I am back at my desk typing away the report on our just concluded visit to Chief Idowu. I highlight recommendation on business possibilities using the strength, weakness, threat and opportunities analysis for a compelling argument for the potential and viability of this new client.
I had to research on his associates and business dealings with both the private and public sector, locally and internationally and every information I could find linked to him. While working on this report, I realised how large his business was and his dealings across the different sectors of the economy. I built a client network chain and knew if we worked on this relationships well, we would be smiling more at the office.
Time must have flown because the next time I looked at my watch, lunch time had passed. Lana was not back then. She probably would be closing from the Managers office. This evening would not be a nice one. I was no prophet but could predict her reaction.
I settled back to work while I took out a Lucozade sports drink from my bag, that should keep me till the close of work and if Lana was a good spot we could hang out tonight at one of the Chinese restaurants to celebrate this new deal of ours. Thinking of that an idea just popped into my head, okay maybe it was a bribe, but It was my ticket to Chinese tonight and perhaps a movie on a Monday night. I started on Lana’s report since Chief Idowu was the same source I copied and pasted mine but focused on the subsidiary.
It was surprising to know that Chief Idowu’s son owned the subsidiary. He had the majority shares in the company with Chief having just 15%. I looked at the documents signed by his son. That was quite confusing considering that we had dealt exclusively with Chief. Getting a bit apprehensive, I cross checked the signatures on the documents for chief and that of Ideal Oil and Gas Limited. I was not aware how I held my breath because if they were the same and Chief signed for his son, then this account would not go through till we had the appropriate signature.
Thankfully, they were different. I then recalled Chief sending the documents out to his secretary, perhaps that was when they got his son to sign. As little as that oversight could stop the opening and operation of the account with the bank. The control put in place by the bank to ensure compliance with the central bank regulations was 100% as noncompliance could result in a fine massive enough to wipe out whatever profit such business would have yielded for the bank.
I underestimated what I got myself into by helping Lana with her report. There were twenty other companies with subsidiaries linked to Ideal Oil and Gas Limited. It took me a little less than three hours to do mine, but here I was, still battling with it after 7 pm when Lana came down from the Manager’s office.
Lana came down smiling contrary to my prediction. I was confused and did a little drama by touching her forehead to be sure she was not running a temperature.
“Are you okay?” I asked worriedly. The usual was to come back throwing tantrums and saying words not worthy to be repeated about her time in that office.
“Why do you ask?”
She had a twinkle in her eyes. I really could not think what must have happened in that office for her to be this excited but it had better be good.
“Girlfriend, you that I know would have barged in here all upset”.
“Oh, how terrible I have become” she had some melancholy in her voice.
“Our manager brings out my worst, and I must be ashamed at my behaviour time and time again. I just figured out today that the more I got upset, the longer I spent in that office and the higher the probability of being called back. He seemed to find every unimaginable report to get ready.Today was the worst of it all. I had to keep going into the computer system to look for figures and information and work on all sorts of reports. I, Lana prepared the profitability management report today and in the midst of a terrible situation, I learnt something valuable to my career.”
“It still does not account for your cheerful disposition.”
“What you can’t change you adapt. I am trying to see the silver lining in my current predicament.”
“Thank God he is easy to look on the eyes otherwise, it would have been more of a nightmare.”
It was not news to any of us in the office. The manager was a handsome young son of a wealthy business mogul who was a bosom friend of the Managing Director of the Bank. He studied Economics at London School of Economics and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard. He was offered the opportunity to work in the bank and took it rather than taking the next in line at his father’s company. Others from outside did consider him a good catch but in here, we were not able to see beyond his scowl and in a way that must have kept most of the ladies in check.
I stood up and held Lana at arm’s length. I touched her head again. Surely she had to be running a temperature.
She shrugged and sat on her desk.
“Now is the time to start my bit.”
“I am speechless. I don’t get this new you, and it is freaking me out.”
“You should be happy, imagine all my whining grating your ears.”
“I would love that and not be thinking we might have to wind up at the psychiatric hospital tonight as this is so not you.”
“I got a headache right now, and I still have the Ideal Oil and Gas report to finish”, Lana said using her fingers to massage her temple.
“I would be leaving here 10 pm or 11 pm. Almost midnight. I might have to crash at your place tonight. Too late to go home. I have to call my Mum.”
“I already did that. Called your Mum and finished your report.”
I see the amazement on Lana’s face with eyes opened wide. I push the file towards her.
“It’s all in there printed. I can forward the soft copy to you.”
She scanned the file and boy did I see it coming?
It was just some few drops of tears cascading down her face, and I honestly thought it was a joke until she had her head over the desk and howling like a baby. They were heart racking sobs as her body shook. I was not sure anymore what the issue was, but one thing I knew for sure was we both needed food.
In one moment she had gone from crazy to emotional.
I shut down both our computers, picked our bags and practically dragged her out as the sobbing subsided.
The office looked deserted. We were the only ones left with the night shift security personnel outside and the Manager upstairs.
I could deal with Lana and her smiles, her jokes and crazy outbursts but an emotional not together Lana – I was at my loose end.
We got into my car, and I waited so she could pull herself together and drove to one of our favourite Chinese restaurant on the Island.
You could all think I am crazy but food might help, and I was not going to pass up our need to celebrate our career breakthrough which was only this morning but looked like a lifetime away considering all that had happened since then.
I drove into the parking lot in front of the restaurant.
“Food will do us some good at this point. I doubt if you have eaten anything today.” I said to her observing her face.
She had stopped crying and was just sniffing. I pulled a Kleenex from the pack on the dashboard and handed it over to her to clean her face.
“You might want to redo your makeup. The light will come on if you use the mirror by your side.”
“I will be okay.”
“Great! Let’s go. We can talk over the meal if you want to.”
We stepped in and looked for a table of two at the downstairs lobby. There was none available so we went upstairs and settled for one on the far left wing of the room overlooking a window.
Once we sat down a waiter came with the menu. I chose Chinese fried rice with chilli prawn sauce, spring rolls and a glass of Chapman for starters. Lana ordered for same but opted for noodles instead of rice.
We were given a hot napkin to wipe our hands followed by our glass of Chapman and spring rolls.
The meal took about twenty minutes which was the norm here as they prepared on order with the finest of herbs and spices. The catch here for me was the fact that I could get the sauces in the hottest of spices close to that of our local hot dish. When you wanted a good Chinese meal on the island with a quiet ambience, this was one of the places to come.
I discovered the restaurant by accident. On a particular day, I lost my way and found myself on Karimu Kotun street. I did the unlikely, I drove in and had a meal. Then continued finding my way home.
“So?” a single word meaning,”what is the story? spill it all out.”
Sipping her drink she smiled.
“Back at that office, with the way I was used by the manager today, I felt like killing him. He is this wicked taskmaster that keeps gruelling you with so much work and without a break.”
“It can’t be that bad,” I offered.
“I was standing more than sitting down in the hours I was spent in his office with this 4-inch shoes I am wearing. First, it was my report he found fault with every word there. Correcting my tenses and advising on what synonyms to use, then he checked every figure in the report to ascertain its accuracy. That task alone took almost two hours. As soon as we finished that, we started on the management report that he was going to teach me and going forward I would be in charge of it.”
“The guy is training you for management.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“No one. It’s not a side thing. I am just objective. Our manager is no saint in his leadership style, but he seems to have a knack for teaching us all he knows which is a good thing. The problem is you appear to be the one he is teaching the most which should tell you something about your career here.”
“Thankfully, we agree his leadership style is flawed, but all these teachings are to the detriment of my work output. I f you had not helped with the report, I would be behind schedule today. Realising all you did to help out just made me emotional. I am angry at him, myself and the whole situation. What would I do without you? How did I get so lucky to have you in my life and at my workplace? I probably would still be back there working on the report, but here I am, dining away.
I should feel guilty about it, but I am not because you have made it easy to accept your help. You even knew ahead to call my mum”.
I raise my hands in mock surrender.
“Please cut out this emotional talk, Lana. It’s something you would have done for me.”
“You think so?”
I don’t Peju. I would have started the report but not finish it in the record time you did. You are a girl’s best friend.”
“Lana, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
I do not take too well with being praised.
“I did what I have to do, and that was it.”
Our hot steamy meal came, and my belly betrayed me with a loud rumbling.
“Thank God the meal is here!” I exclaimed a little embarrassed.
“You must be famished. Did you eat lunch?” she looked at me accusingly. I have a history for skipping meals.
“No, I took a bottle of Lucozade sport hoping it did what they said it would do. I needed water in my system.”
“What about you?”
She looked at me guiltily. “I ate pounded yam and egusi soup with goat meat.”
“In that office, you were slaving away?” I mimicked her.
“The manager ordered for it and asked if I wanted. The least I could do for myself was spend his money although that wouldn’t have left a dent in his account like what this meal would do to ours.”
“Lana please relax, this meal would not make you bankrupt. It is not up to the cost of that your perfume you order from Paris. I would research how much that perfume cost in Naira including home delivery.
“Okay” holding her fork in her left hand she is waving at me.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“I sure wouldn’t if you keep pointing that fork at me considering the fact you desperately wanted to kill someone earlier today.”
“What about the part of how easy on the eyes the Manager is”
She laughed. “I was almost bursting out with laughter with the look on your face when I said that.”
“But seriously do I sense someone falling for the Manager.”
“Not on your life,” she frowns.
“What’s so bad about it? He is young, not married good looking and from a wealthy home.”
“I do not do office romance.”
“How do you know what you don’t do? There has been no one apart from Bode, and that was three years ago.”
The name slipped out. We had agreed never to talk about him.
“Wow! Where did that come from I don’t know what happened and I don’t care to know, but it is about time you move back to him or move on. Give yourself the luxury of having a relationship.”
I could as well have been talking to myself. Lana went about her meal like she had not heard a word I said. She always did that “switch off” thing.
“You don’t want to talk?” I goaded her.
“I want to but not about Bode.”
“Not Bode but is there any hope for some guy out there in the future?”
“Let’s say I am not looking for any relationship. I just want to build my career.”
I dropped my cutlery with a clanging noise loud enough for everyone in that hall to hear.I looked around apart from a large group at the end.We were alone.
“Your career is what you are doing now. With the inflow you had today and those subsidiaries and links that the company has, you will be making senior manager in less than five years if you get promoted every year. However, I am not discussing your career as you have that mapped out. There is life after your career. A life that would always be even at the end of a career.”
“Why do you think you can’t have both?”
“I just know it. I can’t explain, but I would not be this driven with kids and all. In school while others were chasing boys and parties I was all my books and novels. I think it’s the same. You get distracted and lose focus before you realise it you have missed all that you have struggled to attain. For what Peju. A marriage others are dying to get out. I am okay where I am and seek for none of that.”
I nodded my head like I understood. I did not. We were both in our mid-twenties. While others like me dreamt of getting married and settling down to have a family. Lana could not be bothered. I was worried, but I hoped I need not be.
We had barely finished our meal when the waiter came back with a bottle of Moet Champagne and two wine glasses. I looked at the waiter and Lana.
“Did you order for this?”
Lana has been behaving weird which she just explained, but this champagne bit is sending red lights that there might be more problem than she is letting on.
“It is complimentary Madam. It is an order for you by a gentleman. He pointed to the group of people at the end. There were about seven of them all dressed up in corporate wears. They must be here for a business dinner. I scanned some of the faces I could see but none was familiar, and none was looking at our table.
“Please take it back to him. No thank you”, I was upset.
“It is complimentary Peju. Read the card and do so smiling. He is most likely watching you.”
Lana was back in her element. Her eyes were twinkling. The girl was both a jewel and pain.
Against my better judgement, I picked the card smiling.
It was a blank card with the words “enjoy your meal written on it. No name.
So I smile like a robot and Lana says to the waiter
“Thank the gentleman for us. It was most kind of him, but we can’t accept.”
“This is the time to escape Peju. If we are fast enough, he won’t catch up with us, and if he does, please let us be on our best behaviour he might be a prospective client.”
“Oh my God,” I close my eyes trying to process what Lana has just said.
“We are here, and all you are thinking is a lead? Do you do anything else other than thinking about clients and leads? I am also in this profession you know.”
“This is Lagos, make use of all opportunities.”
I placed the cash in the receipt folder with extra change for the waiter.
We picked up our bags and headed out. All I wanted to do was run but we walked rather majestically.
Fortunately, no one tried to follow us or meet us downstairs.
I broke into a run towards my car and drove straight home. The idea of going to the cinema abandoned. I will watch a movie at home. Lana was staying over at my house. She has some few suits and her toiletries at my place for days like this.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Image from Goggle.