It’s a nice feeling when you come back to Nigeria after living in the UK for a decade and not have to miss certain ‘luxuries’ like a good ol’ roast dinner – God bless the British! In this picture my mum’s hands (on the left) and my sister’s hand (on the right) prepared this sumptuous dish of roasted pork, roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, stuffing and home-made gravy (God bless ’em). This was on New Year’s day which fell on a Wednesday hence the cause for special chow. By the way, the two hands in the middle are my dad’s which had no involvement in the cooking, just the eating. My hands were busy taking the picture, obviously 🙂
…Maybe it was the Bad cop’s AC that was malfunctioning or the prospect of having to (effectively) sign my life away. But whatever it was, that heat was hotter than N1000 Suya consumed at 12noon inside a jam-packed Moluwe…in stand-still traffic.
Where’s a lawyer when you need one? I had practised all damn night for this interview and even went online to study common interview questions. I was now in a 1-2-1 situation with a guy who invariably wanted to do a 1-8-7 on my 4-1-9, lying ass. There was no way I was going to commit to bringing N200m during my 6 month-probation! Even armed robbers were not making that kind of salary, were they?
In those last few seconds, as I stared at the contract and the BIC biro lying next to the dotted lines, I imagined what my life would be like on a daily basis – it sure beat any scary movie I’VE ever seen! You wake up in the morning…stressed. Drive to work…stressed. Sit at your desk…mega-stressed because you sure aint going to get N200m just by staring at your laptop. You shudder at the mere sight of your boss because you know what’s coming next: ‘T’! How much have you brought??? – Thats how your boss responds each time you say ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’, ‘Good evening’ or just when he sees you in the office and not outside begging marketing. I snapped out of my daydream. This is not how my life would end, I thought. What would the conman in Thomas Crown Affair do? I had to think and think sharpish. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks (EUREKA!)
Me: Wait, I still have another interview with your Regional Director so maybe after…
BC: It doesn’t matter. Just sign.
Me: But what if… he gives me a higher target? (giving my ‘I told you so’ facial expression)
BC (Ponders) Ok, when you finish come back and see me.
Me: Phew! (I think I’m going to be sick…)
I went across to the RD’s office and to my surprise the interview, just like the AC, was pretty cool. He didn’t mention anything about ridiculous financial targets or death warrants commitment agreements. We had a nice chat about the responsibilities in the new role and how I was expected to drive my end of the business – consumer products of the electronic variety. At the end of the interview I timidly asked if I had to see anyone else (knowing full well that Bad cop said I should see him when I’m done).
RD: No, our HR will get in touch with you soon.
Me: (In my mind, yaaay!) Thank you.
Now it was time for the hard part – my getaway. You see, there was only one staircase that led downstairs but it was right by the Bad cop’s office. The office had large windows so I knew he would see me if I tried to bypass him. I wish I could say that I summoned about 20 other guys who dressed like me and had agreed for us to all wear bowler hats to confuse Bad cop (Thomas Crown Affair) but sadly, I’m not that well connected. Instead, I waited in a corner and took a deep breath…then I walked past…head down, really fast.
BC: (Door opens) Wait! …Hey-ssssssss! …wait! ….Oga! Abeg, help me call that man…Wait! …ssssssss!!!
As I exited the building with supposedly deaf ears I looked across to my dad’s driver who was parked near the bank’s gate. As I began to jog to the car I prompted him to start the engine (just in case Bad cop was making his way behind me). The driver must have been thinking 1 of 2 things when I jumped in shouting, ‘GO-GO-GO-GO!’ – Either I had come to the wrong bank and was late for my interview elsewhere OR I had just stolen millions (ahead of my intended target). We fled the scene and like Sodom & Gomorrah I didn’t dare look back.
About 2 weeks later I received a letter from that bank. I opened it, prayerfully, hoping it wasn’t one of those ‘Unfortunately…’ letters. I breezed through the first paragraph which was purely introductory. By the time I skipped to the second paragraph and read just 4 words, ‘We are happy to…’ I went ballistic. I vaguely remember popping open a bottle of wine after going through my remuneration package and jubilating with my family. Everything conveyed in my offer letter was more than satisfactory. I still did about 3 detailed searches on the letter for any dotted lines linked to the dreaded ‘commitment agreements’ until I was absolutely certain that there was no hidden catch.
Consequently I accepted the offer. I was to resume in March 2007, allowing me enough time to get myself together with regards freighting my stuff, evading gym and internet subscription payments, applying for last minute UK loans, a last glance at the Red Light District, etc. I was looking forward to grabbing this unique job opportunity by the neck and asking it ‘Who’s your daddy, b**ch?’ I had faced my fear and God rewarded me with my F.E.A.R.
…In 2009, however, I have come to terms with a new fear…
F.E.A.R.S – Finding Eligible And Religious Spouse
The saga continues…
Of all the fears in the world there’s only one I dreaded the most. It was not bankruptcy, failure, death, a terrorist attack or even the future invasion of flying cockroaches. The only thing I really feared when I left London and arrived in Lagos (Dec, 2006) was my F.E.A.R (First Employment After Return).
On boarding the Emirate flight from Heathrow I experienced worrisome levels of anxiety. I was fidgeting and twitching like a drug addict looking for his last Ecstasy pill – I was a nervous wreck. As I fastened my seatbelt I only watched the air steward’s safety demo so that I could pinpoint the location of the nearest emergency exit…and make a desperate run for it.
It was a long shot, I thought: Quitting my banking job, abandoning my friends, clubs, bars, restaurants, gym, constant electricity supply, and all for what? A chance to settle down in my motherland and make my own little impact, that’s what. I guess the initial panic I encountered stemmed from the subconscious comparisons I was making – McDonald’s…Mr. Biggs, Quaker’s Oat-So-Simple…Golden Morn, Oxford Street…Shoprite, London Energy…Bi-monthly electricity supply, British Gas…Half-empty Gas cylinder, Starbucks…Nescafe + Three Crowns milk, HMV…Street Hawkers, …etc. Some passengers around me were praying so I prayed too. Sadly my prayer wasn’t answered – the plane still took off.
‘There goes my emergency escape plan’, I thought. I sat back and meditated during the long flight, trying to reassure myself that everything would work out for the best. Once I landed it seemed peculiar that I initially boarded alone but on getting off there was 3 of us: The Optimist, Me and the Pessimist. It was a struggle, bumping into each other amidst the luggage. But soon after checking out of Murtala Muhammed Airport I felt really positive with my return. The Optimist and I got into a car-hire and drove to the family home (I had earlier handed over the Pessimist to Immigrations…no bribe required).
Back at home, my dad had arranged a couple of meetings through some of his clients in the banking world. He had handed the baton over to me and the rest of the race was mine to win. Damn those bank interviews! One of them was actually an Endurance test – at least that was all I stuck around for. After an exhausting bench-warming marathon, despite being told to come for interview at 10am, I got up and just walked out. I gained nothing. Instead I lost 3 strands of scalp hair, 5hrs of Nintendo gaming time, and both my ego and my ‘yansh’ were deflated. That bank called 1.10pm to tell me that ‘the panel’ was ready to see me. I remember hissing though it wasn’t meant out loud.
The other bank I went to for interview gave me a more interesting experience. It was the ol’ Good cop-Bad cop routine (with a Naija twist of course). I walked into the good cop’s office, suited and booted, only to be asked 2 questions: ‘What do you have to offer?’ (Pretty normal question) and ‘Why on earth would you want to come back and work in Nigeria?’ (Wetin consign you sef!). Notwithstanding, I answered. He scribbled. I gave him my best smile. He gave me a squinted look then he scribbled some more. Note to self – No more Eddie Murphy smiles.
The Bad cop held true to the title. He made me wait 30mins in his (Prison cell-sized) office. Well if your office was half the size of the Good cop’s then you’d be mean too. Anyway, being mean is still better. This guy was brutal:
BC: What is your CABAL size?
Me: I beg your pardon sir?
BC: Ah-ah! Your CABAL in your last banking job?
Me: Sorry sir but could you please explain what you mean by ‘CABAL’?
BC: Ah-ah!?…(looks at my cv) Oh ok, you worked in LONDON, I see. So, what was the volume on the accounts you managed? Give me the naira equivalent.
Me: I don’t have the exact figure…but it was a lot.
BC: How won’t you know? You should know! It is your responsibility!
BC: So how much are you committing to bring to this bank?
Me: ‘Committing’ sir?
BC: Eh-now…give me a figure.
Me: (2-minute silence) what figure is reasonable sir?
BC: (Laughs) you should be the one to tell me. What level are you applying for?
Me: SBO (Senior Banking Officer)
BC: So you should be able to do at least N200m…that’s even too small, but you just arrived, abi?
Me: (Gulp followed by adjusting my neck-tie for air supply) Y…….es.
BC: So how are you going to achieve this N200m target?
BC: eEEehn! Like who? (Gets out his pen and opens his diary/notepad)
Me: I have like 5 top clients, Nigerians, whom are planning to move their accounts to Nigeria (bullshit). They have thousands of pounds (more bullshit). They also know contacts that I can speak to in order to get more funds for the bank (…bullshit overload).
BC: Mm-hmm. (Scribbles) So you should be able to bring N100m within 3months, eh?
Me: I…should be able…to do that, sir.
BC: Whats the problem? Are you okay?
Me: Nothing…Is it hot in here?
BC: No. You’re just not used to Nigerian heat yet. Sign here…
Me: Er…Sign what?
BC: Your commitment agreement.
Me: (In my mind, ‘F**********K!!!’)
To be continued…