In the last episode, I talked about my ridiculous job and how difficult it became to keep my head up especially after Madam L’s exit. I had to endure the job and its frustrations for a little while until a particular incident finally made me decide it was time to wake up and smell the coffee (some folks would say it was time to ‘give myself brain’ and sure I did).
Now, part of my responsibilities as an office assistant and the sole employee of my employer included going out to deliver our stuff – complimentary cards produced, ID cards and also to collect money from defaulting clients. Now, that was a pretty rare occurrence, especially because we hardly had any serious clients at all! We continued to do the usual outsourcing of those printing jobs we could not handle due to lack of the necessary gadgets. Usually, we had such jobs handled by bigger computer centers far away from the office, all in a bid to reduce the cost we had to incur and give our ‘clients’ the impression that we actually ‘did’ the jobs. Of course we constantly had problems with some of these clients especially because of delays in getting their jobs ready or mistaking up one client’s job for another among other stuff. My boss (his name was Iyke. I even related with him on first name basis) was pretty enterprising in his own little right. He never seemed to bother about the fact that his business was quite small or that he lacked most of the facilities needed to execute the jobs he claimed to do. He did his bit in marketing himself and the business to some big companies and organization and even though most of them hardly gave us any jobs (of course they had bigger computer centers handling their stuff), one or two were willing to give us a try and it was in the cause of recouping our payment from one of these companies that I almost got killed.
Whitehorse Limited was a multinational corporation based in Victoria Island and somehow my boss had been able to get the contract to handle the design and production of new complimentary cards and ID cards for its staff. Whitehorse was into importing and exporting, shipping and general merchandise. The contract was definitely worth some good money and Iyke was grinning from ear to ear. I believe it would have been worth a lot more if only we handled the jobs and did not outsource. However, whatever was coming to us was still fair enough, especially considering the financial resources within the capability of this corporation. I was even beginning to get pretty sure that I would get my full salary for the first time plus all previous outstanding balances. Meanwhile, Iyke hoped to give them the best job ever in order to open more opportunities for bigger contracts in future. I agreed with him. On that fateful day, I was to pick up a cheque at Whitehorse Limited as balance payment for the job we had done. I arrived at the company’s office and I was very much impressed with what I saw. These guys definitely had some good money. I flirted with the idea of asking for a job if ever the opportunity arose while I was there. It would definitely have been pretty cool to be working with Whitehorse Limited even as an errand boy rather than stick with Iyke and his stipends.
There was a residential building right beside Whitehorse Limited’s office and there were three men playing cards at the gate. They were all dressed in army uniform making it pretty obvious that they were soldiers or at least they had some military training. I greeted them as I passed by and they responded well. I proceeded to see the guy I was supposed to meet at Whitehorse and he asked me to hold on while he verified some details. It was as though by ‘hold on’ this guy meant something else as I found myself sitting there for almost an hour. To worsen the situation, the so-called guy was not even in sight. I was just about to go to the office I had seen him enter earlier on when he came out and from the look on his face when he spotted me; it was obvious he had totally forgotten about me.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” he said, his countenance showing he meant what he said. “I just sent someone to get the funds from the Accounts department.”
I was double sure he was lying just to cover up his forgetful ass. I sighed impatiently.
“So how much longer do I have to wait?” I asked, hoping for the worst.
“Twenty minutes. Not a second longer.”
I decided that rather than sit and wait another twenty minutes, I would take a walk outside the premises to while away the time. That proved to be a major mistake. Fifteen minutes later, I had taken my walk and was on my way back to Whitehorse. I wonder what I was thinking when I entered right into the premises the men in uniform had been guarding. The soldiers of course had been so engrossed in their cards that they hardly noticed me go in. The gate had been open all along and I just strolled in, obviously assuming I was in the premises of Whitehorse Limited. I had scarcely gone two yards into the premises when I realized my error. Quickly, I turned back to leave and just as I made my move, I heard someone yell.
“Hey you, what are you doing here?”
A man emerged from inside the building. He was a rather stout man, wearing a boubou and trousers and he looked pretty furious.
“Sorry sir,” I apologized. “I was actually going to the next compound.” As I spoke, I made a move to leave the place immediately.
“Stop there!” the man bellowed and his tone caused a shiver to run down my spine. I could instantly smell the trouble in the air.
“Koko! Dunba! Foli! Where are you idiots?” the man barked.
Immediately, the three uniformed men I had seen outside rushed into the premises, saluting the man. My heart raced furiously.
“Who is this boy? Who is he?” the man in boubou asked; more like screamed.
I began to speak quickly. “I was actually going to . . .”
“Sharrrap!” the man yelled again and before I knew what was happening, something as hard as a rock hit me at the back of my head. It was actually a man’s fist – one of the uniformed men’s. I believe I saw stars at that moment. Before I could recover another cut my legs from under me in a swift low kick and I found myself flat on my chest. The man, who was obviously their boss muttered some words in Hausa or Fulani (I’m not quite sure) and these guys gave me a good beating that took me within metres of Heaven’s gate (at least so I felt). I knew these guys were going to kill me if I did not do something fast and suddenly I began to heave and touch my chest, signaling something to the man in charge. The men continued to kick and flog me with their belts.
“Please, I’m asthmatic! I can’t breathe.” I managed to half scream. That was the only thing that came to mind at that moment. Of course I was not (and have never been) at all asthmatic but I bet anyone would even claim to be dead if need be to escape what these lunatics were doing.
“Let him die! Fool! Barrao bansa!” the man snickered for a second before telling the men to leave me alone. I could hardly move for a good while but I was glad to still be alive. The man retreated into the main house and the soldiers pulled me up and took me outside.
“My friend, sorry o,” one of them said. “Na our oga be that o.”
“Thank God say e no talk say make we kill you sef. We for kill you be that,” another said. That was the soldier who had first used the belt on me.
“Na true o,” the third soldier concurred with his colleagues.
I could not fight back the tears pouring from my eyes. I had never felt so abused, insulted and cheated in my entire life. At that moment, if I had the powers, I would have rained fire from heaven on the ‘bastard’ of a man and his ‘zombie’ soldiers. In fact, it was at that point I truly understood what Fela meant when he called soldiers ‘zombies’. Imagine what the soldier said. They would really have killed me if their boss had asked them to. Painfully, I dusted my clothes. The stupid fools even had the guts to help me in dusting my clothes too. I did not utter a word. I returned to Whitehorse and it took all I had in me not to curse the guy I had met earlier when he told me I would have to come back the next day because the accountant had to check on some details that had not been confirmed. I walked out of the premises and again, the soldiers waved at me, apologizing. I totally ignored them. They could rot in hell for all I cared. I swore by my bruises and rough clothes that they would all get their rewards someday. I proceeded back to my office. As far as I was concerned, that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. I decided to quit my job.
SEE YOU IN THE NEXT EPISODE OF GEEBEE’S TRIP