The Chronicles of Okiemute in Lagos
It was the last of the three days given to Okiemute to go get his things and to officially resume duties at Furlong Technologies. He had been using the free days to think about the new journey he was to embark on at Furlong. He has spent a good time analysing the working conditions, vis a vis, the remuneration, the intra staff relationship law, and a number of years he must commit to the company before talking of marriage. He could not still understand in all honesty why someone will be asked not to marry because of work. Above all, the fear of poverty outweighed all the conditions put together. He had done multiple mental calculations of what the money he would be making at Furlong could do for his family. He had planned how he intends to complete his late father’s building in Warri from the first instalment. At least his mother and younger ones will leave the rented apartment, saving them the constant landlord harassment over unpaid rent. He really wished they had paid him that first instalment instantly, so that he can quickly alleviate the suffering of his mother. “Two months wait won’t kill her”, he said, consoling himself.
He checked his time, it was already past noon and he was yet to leave the bed, let alone to have breakfast. “If Furlong had known that I came to Lagos with all that I owned in life in one leather box, they won’t have bothered giving me three days to go and bring my things”. He laughed at himself while walking to the bathroom to wash his mouth. As he was there, his phone started to ring. “Who would that be?”, he thought. He decided to finish brushing his teeth before going to the room to pick the call. The call ended the first time, and the phone starts ringing again almost immediately. “It must be the same person”, he said to himself while still washing his mouth. The phone rang and stopped. As he walked back to the room, it started ringing for the third time. He scurried into the room, reached out to the phone that was lying under the rumpled bedspread, and without looking at the caller, he picked it up.
Okiemute that could not remember the last time he greeted with his mother’s tongue on phone, started by saying “migwo ma”. To him, it is only his mum that can consistently call him until he picks up. His friends knew that once he did not pick their call after their first or second attempt, he must be very busy or sleeping, so they don’t bother calling again. He will be the one to return the call at a later time. He was shamefaced when he heard, “this is Sandra from Furlong Technologies. Please, am I speaking with Okiemute?” He went dumb!
“H…he..he-llo Sandra, how are you doing”, he stammered, trying to find his rhythm. “I hope no problem”, he continued. She went official again as she always does, “I am directed to remind you that you are to resume tomorrow”, he cuts in, “of course, I am aware, I am in Lagos already”. Acting as if no one was talking, she continued without responding to what Okiemute said, ” you are billed to have your ten minutes interactive session with Mr Whyte tomorrow by 9 am, so you are expected to be in the waiting room by 8:45 am. Thank you.” She dropped the call immediately she was done speaking. His heart started panting, he had tried in the last two days to take Sandra off his mind, but something kept telling him that the feeling was mutual. The way she tried to rush off the phone shows she too is fighting the ‘Okiemute effect’, “but then why not open up to him so they can fight the battle together?” He asked himself. “Who would risk their job and all the sacrifices they had put into it, for a total stranger”, he thought. Even if he was in her shoes, he will have to put his emotions in check, or even go for deliverance than to lose all the years he has invested in a company like Furlong Tech, than to break the rules of engagement for mere emotional ties with a new staff. He wouldn’t blame her that much, she was doing what every sane person would do.
He stood there and stared on the phone for another ten minutes, contemplating whether to call her back or not. What if he calls her back and someone else picks the call? It was the official line after all, and anyone could walk in to pick the call. He wouldn’t want to create an air of suspicion around him so early in the company, he has to ‘give himself brain’ and jettison the idea before he lands himself into serious trouble. “When there is a will, there is a way”, he kept repeating it to himself as he walked into Bola’s kitchen to find if there is anything he could eat. He scavenged the whole kitchen but found nothing enticing. Bola hardly cooks during the week save weekends, so it was very unlikely for him to have something in the house. The rice Okiemute prepared the day before, was what they both ate at night. Not in the mood to cook another pot of rice, he decided to bear the hunger till 2 pm, in other to effectively skip breakfast and have lunch.
As he waited patiently for 2 pm, he started putting his things together in preparation for a life in Lagos. He brought out the shirt and trousers with a tie to match, in anticipation for his first official day in a corporate organisation, and his first time to meet Mr Whyte in person. The multiple award-winning software developer in the country. In the world of programming nerds and geeks, Mr Whyte is an authority. He paused once more to envisage how the meeting will go. He rehearsed how he would express his compliments and show respect for his work without being seen as patronising. He rehearsed four different lines, with the hope that he would be able to stumble on one by default if he got tensed up.
He left the box open, as he was waiting for Bola to come with the clothes he promised to get for him from Yaba on his way back from work. Though he wanted to manage his first month at Furlong Technologies with his old clothes, Bola had insisted that it will not send a good impression about him. In his opinion, since the job is secured and the remuneration is fair enough, getting a few good clothes, even if it is just three long sleeves shirts and two trousers, is not a bad idea. To cut cost, Bola had offered to buy what he calls ‘first grade’ from the market at Yaba. He smiled again as he recalled the last line Bola used to have his way when he was expressing his dislike for buying used clothes. As he kept complaining over the annoying smell these fairly used clothes have, Bola replied, “you that can’t stay without wearing perfume, shouldn’t be the one complaining of the peculiar scent of fairly used clothes. Or you think it doesn’t irritate me when your perfume can be perceived from a mile? And you deceive yourself that it is the ‘Okiemute’ effect.” The way he said “Okiemute effect” made him roll on the bed laughing. Bola can be a pain in the ass when he is convinced of anything. He would defend it with all his might to drive home his point, but that is why Okiemute likes him. He has been like his ‘check and balance’ device, ensuring he did not become a rogue completely. After graduation, he told his childhood friend in Warri, that his graduation from Delta State University without joining a secret cult group was possible because of Bola. At a point he was suspecting Bola of using charm to know what will happen. He still find it difficult to believe that someone could have a very clear discerning spirit.
He held this opinion of Bola due to different cases in their undergraduate days, where he predicted outcomes of events, and it played out just as he had said it. Three scenarios stood out in Okiemute’s memory. The first one was at a party. It was in their first year at the university. Back then, himself and Bola weren’t that close as friends per se. They were more like lodgemates whose relationship is being strengthened as they were also in the same department. A particular guy in his final year invited Okiemute to his birthday party at an hotel in Abraka, away from campus area. At the birthday, they now announced that selected ladies and guys would be going to the beach for an after party. Bola who only came to the party with Okiemute was not selected, but Okiemute was. Bola went out of the hall to ease himself, and found two guys that came for the party talking. One was taken while the other was left out. Bola became curious. He walked up to them, apologised for eavesdropping and asked, “do you have any idea how the selection was made?”. One of them replied, ” I guess my friend was chosen because he was the one they invited ab initio, and I only accompanied him here”. Bola thanked them and rushed inside. “How did you know the guy that is celebrating his birthday?” “What do you think is the criteria for the selection of those going for the so-called after party?” “Do you know the beach they are talking about?” “Why are they offerring to take you guys as a group to the beach, and asking those that came with their cars to leave it here?” Why can’t everyone go to the said venue on their own since they already have invitation cards?” Okiemute was angry as he kept shooting questions at him, without giving him space to answer anyone. So he felt his friend was not happy because he was not selected and so don’t want to go home alone. Angrily, he stood up and dragged Bola with him outside the hall. As they got out of the hall, he still dragged him outside the gate, like a big brother taking his kid bro home. The two guys Bola met outside, saw him being dragged out and became curious to know what was happening, so they followed from behind. Immediately Okiemute stepped outside the gate of the hotel, he stopped a bike rider and climbed on it, Bola sat behind him without saying anything and they went home. The other two guys were confused and went home too. Long story short, news soon filtered into the campus on Monday that two guys and a lady that attended a birthday party were missing. Their friends reported that they were taken to a beach for an after party, but the handlers of the beach said no birthday party took place at the beach that day. Rumours had it that they were forcefully conscripted to a particular cult group on campus, and that those that died might be because they resisted being part or they couldn’t take the beating, they term ‘blending process’.
The other time was at their regular restaurant in school. One fateful day, they bought food and were about to start eating when Bola asked them to leave and that he is not comfortable with the ambience. The lady was surprised and tried to persuade them to eat, “asking if the food was not sweet?” Bola paid for the untouched meal, and they left. In less than ten minutes, a water tanker lost control and ran into the restaurant. One person died, three lost their legs including the woman that owns the place. The news of the guys that abandoned their meal and left the place went viral on campus. Everyone wanted to know how Bola knew that danger was looming in the air? The third one was one girl he was attracted to while on campus. The girl was so beautiful that hardly could any guy keep his eyes straight without looking back if she happens to walk pass you on the way. Howbeit, she and Bola were cat and rat. Bola told him point blank that he did not catch the gitl with his ‘Okiemute effect’, but the girl caught him because she was sent to him. This happened in the first semester of their third year. Thinking Bola wanted her and so he was being jealous, Okiemute started seeing her secretly. Bola soon got a tip that she was the girl friend of a cult lord, and that the plan was to force Okiemute to join their cult group as the punishment for daring to date the girl friend of a cult lord. It took the intervention of the school management, his mother, and the Head of Department, to save him from the constant harassment that followed. These are some of the reasons that made them very close. That’s why he hates to go against Bola’s opinion.
The hunger seems to be piercing like needles, and he could not wait until it is 2 pm as initially planned. He looked at his watch, it was about fifteen minutes past one. He stood up, picked his wallet and went out to find something to eat. “I cannot come and go and die of hunger”, he said to himself, as he shuts the door.
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.