Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - verbally pummeled, buying MTN recharge card, cheque, password authorization, erribly stubborn I was, England for further studies, babe, darling.
On Monday morning, our main boss, Patricia singled me out for intense criticism and reprimand. “You have to learn to be a part of the group. I believe that you are an intelligent young man, and if I am right, you understand that no man is an island. You don’t want to be hated by your colleagues,” she warned me. Everybody in the office was watching while I was being verbally pummeled. I could hear whispers behind me as Fiona and her cohorts enjoyed watching me being chastised. “The next time there is a similar function and you fail to show up again, I will take some actions against you,” she added. “Excuse me mam,” I said. “Yes, how do you intend to defend yourself?” “I am not looking to defend myself; I would simply like to lay my cards on the table.” “Go ahead and lay all you have on the table Victor.” “First, I grew up in the East, so, first I hardly know Lagos. Second, given our work hours, I am not yet able to cope with anything else at the weekend apart from catching up on sleep. I cook at home and I have to clean the apartment in addition to doing my laundry. There is hardly any time for me to do anything else. When I settle properly into this routine, I will figure out a way to attend these functions. Please in case there is another function soon, I may still miss it,” I pleaded my case. “Who does he think he is?” I heard Fiona’s voice in the crowd. Dele, who was my office-appointed mentor said to someone, “He is so stubborn!” “You are not the only one new in town Victor. Okenna is new in Lagos too,” Patricia shot back at me. “But he lives with his uncle and his family and they have house helps that do most of the work at home. He barely does his own laundry,” I argued. She thought about it for a moment. “Find a way to attend these things in the interest of good will and cooperation,” she finally said with a tone of finality.
I nodded and went to my desk. Some weeks later, there was another function, which I did not attend either. This time, Patricia called me aside and talked to me about it. She was an intelligent woman. She knew I was not mandated by any rules to attend, so she decided to appeal to me instead of using coercion. I liked her more gentle approach relative to her previous strategy of shoving the whole thing down my throat. It was several weeks though before I managed to attend a function. She was so delighted to see me there. “I encourage you to attend as much as you can,” she told me at the party. “It could be your turn next, you know. Besides, most people in the office have a wrong impression of you. I think you are strong-willed and opinionated. You are not afraid to say what you think and to stick tenaciously to it. That is a great quality to possess, but it could make you quite a number of unnecessary enemies,” she made further efforts to drive home her point. I could tell she had my interest at heart, but my wahala be sey most weekends, I no dey get enough sleep to be ready for Monday. And with those parties, I got even less sleep. Anyway, I attended what I could and slept through the rest.
The hours were still punishing. I began to wonder how I could live in the same rut for a long time. I had no time for anything else outside work. I could not even make time to go pick up a new pair of jeans or suit for myself. Well, I dey collect salary every month so, I hung onto the job. I began to think of an exit strategy though. In the meantime, our neighbors were under the impression that I had become rich overnight, simply because I worked in a bank. One evening, I was buying MTN recharge card when a young lady said she thought she knew me somewhere. “Did you study at…” She mentioned my University. I took a prolonged look at her but I did not recognize her at all. “I think I remember you were in Microbiology; I was in Geology,” she said. She was spot on, but I did not know her at all. She was one year my senior in school. We exchanged numbers. She lived with her sister and her husband next door. When she asked where I was working, I told her. “Una dey pack Peak Bank money,” she said over the phone. She started calling me every day…I mean every day. Before I sabi am, I don become honey. Shuu!!! I no even sabi how to deal with that one. Every afternoon, she’d call to find out if I had eaten. Before when I no sabi her I no dey chop abi? All of a sudden, she had to make sure I had eaten. “Hey honey, have you had lunch?” She would ask. “Hi Ijemma, I will talk to you later,” I’d say not wanting to accept the forced honey title wey she dey pack give me. Undeterred, she kept at it. I began to avoid her calls, then she began to wait for me, sticking outside until late. “You must be so tired Babe,” she’d say on sighting me laboring down the street, completely sapped of energy.
“Look at you Babe, you work so much. I wish I could help you. Cook for you and clean for you.” I needed that help, but no be like this. My eyes dey even shut as she dey talk, and I did not want to be rude, so I tried to listen at first. I tried hard to make her understand that I needed to be in bed as soon as I could so I could get my four-hour sleep, but she would not listen. “Can I come in with you darling?” She asked one night. “Ijemma, I need to sleep, I am tired. I am afraid, you can’t come in with me.” “Okay next time then” she go answer the rest of the question for me. To my greatest delight, one day she vanished without warning. I did not see her or hear from her in weeks. What a relief! Then, out of the blues, she called with a number I did not know one Saturday afternoon. I had just finished watching Premiership when my phone rang. “Hello,” I answered. “Honey it is not fair oh! You just forgot me like that. You did not hear from me and you no even bother to ask about me,” she complained. I recognized her voice. “Ijemma, I don’t mean to be rude, but I think I should spell out the terms that we are not dating. Please stop calling me Babe, Honey or Darling.” “I am sorry; I was not insinuating that we are dating actually. I was just being nice. It is my way of being nice.” “I don’t like it. Please could you stop it?” “Okay no problem.” A few weeks later, she called again, this time with a different number. “Where are you by the way and why do you keep calling with different numbers?” I asked. “Nothing. It is the one with credit on it.” “How many numbers do you have?” “Three of them.” “So I won’t see another one from you because I have seen three already.” “Yes. So how is work?” ‘Work is fine. So where are you?” “I am in Abuja. I decide to job-hunt here a bit. But if you want us to meet, I can come to Lagos and my sister and her husband won’t know. You can pay for a hotel for me and buy me flight ticket and I will be there next weekend.” She don plan my weekend for me finish! I never even begin repay my parents wey strain themselves to send me to school or my brother wey shoulder all my wahala tire when I no get work, and na hotel and flight from Abuja to Lagos and back I go begin dey pay for…baabu!
“Ije, I am afraid that will not happen,” I said without mincing words. She got off my back for a while, at least. One day I was at the office and she rang. I had picked up before realizing it was her. “Please I am in front of your branch in Maitama right now. Could you send me ten thousand Naira right now so I can go in and pick it up?” She asked, bypassing pleasantries. I was bewildered. She had a lot of guts to ask for money like that. I stared at my phone in utter confusion. “I am on a bike, and I want the okada man to wait or me so I can ride back home right away,” she added. For a moment I was incapable of thinking. I did not know what was going on. I have to end this right now, I assured myself. “Wait, I will text you in a moment,” I said. I went to my desk and continued with the numerous responsibilities that were waiting for me, while I tried to understand what was happening. After about five minutes, she texted to remind me that she was waiting. I rang her back. “Ije, if you ever call tis number again, I will send an official warning to your sister and her husband. I am beginning to feel harassed by you. Stop it!!! Respect yourself. Carry yourself with some dignity like a woman. You are lucky, I for send you inside the banking hall without actually sending the money and you go make a fool of yourself inside. Now get off my back for good!” I hung up on her, and thankfully, that was the last I heard from her. Later on my brother who knew her brother told me that she was in Abuja with her fiancée (who lived there). I was shocked to the bone marrow when I heard that. I got to find out that the other numbers she was using to call me were her fiancée’s. Well, wonders never end!
One Tuesday I was stricken down with cold. I stayed home after calling to tell my boss I could not make it to work. I went to see a Peak Bank-retained doctor for treatment before retiring to bed. The doctor gave me some medication and prescribed a lot of rest and water. Boy, I needed that rest. I switched off my phone and zoomed into the world of sleep. When I woke up late in the evening, I realized my boss had called me severally. The next morning when I got to the office, I was served a query. Wahala no be small. They said I had moved SEVEN MILLION NAIRA into the wrong account. Old boy, 7 million! My mind no even fit comprehend the whole thing. How I take make that kind mistake? I begin look through all the transactions wey I process. I found out that my supervisor had asked me to put the cheque through. He processed the check and failed to spot that the cheque was not supposed to be honored. Obediently, I slammed the cheque into an account that was not supposed to receive that credit. To make matters worse, it was a cheque from another bank. My boss took decisive steps to plug the matter, but she made me believe there was little she could do to help me. “They may honor it and in that case, it will be difficult to reverse. The account owner might see all that money he knows should not be his account and divert it into another account. The bank may believe that you colluded with them to steal the money.” She gave me all kinds of scary scenarios. For some reason I was not as scared I should have been. I had the faith that the system must have a mechanism to deal with such mistakes swiftly, and I was right after all. The money did not go through and the supervisor who had asked me to put the cheque through denied he had asked me to do so. Thankfully, I needed password authorization to put such a hefty amount through, and his password was on the system. In the end, no one was hurt. I dodged a major bullet.
The incidence did little to enhance my popularity though. There was another supervisor…let’s call him Femi. He was in the habit of talking to junior staff rather flippantly. He came to my desk one evening after the 7 million palaver to give me a cheque to deposit into an account. The amount was fairly substantial, so I took my time to scrutinize the cheque. I did all the quality checks to make sure I was doing the right thing. He was not too pleased. “Why you dey waste time, this coconut head? See your head. E be like sey when you dey small you hawk things for street tire. You go don carry tray for head tire, na im make all your hair waka comot your head at this age,” he said sarcastically. I made sure I was not rushed into posting anything through because of his insult. When I was done, then I said to him, “Oga Femi, the way you talk about hawking in the street sounded quite convincing. E be like sey you do am well well when you dey young. E get some Sahara wey dey form for the center of your head, it looks like the handiwork of extensive hawking.” I had a smirk on my face as I said that to him, although I have to admit that anger got the better of me in responding to him. Although he was furious, he was not quite sure what next he might get if he said anything further, so he left. I saw him walk over to another supervisor to complain to him. I could not care less.
I began to miss science though, so I spent some hours every Saturday browsing online in search of scholarships to further my studies abroad. While I was going through the whole gamut of information on the internet, a very dear friend of mine whom I will call JOHN here contacted me. We were classmates back in university and he was working on his master’s degree in England at the time. “Victor, there is a lot of scholarships at my university that I know you are qualified for,” he said. “I know two other people on scholarship and you have a far better result than what they graduated with. I think you should look it up.” I did and a few months later, I was on a plane to England for further studies. Finally, I had an opportunity to get back into what I love very much, and I have not looked back ever since. Meanwhile, a lot of people at work were thoroughly delighted to see my back. Normally at send forth parties, people tend to say nice things about the person who is leaving, even if they don’t mean it. In my case, I had an earful of everything that was wrong about me…what I needed to change and how terribly stubborn I was. I rose to my feet and thanked them immensely. Quite frankly, their opinions did not really carry much weight for me so I was hardly bothered.
Every stage in life has something about it that is worth learning and imbibing. This stage of my journey in life imbued me with incredible resilience; the will to keep going when nothing is working and when the whole world is against you. It taught me how to block off outside noise and focus on my goals and aspirations with razor-sharp determination; I developed a thick skin to criticism…most of it, I should say. I learned to fight for what I believe in and I made some incredible friends along the journey…And enemies too, but you can’t win them all. I will forever be grateful to JOHN, whom I believe will be reading this whole series. He remains a friend so dear to my heart. Also, I learned to put my family first, to keep in mind the sacrifices they made (especially my parents and older brother), to get me this far in life. I learned leadership from my boss at Peak bank, whom I referred to as Patricia in this series. May her gentle and lovely soul rest in peace – she passed away shortly after I had left the country, after a brief illness.
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