The sun was beaming about town and houseflies buzzed and fizzled about here and there. Ndu seemed to feel the intense heat of the weather, from time to time he dabbed sweat off his brow with a white hankerchief, then he decided to move into the office. At the establishment he was hoping he would be made a permanent employee. Now, two months to go, he decided to speak to the personnel manager to ascertain his fate. It was a Tuesday afternoon, he sat in the personnel manager’s office waiting to have a discussion with him, the manager was busy cross checking some documents at his desk. He had taken much more time than necessary checking his files when Ndu spoke for the first time.
“Sir, I came to inquire about the job I applied given that I have two months to the end of my National Service.” Ndu began.
“We are waiting to receive directives from the head office so we would know when to call you for interview,” confided the personnel manager.
“Well, I look forward to the interview.”
“Like I said, we are waiting to receive a go head from the head office, once we receive that, we will get in touch with you.”
“Okay, sir.” He stood up and left the office for his own table. He sat on a chair and thought about his life and how long he had to wait for the interview to come up, and whether he should consider what his former secondary school teacher T.N. Makan had told him in Kano.
One late afternoon on a Thursday, Ndu was seating at Oduma street with some friends, a thickly bearded man, wearing a short-up-and-down-jeans and slippers, was arrested by the police at a T junction connecting Freetown and Sayolu streets. The men in black bundled him into their 504 Peugeot wagon and drove off. The incident did not create much scene, though, it happened in a jiffy. No sooner had they drove off for about five minutes or there about, than he appeared again on the same spot, perhaps, to notify the onlookers that he was back and fine. As he walked down the street, acquaitances were hailing him: Sarko! Sarko! Sarko! He might have bought his freedom immeiately after the arrest. The police and NDLEA men had been trailing on him to apprehend him with an evidence to no avail; he knew his onions.
“He’s from your home town,” revealed Pali.
“Who?” inquired Ndu.
“Sarko, of course.” Pali paused for emphasis and whispered, “just wait for some few minutes, we would go and meet him at Tavern 44.”
“Why? That guy was just arrested by the police and he’s now free. . .” Commented Ndu.
“That’s the father,” he whispered again, avoiding other ears from getting wind of it.
“The don. He controls the syndicate.”
“But you did not show any sign that you knew him,” Ndu loured his voice.
“One of the rules, I can only meet him at Tavern 44 or elsewhere by appointment.”
“Where does he live?”
“Live? I don’t know his house and moreover, Sarko does not have any. He only lodges from one hotel to another due to the nature of our business.”
“He walks like some one I knew.”
Five minutes later.
They headed down the road to Tavern 44 as they left some friends behind. Ndu had been warned by those friends to desist from associating with Pali, but he stuck. He needed to make ends meet.
At the lobby of Tavern 44, Sarko was smoking a cigar of fine aroma, a bottle of champagne on the table. He was calculating some figures on a calculator set. They stepped into the lobby. Sarko raised his head up when he saw Pali and the stranger walking up to him.
“Big shot in disguise,” muttered Ndu.
“What?” Asked Pali.
“Good evening, Sarko,” greeted Pali.
Sarko was staring at Ndu, oblivious of Pali’s greeting, “You look familiar. It seems I knew you somewhere.”
“Em. . . Maybe,” Ndu broke in.
“He was the one I told you of.”
“Oh, the chap serving.”
“Yes,” offered Pali, “his name is. . .”
“Allow him to speak,” interjected Sarko.
“My name is Ndu Eke.”
“Ndu Eke of Amah High School?”
“Yes. That’s me, your former form master at Amah High School.”
“I said it, that I Knew that step,” Ndu was heard saying.
Sarko whose real name was J.N. Makan was Ndu’s class teacher while at Amah High School. Pali had sat down before Sarko could offer them seats after he had given Ndu a big hug.
“Have your seat,” he offered and looked towards the direction of the bar tender.
“Two more glass cups.”
“Sir, you have changed. One could hardly recognise you. I mean your beards.” Observed Ndu.
“You know, the world is all about changes. Nothing in this life is static. Human beings are bound to changes and that is life for you.”
“I never expected I would see some one like you here in Kano.”
“The world is a small place.”
“Sarko, I guess I have brought back an old acquaintance?” Asked Pali.
“Yes, he was one of my bright students when I was a class teacher.”
“If I were told you ever taught in school as a class teacher, I wouldn’t have believed, because to me you look more like a business guru or a baron.”
“Precisely, he has added some weight and wears his beards like a war lord,” added Ndu.
“Well that’s by the way, I have some Cuban cigar and French champagne, in case you need some thing different, you can make your request.”
“I think we are okay with these.”
“No, I need a chilled Star beer and a packet of Benson & Hedges,” requested Pali.
“Barman, a bottle of Star and a packet of Benson & Hedges for this young man,” demanded Sarko.
The bar tender hurried the drink and the packet of cigarette to the table and returned to his counter and began cleaning some glass cups.
“What did you study at the university?” Queried Sarko.
“I studied Mathematics.”
“Mathematics, that’s good. One can call you a Mathematician now.”
“Yes of course.”
“Being a Mathematician does not mean indulging in theories on paper. I mean practically, all that one does is about mathematics.”
“Here we are sitting is all about mathematics.” He drank some cupful of champagne and continued, “We live in a practical world.”
“Induction and reduction of planned activities are mathematical. Without it, the world could have achieved nothing. Without it, you and I wouldn’t have been here discussing mathematics,” asserted Ndu.
“Yes, I concur,” affirmed Sarko as he digressed, “my business is nomadic in nature. I have no fixed resident in this town so you guys should hurry up because we have to go to Tropical Hotel to discuss some business.”
“Did you say we?” Asked Ndu.
“Yes of course, I meant you guys or was I talking to some ghosts?”
“I think Pali has acquainted himself with the nomenclature and procedure of the business- we strictly speak with codes and do our business on codes.” Sarko drank more champagne and took a drag on his Cuban cigar with a sort of ritual of allowing the smoke drift in serial rings upwards.
“Guys off I go, you will have to join me at the lobby of Tropical Hotel. We can’t walk out of this place at the same time. Just keep cool and give me some five minutes before you join me. Remember time is money.” He moved out of Tavern 44 onto the tarred road and flaged down a motorcyclist and off they disappeared up the road.
As Ndu sat down with Pali, he wondered why T.N. Makan was not on ride despite the money he was making. Subsequently, they stepped out of Tavern 44, and headed to Tropical Hotel when five minutes had elapsed.
In the lobby, Sarko was now discussing with a high class socialite, a middle age woman. He appeared in a different outfit altogether, a pair of light-brown trousers and a white short-sleeved shirt and a pair of brown suede loafers. Ndu still perplexed of how fast Sarko could be within the lapses of five minutes. As they approached where he was, a bar tender gave them a different seats. Sarko signalled to join them later. He excused himself from the lady and joined the duo.
“This is business. Ndu, I know by now Pali must have expatiated the whole detail to you, huh?” Guessed Sarko, “make your demands and I will join you later. That woman over there has brought a very lucrative business worth millions of naira. So think about this business. I will be with you guys like I said earlier.” He joined the socialite.
Ndu came out of retrospection. Still in the office, he decided to go and see Sarko after work that late afternoon approaching evening irrepective of the paper works left undone on his desk.