Lagos … and my Polythene Bag
No, I’m not a plantain boy. But I admire Timaya’s music. And I most definitely love plantain – bole’d, dodo’ed, porridge’d, or chipped.
I came into Lagos 4 years ago, with nothing but a polythene bag, an Engineering degree, and a dream. Ok, it wasn’t a polythene bag, but, you’ll agree it sounds more dramatic.
Anyways, the point is, 4 years ago, when those 3 wise men at Berger welcomed me to Eko, I had nothing. No concrete plan, no white, blue, or red collar job waiting for me. It was just my dream, my certificate, and I. The dream: Run this town in 5 years.
How? Nna, why are you asking a question I can’t answer?
When I disembarked from the Ekene-Dili-Chukwu bus at Oshodi, two men lunged at me and grabbed my bag.
“Na me get am!” the first one squeaked.
“Na me go carry am!” the other one growled in a guttural voice.
It happened so fast, I was stunned for a few seconds. When I came round, I lunged at both of them, eyes closed. Pushing, kicking, punching, screaming, “Gimme my bag!!!”
After a few moments, I realized my bag was in my hand and I was kicking at dry air. I slowly opened my eyes and saw the two men, looking at me in awe. A small crowd had gathered too, stunned…until someone burst into laughter. Everyone joined except the two men, who turned out to be Taxi drivers who only wanted to give me a ride.
“Oga na wa o, e be like you be JJC…” guttural voice growled as he went to look for more reasonable passengers. Squeaky voice just shook his head, looked at his shirt, discovered two missing buttons he must have lost during our skirmish, eyed me again, hissed and walked away.
It was over almost as soon as it started. Even the crowd had dispersed. I whipped out my Motorola Razor and called Femi, my secondary school mate, who I was going to be squatting with until I ‘hammered’. He came and took me to his one room self-contained apartment.
I actually thought Femi lived in a flat. He said he worked in a bank, and generally gave the impression he was well off. Well, (as I found out after a few days) by Lagos standards, he was comfortable. His house was self-contained, meaning he didn’t have to share a toilet, bathroom and kitchen with anybody. His office was also just a N30 bus distance from his house; so, long hours in traffic was almost never a problem. Yes, he was comfortable.
Jobs are scarce. Very scarce. I realized this after carrying my CV in a brown envelope, round Lagos. I am not exaggerating when I say I went round Lagos. I did. Ask my ash colored leather shoe (it was black when I bought it). It was the same story everywhere I went: “There’s no vacancy”; or “we need someone with at least 3 years experience”. As in, I needed experience to get a job and I needed a job to get experience.
These Employers aint loyal.
Due to my joblessness-induced frustration, I started spending plenty more time on the internet: Facebook, Twitter, Nairaland etc. Naturally blessed with wittiness, creative thinking and an incredible imagination, it wasn’t hard to get some admirable following; and I kept my audience hooked. I also took writing more seriously: Fiction, humorous articles, socio-political commentaries, etc.
That was how it happened.
One night, 4 months after NYSC, some guy with 146 followers asked me for a follow-back on Twitter. On the average I get like 20 ‘kindly follow back’ requests every day, requests I generally ignore. But on that fateful day, I don’t know how it happened, I just followed him back.
I followed greatness without realizing it. That was the follow-back that changed my life. The greatest follow-back of all time.
See, some of you with plenty followers that keep ignoring follow-back requests, pray to God you don’t ignore the link to your future ‘breakthrough’ o. Ehen.
After I followed, the man sent me a direct message saying he liked my tweets and my blog articles. I thanked him and went to bed. Next morning I woke up and saw another DM. He wanted to discuss something and needed my phone number. I gave it to him. I mean, what could happen?
What could happen? A lot my people. A whole lot.
He called that morning and introduced himself – Anthony Okpa. The name didn’t ring a bell. He said he worked with a bank and he could use my writing skills for a project he was working on. He asked if I could meet him for lunch; he’d send someone to come pick me.
Free lunch. Free ride. Possible job. Nna, who was I to say no?
I still didn’t know if it was some scam so I didn’t give him my address. I just told him I’d wait at Oshodi busstop. He told me his assistant would be there by 12noon. I quickly brought out the suit I’d not worn in months, selected my best shirt, borrowed charcoal iron from a neighbor, pressed them all, polished my shoe, went for a shave and haircut, and was ready by 11am.
When I arrived the Bank’s headquarters at Lagos Island, his assistant took me straight up to Anthony’s office which was at the top of the high-rise building. My eye almost popped out of my head when I saw the inscription on his office door.
‘Anthony Okpa – Deputy Managing Director.’
Of a bank.
Not a branch, but the bank. The whole bank.
Bruh, I can’t forget how my legs almost buckled as I entered his office. He stood up, came round the table and shook my shivering hands. He noticed how nervous I was and asked me to sit and relax.
I sat. I relaxed. I shivered harder.
We did some small talk, got to know ourselves better, then went straight to business. He wanted to run for Governor of his state and was currently recruiting young people into his campaign team. He wanted me to be his campaign social media/strategy manager. The election was in two years and he wanted to establish a strong social media presence ASAP. I’d create engaging content for and manage all his online accounts, and so on and so forth.
I didn’t know when a tear dropped from my left eye. Till today, I still don’t know if he’d noticed it. He didn’t stop talking as I quickly wiped it off. He asked if I was interested. I nodded vigorously; afraid I’d squeak and burst into tears if I tried speaking. He was visibly delighted. He added that when the campaign team was complete we’d all meet, get to know each other, brainstorm, and map out strategies; but meanwhile I could start working. I’d get a laptop, a smartphone, a modem, and other equipment I’d need to commence the job.
He brought out his cheque book, scribbled something, asked my official name, scribbled some more, tore out the leaf and gave it to me. I couldn’t hold back the tears when I saw the figure on it. This time he noticed and offered his handkerchief. I dried the tears and apologized for being such a sisi. He waved it off and asked if the money could cover the next 3 months, salary and all. I nodded till my head almost fell off my neck. The money was more than enough. After buying all the equipments I needed, I was still going to be a millionaire.
I’d slept on the floor the previous night because Femi’s girlfriend had slept over. I’d woken up broke that morning, hoping the good Lord would provide for me the same way he provided for the sparrow.
Few hours later I was a millionaire.
And I had a job. One I’d enjoy doing. One that would make me more millions.
After we had lunch at an exclusive restaurant in Victoria Island, his driver dropped me off at home. First thing I did was get on my knees and pray. I called my folks and told them I’d finally gotten a good job. I’m sure their celebratory shouts reverberated through the whole neighborhood. Then I called Femi. My guy didn’t know when he squealed for joy. He closed earlier than usual, came home with plenty suya and wine and we celebrated.
After buying all the necessaries, I offered Femi a quarter of the balance – which was more than his salary for 3 months. He refused to collect it at first but I insisted. He had sheltered and fed me for 4 months without complaints so he had to enjoy my breakthrough with me. It was only right.
The social media strategizing began. I did plenty research on branding – majoring on politics, took a few courses, created content and publishing pattern for all his social accounts, and generally put him in the internet limelight.
The campaign office was opened for business a few months after we met and the team started work. My workaholic nature saw me doing more than the social media strategist job I was hired for. I joined the bigger media team, generated ideas and created so much content, the overall campaign manager who was also the media team lead handed the unit over to me and focused more on grassroots mobilization.
The elections finally arrived. The primaries was a hard fought battle but we clinched the ticket. And when Election Day finally came, we won. Resoundingly!!
Governor Anthony Okpa made me his Special Adviser on Media and Strategy immediately after he was sworn in. It was the first time a non-indigene would hold a political position in that state.
Bruh, I was balling.
It was at one of the state’s social events that I met Eva Alordiah. I’d listened to her songs and I had this slight crush on her. But seeing her perform in person was different. I knew I wanted her immediately. She was ravishingly beautiful. And she could rap.
After her performance I asked that she take a picture with Gov Anthony and I. Then I practically begged her to have dinner with me sometime. She agreed, and, a few weeks and many conversations later, we did.
We connected, we bonded on a covalent level. I don’t know if she felt it too, but I was already in love with her. It was a beautiful evening and we agreed to do it again.
On the drive back home, we sat in the back. She said she was cold so I put my arm around her and drew her closer. She put her head on my shoulder and I stroked her hair. After a while she looked up, into my eyes. I could see the desire in her eyes as light from oncoming traffic illuminated them. I leaned in and kis….
“Oga we don reach…” he said.
How dare my driver interrupt me now of all times? How dare he?
“Oga you no wan come down again?” he said again, tapping me. I opened my eyes, furious.
“What is wro…” I was growling, when I noticed my environs. I wasn’t in the Porsche Cayenne. I was in a bus. Eva wasn’t there; in her place was the bus driver. The disorientation was total. Then I came round. I looked at the driver again. “Where are we?” I asked.
“Maza Maza,” he replied. “Which kain sleep you dey sleep sef? Tse-tse fly bite you? Everybody don go down, na only you dey motor….”
I remembered the last time I was awake… we had just entered the Benin – Ore road. It was all a dream. And I had passed my busstop.
I wanted to cry. But instead, I carried my ‘polythene bag’, came down and started looking for a bus that would take me back to Oshodi.
It was all a dream. I still had my ‘polythene bag’, but this time I also had a laptop, an internet connection, and a big, beautiful dream:
“I will run this town in 5 years, so help me God!”
Written by — @Chydee