.
But then, Boye knew it was a million dollar recommendation. Yet he couldn’t stand the thought of descending the senate building to visit a mere lecturer as it were, during work hours.
He wanted to retain the sheer pride of being the Vice Chancellor and the one in administration.
But Oni had sensed this and wanted to break the Vice Chancellor’s wings if he would help him at all.
He wanted Boye to admit the latter needed him to be what he now aspired to be. And to admit he made him into all he’d become so far.
Neither of them would bend.
Boye would entreat and argue to the point he’d talk with a cutting edge. Oni wouldn’t budge either.
Oni wanted to see the Vice Chancellor descend the lofty tower of the Senate Building.
He wanted to see him walk down the long, peopled walkway connecting the Senate Building with his Department.
And without the glamorous company of his entourage.
He wanted to see Professor Boye come to his office and ask… maybe beg, for what he needed.
It was all what Oni wanted, needless as it was. And needless as it was, it conversely was probably what’d grant Boye his political appointment.
Professor Oni looked up the time on his wristwatch. ‘Oh! This boy should be here by now,’ he gasped.
He began packing a few things on his desk into his handbag. It was a small black Gucci bag made of real leather. Its hand and flap were made of leopard hide.
There was soon a knock on the door.
Oni muttered. ‘Here he comes.’ He raised his voice a little, while still busy sorting his things. ‘Come in.’
The door opened in a slow, lazy swing; racking a tiny crack at its furthest point. It made a little slam on closing.
‘Kelvin, can you drive?’ Professor Oni did not bother to raise his head when he asked. He was sure it was Kelvin.
The boy replied. ‘I can drive, sir.’
It was now that the don glanced up to confirm his guess. He was right.
Oni threw his bunch of car keys at him and Kelvin caught it mid-air.
Kelvin helped the professor with his handbag and they left his office. They descended the stairs and headed towards the faculty car park.
They both headed somewhere.
Somewhere only known to both of them… as yet.
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