Mr. Jerry Odom had never in his whole life dreamt of being a resident of Lagos, if not as a result of his parents’ persuasions. They had rigorously conscientized him to consider changing environment, which according to them, could be of great help as regards his job-hunting plight.
It was after all these he thought it wise to choose the aforesaid city, which over the years had been reckoned to be the most popular and populous territory in the entire Nigerian society. Yet, since five years back he found his apparent miserable person in the highly revered province, nothing had changed positively in his entire life as against his anticipation, if not that he had added more years to his age; he was 33 when he left for the city, but now 38. The very moment he landed in Lagos, he became a commercial tricycle rider.
He was lucky to encounter a man, Chief Olaja who owned many tricycles otherwise known as ‘Keke’ and wanted to lease one of them – that was at the time not in any driver’s custody – to any interested driver on hire purchase. That was how Chief Olaja who was a well-known businessman operated; he purchased all kinds of vehicles and thereof entrust them on prospective drivers on a hire purchase basis. Unfortunately, in the long run, Mr. Jerry had a misunderstanding with the boss, thus the tricycle was retrieved from him. The incident marked the commencement of another horrible era in his life.
Towards seeking for survival, he needed to jettison his pride. In other to resist the forsaking side of life, he was required to appear like a nobody. In view of this, he wittingly emerged an assistant driver, equally referred to as conductor. This ostensibly implied that he was thrown to fire from frying pan. He operated as a conductor for years till he had a rethink subsequently. It’s noteworthy that he was intermittently vigorously searching for a white-collar job while he was into all these activities, all to no avail.
At a point, having been bounced back at one marketing institution, he almost decided going back to where he came from being Cross-River State but later remained resilient. In the fourth year of his stay in Lagos, having denounced his job as an assistant driver, he gathered the little capital he had and ventured into trading. He activated a small shop where he traded on all sorts of minor commodities, which included confectionaries and provisions. Owing to poor patronage, sometimes Mr. Jerry would consider hawking his wares along the major roads situated within the locality of his humble shop. Each time he hawked, the shop would be kept partially locked. That was how he rolled relentlessly till one fateful day when something very fascinating transpired.
“Jerry!” Mr. Ben exclaimed at the top of his voice as soon as he winded down the windscreen of his black Lexus Jeep having caught the sight of the dude, shocked. Mr. Ben was Jerry’s classmate way back in the University of Calabar (UniCal) during their first degree programmes. This was the first time he would sight him after their NYSC experience.
On sighting him, he purposely applied his brakes right before him as if he wanted to patronize his wares. Of course nothing had apparently changed in Jerry’s life, if not the rags he was putting on, thus Ben needn’t stress himself much before he could recognize him.
On the contrary, a lot had conspicuously changed in the life of the latter; hence, very hectic for the former to place his facial outlook let alone figuring out his current posture which was now huge compared to the previous one that could best be described as ‘lean’. “You can’t remember me?” enquired Ben, smiling as he held his steering firmly.
“Ben…!” Jerry shouted the moment he eventually recalled the old face. “Oh, my Go….d!!” Mr. Ben quietly opened the car door, stepped out and leaned uprightly on it folding his arms. Mr. Jerry on his part was still carrying his wares comprised mainly handkerchief, car phone chargers and chewing gums, among others in his hands as he stare at Ben in silent awe.
“Ben, is this you..?” he managed to say,standing about half a metre away. “This is unbelievable.” “Jerry, a hawker..?” Ben thought aloud, astonished. “What is going on here?” “My brother,” said Jerry. “It’s a long story.” “Please, save the story.” Ben urged. “Just come in, let’s get out of here.” He asked, gesticulating. Consequently, they both hopped into the vehicle and Ben drove off to a nearby relaxation joint. Thereafter, Jerry successfully secured a good job at Century bank where his friend, Ben was serving as a Regional Manager.
The employment after several years of fruitless search brought an endless moment of jubilation in the life of the beneficiary and of course that of his overall family. It was needless to assert that he owed the benefactor (Ben) unquantifiable thanks cum salutations for bringing to an end the seeming cursed era. Years on as God would have it, Mr. Jerry Odom emerged as the Human Resources Manager (HRM) of the establishment at the Lagos headquarters. “Good morning, sir.” One of Mr. Jerry’s junior colleagues, Mr. Andrew greeted as he walked into the former’s office. “Morning, Mr. Andrew.” responded the HRM. “How are you today?” “I am fine, sir.” quoth Mr. Andrew. “Thank you.” He added, standing.“So..?” said the 42-year-old Mr. Jerry. “Sir, I have come to inform you that the team is ready.” “You mean, the interview crew?” “Yes sir.”
The bank had scheduled to conduct an oral interview on some job applicants on that fateful day. And Mr. Jerry being the HRM was according to the firm’s custom the head of the screening team, which Mr. Andrew was the secretary. “Alright.” replied Mr. Jerry. “I will be with you in a moment.” He said, looked at his wall clock; it was 10:25am.
The interview was meant to commence at 11:00am, but Mr. Jerry needed to intimate the members of the 7-man screening committee on the finishing touches of the nitty-gritty of the awaited task, thus he was supposed to meet with them before the scheduled time. “Okay sir.” quoth Mr. Andrew. “Let me rush back to them while they await your presence.”
“Is alright.” On hearing the response, Mr. Andrew smartly turned his back on the boss and walked away enthusiastically. Eleven O’ clock at the dot, the oral interview began as planned. Wonders indeed shall never end as the first applicant to walk into the screening hall happened to be Mr. Jude Akpan. It would be recalled that Mr. Akpan was the man who humiliated Mr. Jerry right in his office years back in Calabar, Cross- River State while he (Jerry) was job-hunting with his first degree. He was then the HRM of Catalog Production Limited, one of the firms where the latter sought for employment when he was still resident in the said city.
Catalog Limited went into liquidation just a few years after the incident, thereby rendering Mr. Akpan jobless. The experience made the then happily married man left Calabar for Lagos in search of greener pasture, leaving his wife and four children behind. The moment Mr. Jerry Odom caught the sight of him, he stood up unwittingly, staring at him in silent awe.
On his part, Mr. Akpan who couldn’t believe his eyes stopped immediately as he tried to fathom if truly the image he was seeing was Jerry’s. The other members of the screening crew became marvelled over the abrupt change of mood displayed by the boss alongside the applicant. Having fully absorbed and comprehended the picture, Mr. Jude Akpan quickly turned his back and ran out of the hall. 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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