Henry woke up with a start, the alarm had been beeping but he was too tired to heed the call. Yesterday was tedious for him, he was in traffic for over two hours and got home hungry and tired. The rain that fell all through the night didn’t help matters. It was soothing and he slept like a baby, forgetting that he had to go to work.
He looked at his watch, it was already 6 a.m, how in the world would he get to the office on time? He quickly dashed into the bathroom to freshen up, he was in a state of panic, the keys to the entrance of the bank were in his custody. He dressed up, grabbed his jacket and ran out of the house, there was no point using his car, he would definitely have an accident in this state. At the bus stop, he got into the first bus heading to CMS and heaved a sigh of relief. The bus was almost full and shouldn’t waste precious time picking more passengers. He dropped his head in his open arms and prayed, “God help me”.
Henry works in a Lagos Island branch of a Commercial Bank. He is intelligent, young, ambitious and hard working. His Parents are retired Civil Servants and reside in Port-Harcourt. Henry however moved to Lagos right after his National Youth Service in Kano State to look for a job. He didn’t have to walk the streets of Lagos for long before he landed this job. He was eager to impress and learnt his trade as an Account Officer fast. He was doing well and had even been promoted in his two years with the bank. Henry might have his vices but late-coming wasn’t one of them. All these issues started with his acquisition of a car.
It was a good deal. He had won the auction for one of the bank’s cars, which had been fully depreciated and was being sold off to staff. The auction was by a random selection and his name had come up… he only had to pay the scrap value of N250,000 for a 2006 Toyota Corolla. Henry just metamorphosed into a confirmed Lagos Big Boy. The car was in good condition and he only needed to do some minor works to make it classy. About a month after, Uncle Chike had called him to join him for a discussion. Something was definitely wrong; he had been living with his Uncle, in his Duplex in Surulere, since he came to Lagos and had never been accorded this kind of priviledge. In his usual manner, Uncle Chike started with proverbs; “An Elder does not sit and watch a goat go through labour pains, tethered to a stake”. Henry was not in the mood for proverbs and quickly asked him to speak in plain terms. The message was that it was appropriate that he should get his own accommodation; Uncle Chike was doing his duty as an Elder to guide him aright.
That was how Henry started looking for his own apartment. He knew what must have transpired. His Uncle didn’t have time for all these petty things. In fact, he was evidently impressed when he brought a bottle of wine to him, to show him the car. Uncle Chike’s wife however wore a plastic smile that day; Henry didn’t need a soothsayer to know that she put her husband up to this. He was not angry, but disappointed that a man he held in such high esteem would be so easily manipulated. He wondered what her motivation could have been, they had enough space in the compound to take his car, why push him out when he was not ready. He had some money saved and began the tedious task of looking for a house, with all the peculiar pranks of the Lagos Agents. Two months down the line, he still had not been able to get a self contained apartment in Surulere.
When his friend, Ejike secured admission to study for his Masters Degree in the UK, Henry did not think twice to quickly pay him off and take over his mini flat at Ojodu. That was when his problems started, he didn’t bargain for the heavy traffic he faced daily on his way to and from work. In his days in Surulere, it took him about 30 minutes to get to the office. Now, even when he leaves his house by 5:30 a.m, it would still take him about an hour to get to the office. That was still fine, considering that the daily Early Morning Sessions starts normally by 7:15 a.m and he had ample time to pack his car, listen to his favourite sports program and walk with his colleagues to the office.
Today was different. There was no way he could make it to the office before 8 a.m. He resigned to his fate and prepared his mind for the rough day he was sure to have. The bus driver drove as if possessed, Henry didn’t mind as far as the guy could get him to the office faster. They arrived CMS bus stop and he quickly got on a bike to his office at Martins Street. He was sweating when he entered the office. Eno, the new, charming Customer Service Officer smiled coyly at him and said “Good Morning Oga Henry”. The other girls just took one look at him and burst out in laughter. He worried for Eno and took a mental note to counsel her before those girls corrupt her, especially that devious Kemi. He quickly confirmed from Eno that the Branch Manager had opened the office with his spare keys and was grateful that his indiscretion did not create any major scene or embarrassment for the bank. He batted away her questions on the cause of his lateness and quickly ran upstairs to see if he could still make the meeting. As he stepped on their floor, his heart sank as he heard the unmistakeable voice of his Branch Manager. “Henry Ejezie”, he bellowed in his thick Igbo accent, “see me in my office immediately”.
Henry knew he was in for a “shredding” session and braced himself for the dressing-down that was sure to come. Ben Okosi is instinctively brash, abrasive and takes no prisoners. He has the gait of a local wrestler and requires no encouragement to pounce on his prey. Henry had jokingly described him to his contemporaries as “Ozodimgba” the Chimpanzee. An encounter with him is not what you would wish an enemy on a Monday morning.
What a day, he mused… when it rains, it pours.