The Chronicles of Okiemute in Lagos.
“Visitors are not allowed until 9 am”, the security man at the gate shouted at Okiemute as he tried to enter the company premises. “I am not a visitor but a staff”, he replied. “Then use your gate-pass and enter if you are a staff”, the security insisted. “I don’t have one, at least not yet”, Okiemute replied, trying to explain to the man. “Oga, if you are a staff without gate-pass, sebi you suppose get an ID card. Abi you nor get that one too? No ID, no gate-pass and you want to enter through this place? E nor go work”, the man continued. It was obvious that the man was not ready to hear his explanation. He tried to talk with those were just coming in, to see if they can help him talk to the man. But as soon as he greets them and wants to explain himself, the security man will inteeject with these lines. “Oga abeg nor mind all this people wen dey find work come here. He come dey lie say him na staff for here. He think say na today I start this work? Better tell me truth say you wan check if vacancy dey, I go let you enter, after all the country hard, everybody dey hustle. Na the lie dey vex me”. Once he starts this line, they will just ignore him, slot in thier gate-pass and go in.
He was there confused, thinking what next to do. Then he heard his name, the person was inside a well tinted dark blue Toyota Camry, a very recent model that he was not yet familiar with. As he was wondering who it might be, the window glass was lowered, and he saw the face, Mr Agbaje of all people. He was relieved, finally, he can go in without any further hassle. As he lifted his box to leave the pedestrian gate, the security man started again. “You see yourself, instead of you to just talk true say na big Oga you dey find, you come dey lie say you be staff. Next time nor lie to person wen fit help you ooooh”, he said, stretching his warning finger to Okiemute. He just shook his head without uttering a word and walked towards the trunk of Mr Agbaje’s car. He entered the car, and they drove in together.
The interior of the car was breathtaking. The air-conditioner was far better than the Corolla that brought him to work. The dashboard, the leather chair, the armrest, everything about the car interior was so thrilling. In proper Waffi parlance, they will “dem nor be mate at all”. In his awestruck mode, he did not hear when he was being asked ‘how was his journey from Warri’. “The car was worth every kobo spent to purchase it”, he said to himself. As they parked at a special position marked out for him, that was when Okiemute became conscious that he was not alone in the car. “If I was a lady, I would have fallen for you straight away after driving in such a car like this”, he said to Mr Agbaje. Mr Agbaje smiled, thanked him, and asked if that was why he refused to answer him when he asked: “how was his journey?”. Okiemute was embarrassed, so he was really that lost in a car and did not hear when someone sitting next to him was talking to him? He apologised and stepped down as he kept his gaze on the ground. “Which kind falling hand be this? A whole Warri come dey fall hand based on ordinary car? Chai, I fuck up!”, he thought within himself. Pulled his box from the car and walked briskly towards the stairs.
“You don’t intend to drag that box through the stairs, do you?”, Mr Agbaje asked. “It is not heavy, I can cope”, he replied, as he wanted to hide his shame by going away from him as quickly as possible. “Wait, and let’s use the lift by the other corner. It will be a lot better. It is too early to waste useful energy this morning.” He said, then locked his car and led the way to the elevator. As they ascend slowly in the elevator, Okiemute was experiencing the knee jerk reaction that often betrays newbies using elevators for the first time or persons that are claustrophobic. He tried to conceal it by placing his box close to his left leg, to shield it from the prying eyes of Mr Agbaje, while he kept tapping his right foot in resonance with the rhythm produced from his heartbeat. He took a deep breath and a sigh of relief as the elevator door opens, ushering them to the fifth floor. He pulled his box quickly and came out as fast as he could. “I will stick to the stairs, after all, it is a form of exercise”, he said to himself. There was a very big wall clock directly facing the elevator. It was 8:05 am by the time he got out of the elevator. As Mr Agbaje walked to his office, he pointed the secretary’s office to Okiemute. He was still new in the building and needed directions to find his way around.
When he entered Sandra’s office, she could not hold back her excitement. The broad smile, the glittery white set of teeth, with near perfect dentition made her so ravishing and beautiful. They exchanged pleasantries, then she made a remark that left him startled. “You finally made it in time. This is unlike you”, she said. He could not believe his ears, “you’ve met me just once and you’re passing such a remark like you’ve known me all your life?”, he retorted still in shock. “Have you ever heard of the word ‘first impression last longer’?” She asked with her hands akimbo. “Since I have been in this office for a couple of years now, you are the only one that has come late to his first physical appointment, despite what was at stake”, she concluded. He stood there staring at her. This is what thrills him about her. She always has a way of passing her admonition without giving him the chance to argue. She seems to be the big sister he never had. “I am not an habitual latecomer, as you are painting it. The other day, something happened. And it ruined my plans to be here in time, but that’s a story for another day. Can I leave this box here, why I wait for Mr Whyte at the reception?”, he asked, as he tried to put up a little defence for himself. “Of course you can. The tenancy fee is moderate, and I am sure you will gladly pay like a gentleman that you are”, she replied him, and pointed to a corner where he should keep the box. After placing the box comfortably beside the cabinet, he asked her what the ‘ten minutes with Mr Whyte’ was all about, trying to get a hint of what to expect. “It is company’s procedures”, she replied bluntly. “I know you won’t divulge the details, and you did not disappoint me”, he said smiling. “Well, I hate to disappoint people and thank God I did not disappoint you. The truth is, there is actually no details to tell you”, she replied. “So you mean after all these years that you’ve been here you still don’t have a cue of what he tells them? No one has trusted you enough to share what they discussed with you?”, he tried to pressure her to say something. “With the way you like to find shortcuts, I am afraid you might not work here for two months before you will be asked to excuse us”, she said as she took her seat and started typing with the desktop in front of her. He got the message. He arranged his tie, adjusted his belt and went to the reception to wait for Mr Whyte.
“You must be wondering why you had to hold another screening with me after the rigorous one you had earlier in the week”, Mr Whyte said as he walked into the reception room, stretching his hands towards Okiemute for a handshake. He greeted him warmly, they shook hands and went into his office together. His giant size and very dark complexion took Okiemute off balance. How can someone so dark and big have bright red lips and a soothing voice with a fine British accent? All that he had rehearsed the day before flew from his memory and he was there blank, not knowing what to say. “I invest ten minutes of my time into every one of my employees and within that time they are transfigured from being an employee to a partner. So here at Furlong Technologies, we are all partners in progress”, he explained. “Everyone would want to be free to have a relationship with fellow colleagues if they fall into the specifications they admire in opposite sexes, but there is a problem with that. Firstly, our nature of work makes us work late sometimes, and in some rare cases, we have to sleep here brainstorming, working on software, trying to meet deadlines etc. Those that are married will soon have their marriages ruined if they are allowed to have sexual relationships with fellow workers. They will soon lose the enthusiasm of going home, and before you know it they will be dragged into marital scandal. Scandal is what we abhor here at Furlong”, he continued. “Secondly, discipline will crumble when those saddled with the responsibility are in bed with those they were supposed to correct and discipline. I had the first-hand experience in my former place of work. Board meetings became unproductive as it was a battlefield to settle scores among management staff. When you discipline the bedmate of another management staff, he plots to get his pound of flesh at the next board meeting. And instead of competing with our rivals outside, the competition became internal. I am sure you might have heard the saying, ‘a house divided against itself shall not stand’. I had to apply for study leave as an avenue to take my leave while looking for better options. I sent my resignation letter to my boss three months into my study leave, and was not surprised when the company collapsed about six months later”, he said soberly.
“My friend, we learn from other people mistake and try to avoid them. If we must make mistakes it should not be what we had the opportunity and requisite knowledge to avoid. Our system might not be perfect, but we are working towards creating that perfect system that works seamlessly. So do you want to be a partner with us at Furlong Technologies?” He asked, as he held Okiemute’s hands and folded it gently. He took a deep breath, and replied, “yes, sir. I want to be part of it”. This time he had left his seat and was standing beside Okiemute. Pulling him up, he gave him a hug with his broad hands and giant size stature covering the thin boy in his grasp. He then whispered in his ears, “welcome to Furlong Technologies, and I hope you will like it here!”.
“Your identity card and gate-pass will be ready before the close of work today”, Sandra said to Okiemute, as she took him to his new office.
His sojourn at Furlong has officially kicked off!