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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Bank, I had studied at University, Lagos, phone, CEO/MD and co-founder, my brother.

A week later, I traveled to Vom and met with the man, whom I will refer to Dr. Oyelaja, and the then director of NVRI. The director, a serious looking woman hurled ogbonge questions at me in quick succession. Dr. Oyelaja did not really have much to say. He seemed to have made up his mind. In the end, they asked me to step outside for a moment. In less than five minutes, they invited me back in. “We think you are the right candidate to take up a position in Biochemical Toxicology,” the director said. Those words were music to my ears. I was excited. I rang my brother to tell him. I went to town to look around and returned to my hotel later. I slept in fits and starts that night out of excitement. I had been asked to report for duty in a month’s time. They needed time to fix up the place I was to live in the staff quarters. After three weeks, I called to let them know I would be there in a week, only to be told that the director had travelled abroad. “You have to wait for her to return. “There are certain things she has to approve before you can start,” Dr. Oyelaja explained. I don already get the job, why worry now? I asked myself. Na so I relax for Lagos dey wait make this woman come back. After another month, she finally returned. Then they asked me to report for work on a certain date. I bought the things I felt I needed and got myself ready for work.

As my brother dropped me off at the motor park in Maza Maza he joked about how heavy one of my bags was. “Anyone wey feel your bag go think sey something dey inside, they no go sabi sey na only book full am,” he teased. We laughed as I hurled the bag onto the bus. We said our goodbyes before I boarded. At that point, it dawned on me that I would miss my brother a lot. He had been my rock throughout the difficult job search. “I hope to come visit you soon,” he said. “I will hold you by your word,” I replied. He smiled and walked towards his car. The night bus left soon afterwards, and by morning, I was in Jos. I took a taxi to Vom, which is on the outskirts of Jos. I found Dr. Oyelaja at the restaurant. It was about 11:00AM when I got there. Perhaps he had skipped breakfast. He seemed to have forgotten that I was arriving that day. “Oh it is you,” he said. “Yes, it is me. I told you I’d be here this week,” I replied. “I forgot it was today.” “I won’t disrupt your meal. I will wait for you outside in the taxi,” I said politely. “It is okay. I can talk to you now. Madam, I don finish,” he said to the woman running the staff restaurant as he walked out with me. “Something really came up Victor,” he said. I looked at him hoping I was not running into another hiccup. “What sir,” I asked politely. “You see, the director returned from abroad and mentioned to me that the new due process law means that your appointment has been nullified,” he said. He said that with a high degree of difficulty. I could tell he was sad…well, he appeared to be. Whether he was sad for me or not, I could not tell. I was too shocked to read his emotions.

It felt like a massive rock had just slammed into my forehead. Nobody slapped me but I can assure you that I was beginning to see stars at this point. I felt sick to my stomach. My heart sank violently into my stomach. My legs creaked painfully. I begin hear noise wey no dey there. E be like sey someone dey blow whistle inside my ear. I did not know whether to punch this man or bite him…seriously, I thought of attacking him savagely with my teeth. You don’t really know what your mind is capable of concocting until you are faced with a rather unpleasant situation…a very serious one. Anyway, I stared at Dr. Oyelaja, barely able to utter a single word. Wetin I fit talk sef? “I am really sorry,” he apologized. “But my appointment took effect before the new rule was enacted,” I explained. “Well the director had not done the paperwork. I personally agree with you but my hands are tied here.  Personally think you’d be an asset to us,” he tried to exonerate himself. “Can I see the director?” I asked. “I am afraid you can’t.” “She nullifies my appointment upon her return from abroad and I cannot see her? She made time to see me for the interview but now she is hiding behind her office. If she wants, she can still do the paperwork and backdate the employment date since I was offered the jobs several weeks back. I have been asking for the paperwork and both you and she said I would have it upon arrival, and this is what I am faced with now.”

I looked at the taxi driver who was waiting to be bill me for keeping him as long as I already had at this point, and my luggage sticking their necks out of the boot, and a ferocious wave of anger swept through me. I could not believe this was happening. Wetin I do? I asked rhetorically without verbalizing it. The stinging pain in my chest was like a dagger goring gruesomely at me. “I am disappointed in this country. In the government; in the system; in all of you,” I said to Dr. Oyelaja. I had nothing to lose after all, so I told him what I thought. He said nothing in reply, either out of guilt or in appreciation of my deep stabbing pain. “So there is no solution to this at all?” I asked, wishing somehow that there was a remedy to this mess. “When I asked her the last time, she said there was none.” “I want to see her,” I said. “I am not sure she will see you,” he replied. I walked over to the taxi driver and told him to take myself and Dr. Oyelaja to the director’s office. Reluctantly, Dr. Oyelaja accompanied me. After a heated argument with the director’s secretary, I managed to get a slot to see the woman.

“I am sorry Victor,” she said as soon as I walked into her office. “But someone could have called to tell me not to come all this way mam. I think the institute should at least cover my transport fare,” I argued. “I am not sure we can do that, but I will look into it,” she said. “So there is no way I could stay while you advertise the position, as required by the provisions of the due process act. I could hang around for a while if you could provide me accommodation.” “Hmmm!!” She said as she flickered through her brain. “You could stay actually, but we can’t pay you.” “For how long?” “That, I can’t say.” “Would you be kind enough to provide me with accommodation? There should be a stipulated time for a job advertisement, so I am sure you have an idea how long I’d have to stay and work without pay before I can get the job back,” I pressed. “I am afraid, nothing is certain right now.” I stood there and looked at this woman with rage. “This is what this country has turned into. A country that devours its young has no future. This job was mine. I had it several weeks ago and you failed to do the paperwork. Now you are telling me there is nothing you can do about it. You are not even sure you can cover my transport fare for the inconvenience. I am disappointed in this country and this institute.”

She began to say something but I had heard enough, she was still making excuses. I walked out of her office and straight to my taxi. I dug through my phone and found Florence’s phone number. She was my classmate and project partner back in school. I called and she told me that she was at home. She stayed in Jos with her parents. I gave the taxi driver the address and he took me there. I managed to take a shower and get some much needed sleep. I had called my brother before going to sleep to inform him of how my first job turned out to be no job at all. He was sad, but as usual he was kind and supportive. “Come back to Lagos, Chinoo,” he said. “In God’s time, something will work out.” When I woke up I took another night bus back to Lagos – this one na original back to sender. When I returned to Lagos, I was forced to do something I had been avoiding – apply to a bank. I never had any interest in banking. I was keen to practice what I had studied at University. At the core, I saw myself as a scientist, so to ditch my passion and delve into something else that had little endearment to me was like being dumped by the woman you love very much. It was a painful divorce for me, to ditch science for banking. But at this point, any job would do, I needed to start making money. I sat at the computer in the cybercaf√© and applied to a bank…let’s call it Peak Bank. In less than a week after the application, I received an email inviting me to a test, and that was followed by a phone call to confirm that I was coming to the test.

My brother was on hand again to drop me off in Ikoyi at a Peak bank branch for the test. Weeks went by after the test and I did not hear back from them. Funny how your mind begins to may prophetic pronouncements when you are stuck in the rut. I assumed this had been another woeful attempt at landing a job. I accepted it and moved on to the next application. Thankfully, I still had vestiges of ‘desire’ left in me to keep trying. I have to admit that my tank was running low at an alarming rate though. After sending off a fresh batch of applications, I traveled to the East to spend some time with my folks and other siblings. Just a few days after I arriving in the East, I got a call from Peak Bank HR inviting me to an interview. Na so I pack my kaya begin run back to Lagos. I remember the first interview; I was seated in the lobby with other interviewees and those who had already been interviewed would come by and tell us how tough it was, yet they could hardly remember any of the questions.

Other interviewees wey dey form ajibo before throw way ajibo levels through window. Na so everyone dey ask the person wey dey go inside make them try remember some of the questions. Like sey we sabi one another before, na so we begin discussion class; dey run permutations as to which kain question dey fit ask us. “Wetin be 10% of 835, 245 Naira?” One girl asked me. I answer am and come fire am my own question. Na so she answer me back. Other interviewees joined in. The more information we got from those who had already been inside, the greater the panic levels in the lobby. I could hear my heart drumming away like the drummer boy, and the people seated near me were not any different. All kinds of tunes were composed in that lobby by our pounding hearts as anxiety gripped the atmosphere. Finally, it was my turn to face the verbal firing squad.

I dragged my ravaged mind and body into the conference room. There were three of them. They took turns to grill me intensely. From math-related questions to marketing-related questions; I got them all. I did my best and left. I managed to remember most of the questions I had been asked, so I relayed as much as I could to the people waiting their turn. When I got home, I played those questions and answers back in my head over and over again. It was hard to determine if I actually did justice to them, as most of them are subjective. A week went by and there was no contact from Peak Bank, then another week, and then a month. I began to fear the worst. Come on, I have come this close, I thought. By the 5th week, I got a phone call from Peak Bank. I had been slated for another interview in two weeks. This time, it was at the Peak Bank head office on Victoria Island. I still remember the name of the woman that interviewed me. She told me that the then CEO/MD and co-founder of the bank was supposed to interview all of us, but because of his tight schedule, she had been asked to step in. She was chatty and vivacious, but amid that, you could tell that she was thorough and attentive. Like a suction cup, she soaked in everything you said and later, she asked you a question or two about them. At least she made me relax. Why do you want to work for Peak Bank,” she asked me. Abi no be to make money pay my bills I dey find? I thought, but I could not tell her that.

I gave her one of those fancy answers she was expecting from a prospective staff; typical interview answers. “So who are you? How would you describe yourself? What is special about you?” She asked in detail. I was thinking to myself, if you sabi how far wey I don find work tire, you go sabi sey I be worker. I go work sotey una go tell me to go home and sleep. I give am another fancy answer. We talked about education, traveling, sports and the whole nine yards. She was well versed in these topics and intellectually sound. I felt good when I left her office. This time, it was only two weeks before I heard from them. I got the job!!! I no fit contain my joy. I was thrilled, to say the least. I celebrated with my brother and called my parents and siblings to tell them. Funny how the prospect of making money changes your perspective. I no even worry about being a scientist any more…well at that point, I should say. Soon I started my training. Old boy, e no be easy oh! Everybody was ‘forming’ at first, dropping phoneh like no man’s business. Soon though, most of the trainees in my training class jelled. We really got along well. Meanwhile, I lived in Isolo and I was training on the Island. I had to get up at 4:00AM to catch the staff bus. I used to be at the branch where I was training on the Island before 6:00AM. We would finish training about 6, and it was another long journey back through packed Lagos traffic. I would have to study for the test the next morning (we had tests every day), sleep and get ready for the next day. One afternoon, my body could no longer take the strain. Na so I go inside one toilet cubicle with air conditioner blowing over my head. I set an alarm on my phone for 45 minutes and went to sleep sitting on the…you know.

Story Continues…                CLICK TO READ EPISODE 3

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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