MY PRODIGAL STORY
By Emmanuel Akaeze
Straight out from camp, I was posted to the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research (NIPRD), Abuja. Getting to the office premises, I was told that neither I nor any other corps member would be paid a dime; my transport fare to and fro the institute was 850 naira daily so accepting the posting was never really an option.
I had made a couple of friends in the ‘high places’ while in camp, I was so confident that these contacts in addition to my abilities would make getting another place a cake walk. Unknown to me, I was on my way to Damascus and God had other plans. Don’t get me wrong, I have always believed and still believe in God BUT I had an equal amount of belief in myself or put mildly, in who He blessed me to be.
I returned home to Lagos for the Easter celebrations without any worries whatsoever, in fact I only started making calls about an alternative posting after about a week. By then, I was getting calls from all those friends in the ‘high places’ full of concerns and promises about new and mega-money paying places which they would connect me to. Needless to say, my Easter was a sweet breeze and after about two weeks, I returned to Abuja. But alas, the beat had changed.
Most of my proposed helpers, I was to discover, had either been rejected like I was and so were in the same mire I was stuck in or suddenly become too busy (this was especially common among my newly-made friends in the ‘high places’) for common folk like me. The latter happened more often, the scales had obviously fallen off of their eyes and they had begun to see me as the common man who belonged to a class waaayyyy down the ladder. They avoided my calls and when they did pick, talked a lot of hullaballoo; one actually invited me on a spree-around-town in his car for some ‘fun-time’, my plea for help was clearly not exciting enough for him.
Well, I didn’t need a prophet to tell me I was done for. I had only a handful of faithful friends, yet, and I had depleted my savings on a myriad of calls and fruitless transportation. And it was then that like the prodigal son, while surrounded with so much filth and hunger, I returned to my senses. I remembered that “…he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb 13:5). Even if all friends had deserted me, God was still there just waiting for me to ask that I might receive. So I did just that, I started praying, seriously praying.
Ridiculous or not, I expected an immediate answer to my prayers, like PUFF…a miracle. But no; like every father, God wasn’t going to make the lesson simple. I had compared myself with the biblical prodigal son but frankly, he maybe had it easier. At least, he had a mansion to go back home to after he had repented. For me, nothing had really changed; things had perhaps gotten worse. I was still getting turned out of offices and rejection stared me in the face everywhere I turned. However, I discovered one thing. Other times when I was turned down, I always left feeling very depressed but after I had placed all my hope on The Almighty, I replied every “Sorry, we can’t help you” with a smile and “Thank you, have a nice day”. And I meant it! I had this puzzling feeling of content, somehow I believed that in spite of the disappointments, all was well.
I kept trying and even started encouraging others like me. looking back now, I really thank God for granting me strength to bear that period.
Every morning, I shook off sleep and laziness, moving around from office to office in search of a place to absorb me. I spent over thirty-two thousand naira on transport and feeding alone in that month. I counted the places I had been rejected on my fingers, then on my toes and eventually I had to use pen and paper – they numbered over forty. Some of them were Ministeries (of Information, Health, Science and Technology, Police affairs, Petroleum, Justice and Women affairs), State offices (Rivers, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Sokoto, Katsina, Lagos and my own native Anambra), Embassies (Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Britain, US , Senegal and Zimbabwe), Oil Companies (LNG, Total, Chevron, Connoco philip, Sea gate Oil, Sahara, Agip), Construction companies (Salini, RCC, DCEL, Julius Berger, Arab contractors), National Population Commission, EFCC, NAFDAC, National Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, National Health Insurance Scheme, schools (about seven of them) and plenty others.
It was hell…especially with having to wear khaki in the heat of Abuja. I was getting frantic, time was running out along with the little money I had in my savings. And it was then, just when all hope seemed lost that the ‘doer of the impossible’ picked my call.
I had gone, as was then usual, to check out a place, still clutching my Holy rosary and trusting God. It didn’t click and I was on my way home when I saw a building with this little sign post outside that said ‘A4 associates’.
I went in and I was told, as was then also usual, that they had filled their vacant slots for corps members. Besides they only considered graduates of Civil Engineering, I had studied Chemical Engineering.
I pleaded with the man for a chance at an interview, there was really no harm in trying and I was past the point where groveling threatened my ego. He granted my request after much pleading. He led me into his office where I submitted my CV to him (I had learnt, the hard way, to carry it around with me). This gentleman started firing questions at me from the very moment I sat down. It was not funny! I had never before then been in a formal interview and I hadn’t prepared for it. regardless, I was determined to give it my best shot which I did. Before he ended the interview, I knew I had impressed him. I never stopped praying even after he left to talk to the Managing Director about my case.
When he returned, he instructed a secretary to prepare a request letter for me, he shook my hand and said, “we’d be happy to work with you, sir”
I am paid a monthly allowance of thirty thousand naira (fellow youth corps members will have to pick up their jaws from the floor at this point) and the work I do is so exciting…it’s fun, challenging and I am good at it.
At the risk of sounding patronizing, I state that I am better off than a lot of my friends who are serving the nation alongside me, including some of those that I thought were from the ‘high places’. I met one of them some weeks ago and he told me he was working at a place where he was paid an allowance of ten thousand. While we were at camp, this person had told me that he had three choice options of places to pick from none of which paid anything less than fifty thousand naira. Incidentally, he was one of those who suddenly became ‘too busy’ for me when I needed help. God forgive me but it was so so SO pleasurable telling him about my new workplace and just how much I was earning.
I am settled now and happy. Most importantly, I’ve learnt my lesson – God is indeed the ultimate connection; none other can or ever will suffice.
We’re nothing but pencils in the hands of the creator!!!
Emmanuel Akaeze is a graduate of Chemical Engineering from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri currently serving with A4 Associates in Abuja. He is not a registered member of Naijastories but has expressed interest in joining due to his infinitive love for the written word. This work is his personal account of life in his service year.