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That very way a warrior would feel having won a fierce battle at the warfront was exactly how Engr. Akin Balogun felt the moment he walked out from the ‘dreaded’ office in that fateful morning of Tuesday in the company of Mrs. Ann Oyibo. The office in question, which was situated in Abuja – the Nigeria’s capital territory – was his prospective benefactor.

He had upon request been invited on merit for a holistic scrutiny; the invitation arrived his desk five days back. Having successfully responded to the call made by the office that could best be described as dreaded, he was thereof felt like flying far beyond the sky. Engr.

Balogun was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a reputable engineering construction firm – Cartez Nigeria Limited – domiciled in the city of Lagos, Yaba precisely. He had few weeks back, on behalf of the said company, submitted a quotation, requesting for an award of a contract regarding a proposed road construction.

His demand was informed by a memo published in one of the national dailies, asking interested corporate organizations to apply for such vacancy within a week from the date of the publication. That very Tuesday being 10th July 2012 was exactly the day his firm was asked to report to the Federal Ministry of Works, Abuja to face a panel for onward assessment.

He had embarked on the trip via air with the company’s Secretary, Mrs. Oyibo who before the day had been profusely jittery over the anticipated outcome of the interview. But at the moment, having stepped out of the office after all said and done, the duo could perceive success.

From their feelings, it seemed every required condition surrounding the awaited contract had been met by the revered Cartez Limited. “That was wonderful.” Engr. Balogun whispered to the hearing of his employee as they graciously walked towards the reception room.

“Yes sir.” Mrs. Oyibo concurred. “I quite agree with you.” “I pray everything works fine.” The boss thought aloud. “Same here.” A contract worth of seventyfive million naira was involved, thus it was not needful to assert that such job was the dream of every promising entrepreneur, and Engr. Balogun wasn’t exceptional.

Cartez Nig. Ltd. had spent over ten years in the system and had remarkable antecedents to boast of. Although every other firm invited for the interview could as well have such records to its credit, the said boss saw his as the most outstanding, probably owing to a few convincing responses he provided aptly while he was being screwed in there some minutes ago alongside his secretary. However, since the other firms seeking for the contract were not invited same day with his, he wouldn’t say for sure his chances of securing the ‘hot’ job.

Therein, the duo headed for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja en-route Lagos State with heart full of joy, though apparently surrounded with mixed feelings. “Hello dear.” Engr. Balogun answered the moment he took a phone call from his wife. “Honey, how are you?” enquired Mrs. Balogun. “I am fine.” “Are you through with the interview?” “Yes, my dear.” he said. “As a matter of fact, we are on our way to the airport.” “Really?” “Yea.” he clarified.

“We are already in a cab to the airport.” “So, how was the outing?” “Fantastic!” “Are you serious?” “Sure.” “Oh, thank God.” “Yes oooh!” the boss concurred, glanced at Mrs. Oyibo who was seated right beside him. The secretary smiled, nodded passionately in appreciation to the exclamation. “So, how is Lagos?” Engr. Balogun supplemented.

They left for Abuja in the previous day being Monday, precisely at noon, so the few hours off the city of Lagos was a good reason to assert that a lot may have changed thus far in such populous and popular territory. “Lagos is still hot as you left it.” the wife replied. “Alright,” said the boss. “I will reunite with her soon.” With who?” Mrs. Balogun inquired, couldn’t comprehend the figure of speech.

“I mean, Lagos.” “Okay..” she responded cheerily, heaved a sigh of relieve. * * * * * * “Hello sir.” Engr. Akin Balogun said as soon as his call was taken by the supposed recipient. It was about two weeks after his last trip to Abuja. He had called the office of the Minister of Works to confirm the fate of Cartez Nigeria Limited. “Hellooo,” said the call receiver. “Who is this, please?” “This is Engr. Akin Balogun,” he said.

“One of the applicants for the proposed Ojoteka – Ifite road construction project.” “Okay,” quoth the receiver. “I think I can recall the name,” he added, took a breath. “You are from Cartez Limited, right?” “Yes sir.” answered Engr. Balogun. “Please, am I unto the director of works?” “Yes, you are.” “Okay,” he said. “I actually called to find out our fate.” “Mr. Balogun, right?” “Yes sir.” “I must confess,” quoth the director.

“Your company did very well during the screening section.” He enthused. “Thank you, sir.” “You are welcome.” He responded, paused. “But, there is a little mix-up.” “What kind of mix-up, sir?” “Something really came up,” the director hinted. “And, it is beyond my control.” “Engr. Balogun was silent, remained attentive.

“A serving senator is desperately interested in the contract.” He eventually disclosed. “A serving senator?” “Yes.” “So…?” “I am sorry.” uttered the director. “My hands are tied.” “What..?” exclaimed the applicant. “You mean, I can’t have the contract?” “Exactly.” The director bluntly clarified. “I am really sorry.’ It would interest perhaps shock you to take into cognizance that the Senator in question, or his candidate, never appeared at the interview section neither could he boast of any engineering construction firm let alone a qualified one. “Sir, I can do anything to have the contract.” said Engr. Balogun.

“Please, help me out no matter the conditions.” “It seems you don’t understand, Mr. Balogun?” replied the director. “I am referring to a man that brought me to the position I am now.” He added. At this point, the reality dawned on Engr. Balogun; hence, he became astonished, couldn’t utter not even a word. “Like I said earlier,” the director rode on. “My hands are tied.” He reiterated, paused. “I am sorry, Mr. Balogun, have a nice day.” He supplemented in a low tone, cut the call without much ado. The rest is history, please!

• Nwaozor – novelist, playwright and poet, is Chief Executive Director, Centre for Counselling, Research & Career Development – Owerri

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