The stage was set, yet the spectators were none the wiser of the drama that was to unfold. Henry was a master in keeping his counsel… it took him three weeks to get the perfect timing to showcase his inert skills and he managed to keep his plot to himself. It was vital that no flesh knew what he planned as the consequences would be dire if Ben had a hint of what was in stock.
The previous day had been another turbulent session. Ben must have woken up on the wrong side because his attack on Michael was totally uncalled for. Michael had been a study in diplomacy as he hardly puts a foot wrong. Ben was however desperate for a fight and literally grappled with Michael till they ended up in the ring. His offence was that he dared question Ben’s instructions… he didn’t really question them but asked for clarifications and he did that nicely. But Ben would have none of that and told him where to get off… “If you were that smart, you shouldn’t be here at this stage learning banking”, he barked. Michael was in his forties and had joined the bank’s Training Department a couple of years back from a leading Manufacturing Company in Nigeria. It was rumoured that some Directors had vested interests and had been frustrated by his puritan approach as they couldn’t get their inflated training deals approved. His work was consequently rubbished and he ended up as an Account Officer under Ben. It was even insinuated that Ben was under instructions to make life miserable for him and get him to resign his appointment. Michael had been surprised by Ben’s reaction and told him it was uncalled for. By the time Ben started hitting his desk and working himself up to a frenzy, Michael retreated and sunk into his seat, embarrassed.
Henry’s motivation on that Tuesday morning was at its peak. When it got to his turn to make his report, he started with a review of his business calls the previous day. Then he threw the bait by mentioning the Company; Kingston Investment. He had prospected the Company in the past and Ben had warned him to discontinue his efforts due to the MD’s questionable integrity. “What are you still doing with that man? I thought I had warned you to stay clear of him”? Ben asked impatiently.
“I have a target to meet and they have the transaction to help me achieve that target, why can’t we just carefully structure the facility and mitigate whatever risks…” Henry was still mid way in his argument when Ben screamed that he should just shut up and move to the next item. There was palpable shock on everyone’s face when Henry fired back, “I don’t understand why you have to bully everybody. I don’t appreciate you interrupting me and screaming at me to shut up. If you have a point to make, you can do that without all the foul language”. It was an out of body experience for Henry as he watched “this rude boy” deliver the punch and saw how Ben’s face contorted from surprise to indignation and then rage.
Ben almost slapped him but somehow managed to restrain himself and screamed, “get out of my office”. Henry stormed out ranting about how people needed to respect others if they wanted respect in return. The meeting ended soon after, the atmosphere wasn’t conducive for any meaningful discussions.
Olu and Chuma gave him high fives excitedly. Funke flirtatiously winked at him and hailed him “Henry darling, you no gree today o”. Michael just shook his head and walked back to his desk while Stella totally ignored him and immersed herself in her work.
After the euphoria had died down, Stella had called him aside and berated him. “What was the meaning of that stunt you just pulled there? It’s either you have secured another job or you are on some sort of cheap drugs. If you have another job, then you should put in your resignation before your tongue gets you into serious trouble”.
Henry couldn’t concentrate throughout the day. His much anticipated reward was devoid of the satisfaction he had craved, especially after his actions met with Stella’s disapproval. A dour pall hovered over the office the entire day and even Olu’s usual jokes took flight. Ben largely kept to himself, jettisoning his usual practice of walking into the Marketing Floor at will. Even when he had occasion to meet with Henry during the day, he barely made any eye contact. He was clearly still upset and deeply hurt and Henry was beginning to feel some remorse for his actions. The deed was however done and there was no way to turn back the hand of the clock.
As Henry struggled to sleep that night, his mind drifted to the apt lines in one of Oliver De Coque’s classic songs; “the animal that would jump around with the monkey will break his legs and when the rat plays with the lizard in the rain, the lizard dries up but the rat remains wet”. Just for a moment of pleasure and perhaps to be acknowledged as a hero, he had gone ahead to awaken and explore emotions that were long dead and now he couldn’t deal with his conscience. He resolved that night to find a way to make amends… His life was too precious to be frittered away on regrets.
Wednesday morning couldn’t come too soon. It was a full house and the meeting commenced on schedule with the usual prayers. As Ben was about to make his opening remarks, Henry spoke up; “Excuse me Sir, I will like to say something”. He could feel six pairs of eyes boring into him and quickly took his opportunity to speak, not waiting for Ben’s consent. He began; “I want to apologise for my uncharacteristic outburst yesterday. It was in the heat of the moment and I am deeply sorry for my actions. Please accept my sincere apologies”. There was absolute silence in the room. It took Ben a couple of minutes to regain his composure and respond soberly; “It is okay Henry, sit down and lets get on with the meeting”.
Henry was relieved to clear his conscience and regain his peace of mind. He knew he still needed to work extra hard over the months to rebuild his relationship with Ben, who was likely to still treat him with suspicion. Olu and Chuma felt the apology was not necessary as the man got what he deserved. Funke expressed her disappointment in her unique way, “O boy, you don fall my hand again.”
Henry did not care for their opinions but was however pleased with the warm smile he received from Stella and Michael’s words of commendation; “That was a good one, Henry. You never cease to amaze me”.
When he eventually had time to discuss with Stella, a couple of days later, She came up with another of her classic quotes; “Henry, your maturity is neither measured by the size of your muscles nor the intensity of your arguments but by your ability to bridle your tongue and control your emotions. To excel in this Industry, you just have to learn to manage your Boss”. Henry marveled at her capacity to communicate her thoughts and always exploit every opportunity to plant her convictions. He however took note to pay closer attention to her. Like they say, “one can’t be in the water and let soap get into his eyes”.