SRW was in good mood that morning. The commute to the Island was without any of her almost usual issues – overheating, tyre puncture, carburettor blockage, alternator failure, drained battery and more.
It was an important day and I had to appear my best but first I must show up at 20 Marina for permission before making it to Lekki. I pulled SRW into a space in the sprawling parking lot, right under the flyover. At other times I would have needed to circle the lot a few times looking for an empty space but not that day. The park was unusually empty because it was very early and the usual patrons were yet to come. I locked up SRW, adjusted my ruffled coat. It was my good luck piece. I had bought the material at Mandilas and sent it to Ibadan to be sewn. I was happy with myself as I crossed the road and made my way to the elevator and up to my floor.
A few months earlier, I had appeared at the Federal Palace Hotel, in the rotunda that juts out into that portion of water through which the five cowries creek reaches the Atlantic Ocean. The hall was full of fearful men and ladies, many with great aspirations and dreams. It was my second time in that hall. While not much had changed about the dread that inhabits those sitting the examination there, a little had changed about me. I had secured an employment with an emerging big player in the nation’s money market hence I was radiating in confidence, not fear.
Passing an exam had never been an issue to me, at least not since I performed woefully at GCI with a BEEF (those that attended A levels would understand) result that gave me just 4 points that couldn’t get me anywhere. I had made a pact, thereafter, with myself that I would never fail any examination again. I never did, so it wasn’t surprising when I received the letter to show up in Lekki for an interview.
It was about 9am that I took my leave from the office, returned to SRW and we made our way to Lekki. Once we passed the slight hiccup at Bonny Camp, the rest of the long trip to Lekki was smooth sailing and, again, SRW was surprisingly in good moods and we arrived the address easy. Off the drive, were marked visitors parking bays and it was easy to find one for SRW.
The compound is massive and for anyone seeing it for the first time, probably intimidating. It subdued anything and everything in the immediate vicinity. The peninsula of those days was light trafficked and sparsely populated such that this massive compound in the middle of nothing else engenders the question “Why here and why this big?” Unfortunately today, I won’t be the one asking the questions but the one being questioned.
I checked my wrist watch to be sure that I was still minutes earlier than the time slot that had been assigned for my interview. I went through two levels of checks – one at the pedestrian entrance and the other at the main building reception before being ushered to a seat by the door of what I will later come to know as a conference room.
To be truthful, I became a little edgy seeing about three other individuals seated waiting for their turn to be interviewed. Some minutes beyond my allotted time, I was invited into the room in which the panel of interviewers were already seated. I introduced myself and everything was going fine until one of the interviewers mentioned that my face was familiar. Of course, it had to be. I responded, with confidence, that I was in this same room for the same purpose just a year earlier. The response did not sit well with one of the interviewers who asked “then, why are you here? Didn’t you see the notice that if you had applied previously in the last one year you should not apply?”
Well, that was a fair question but it was being asked from the wrong guy. But, if anyone is to blame, that should be Bimbo. Oh, not me but the fair complexion, tall and elegant lady that I was dating at the time. I had seen the advert and thrown it aside because of this exclusion statement. She had picked it up and counselled that I should apply and let them be the one to screen me off for being a repeat candidate. I followed her counsel and applied, expecting nothing. It was a surprise that I got invited for a test and then for an interview, the two signifying that there are weaknesses in the system of this much revered American giant.
I was asked to step out so that the team could deliberate on whether to continue with interviewing me. I did. It seemed better counsel took hold and I was re-invited to the room to continue with the interview. By then, I really had nothing to lose, except probably the transport fare that was to be reimbursed to me. I was bold and assertive such that, by the end of the interview, I believed I had given the right answers though must have ruffled some feathers in doing so. Any prospect of employment here was gone. As the session came to an end, someone asked me “are you related to any Bakare working here?” I answered that I wasn’t not knowing whether this was a good or bad thing.
With the interview over, I went to the cashier and collected the generous transport allowance. It was more than enough to buy a full tank of petrol. I crossed the road to where I had left SRW, put the key in the ignition and cranked the engine. Instead of a roar, what I got was silence. SRW’s bad mood had returned and she had chosen to display this at the worst possible time and place.