Third Day on the Job
The day dawned bright and early, it was my third day as an intern in the power holding company of the Okota branch in Nigera, and I was feeling a bit under the weather. Getting the internship off to a good start had been quite a struggle. One full week of submitting letters, photocopying credentials, and then having to be told I was not to be paid, didn’t really encourage me, but school was resuming in three months and I wasn’t about to let two weeks of effort go to waste.
Here I was on my third day, I walked down to the bus stop, and was soon headed to my first stop, when the bus stopped at Jakande estate, I got down and hopped on a bus in motion, it was directly headed to my place of work and I settled down to rest, transport in my part of the world been a great hassle.
I walked into the office reserved for interns, and exchanged greetings with Sylva, like me he was one of the few interns that were always on time, we walked together down the corridor to the human resources office where the sign-in register was kept. We signed in, writing down the times, 7:30am for Sylva. I signed in 7:35am. We were hungry, so we rushed downstairs to the junior cafeteria. It was Wednesday and Yam porridge and beans was on the menu, quite the meal. We settled down to our meal and soon the office came alive around us, soon all the interns were around except Winnie, she had called our supervisor and explained her absence, probably a sickness, I wasn’t told.
Mr Ademola, whose section I was assigned to, came into the office and called Sylva, Lawrence, and I, we were to join the task force that had been set-up to enforce the payment of electrical bills.
“I want the three of you, downstairs in five minutes.”
“Ol' boy, this one wey we dey follow dem go today, how the thing dey be?” I inquired of my colleagues in Pidgin English, as soon as Mr Ademola had left. “Just cool down you go even enjoy am sef, dey fit give us small money.”
Lawrence replied, trying to calm my nervousness. It was my first experience in the field, so I was a bit on edge, but since we were going in a group, I soon calmed down, though I was inwardly excited. We piled into the pickup truck, Mr Ademola and two other technicians I hadn’t met, we greeted them and they responded with nods.
We pulled out of the compound and we were on the road. Mr Ademola filled us in, the task was simple: all we had to do was help move equipment - mainly ladders, while keeping our eyes open, the task force was to go from block to block and ensure that electrical bills had been paid. In the case of defaulters, they would climb the electrical poles and disconnect them from the power lines. It all sounded quite exciting, “just make sure you keep your eyes and ears open,” he concluded.
Sylvan and I had been leaning forward the whole time. Lawrence was more reserved. He had been on many of these trips before. His internship was ending in a few weeks. We leaned back, and in ten minutes, we were at the Seaview estate. The driver parked the car at the entrance. That was when I got the first hint of danger.
“Park the car facing outside Giwa, the boys here are rough. We might have to leave in a hurry,” said Mr Ademola. We climbed down, but I caught the sentence, my head swiveled sharply, “what does he mean?” I asked Lawrence. Unperturbed, he said “I don’t know, just concentrate and help me pull down the ladder.” I obliged but my palms were sweaty. Why might we have to leave in a hurry? We were on a government errand not doing anything wrong.
The first ten or so blocks were easy, we only had to disconnect the fifth flat of block seven, it was empty, and since no one was paying the bills, Mr Ademola decided it should be disconnected. Lawrence, with Sylva’s help, set up the ladder. I handed the technician his gloves and pliers, and in less than five minutes it was done. We rolled up the wires and continued moving.
We walked past a group of young men, engaging in a lively discussion about a football match the previous day. As soon as we got closer, their conversation slowed, and I thought I heard a few snickers, but since the others in the group didn’t respond, I ignored them too. We soon worked our way down the estate, I glanced back and noticed that the boys were no longer where we passed them. Now I was sure something was wrong with the whole trip. The next few houses, I kept my eyes and ears open, Mr Ademola soon noticed my lack of attention, when the pliers slipped from my hand, but he only smiled, the kind of smile that said “don’t worry, it will be alright.”
By now I was tense and ready, the next block was difficult, all the tenants owed huge sums, and unfortunately they were all at home, and we couldn’t just disconnect them. They were haranguing us, shouting and screaming, even threatening to pull down anyone who dared to climb the ladder.
“We have to carry out our task,” Mr. Ademola explained, or at least he tried to, over the clamor. Lawrence stood bracing the ladder, Sylva and I had somehow gravitated toward each other, and now stood staring at the threatening motley crowd, composed of some old men and women. Mr Ademola and the technicians conferred and it was decided that we should move our ladder to the next block. With a half hearted threat to return later. Then a call came through on Mr Ademola’s cell, he listened, then his face turned grim, and we all stared at him trying to read the expressions on his face.
“Lawrence and Sylva grab the ladder fast, Chika get the tools, some boys are coming to make trouble, the office just called me.”
I have never moved faster in my entire life, I dashed in the direction of the truck, but he stopped me, gripping my shoulder tightly, “the first place they will go to is the truck. The police will come for that later, we have to go on foot!” he had hardly finished speaking when the first bottle shattered at our feet. We dodged into a nearby block. They were about fifteen or more, I wasn’t too sure, and they kept throwing bottles.
“Keep moving, we aren’t safe anywhere near here,” Mr Ademola said, “we have been disconnecting their power lines, so they won’t offer us refuge, not at all.” They were hot on our heels, as we dodged between buildings. Tools and ladders were lost already. The technicians ran effortlessly, despite their age, they outran me, and I was a young man of 19. Something about their calm enraged me, it wasn’t their first time. Soon our pursuers slowed down. We were almost out of the estate when they sent the last bottles hurtling above us which landed just behind us. We were soon out of the estate. We slowed down, breathing heavily. “let's go for a drink.” Mr Ademola said.
I looked at him, speechless. We had almost died, and he was talking about drinks. He smiled, patted me on the shoulder, and we slowly moved towards the bar, “oga, welcome, dose boys pursue una again?” the bar keeper asked in pidgin.
“Yes o”, he responded, “abeg serve us drinks.” He produced his cell phone and reported the missing items, pickup truck, pliers and gloves, ladders, then dropping it he took a sip of his drink. I stared at the bottle in front of me, and then looked at him, needing an explanation. He simply smiled and said, “It's difficult, yes, but someone has to do it.” Then he went back to his drink.
The statement “all in a day’s work” echoed as I took the first sip of the cold beer.
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- I walked into the office reserved for interns, and exchanged greetings with Sylva, like me he was one of the few interns that were always on time.
- Mr Ademola filled us in, the task was simple: all we had to do was help move equipment mainly ladders, while keeping our eyes open, the task force was to go from block to block and ensure that electrical bills had been paid.
- We then stood staring at the threatening motley crowd, composed of some old men and women. No one would offer us refuge. We ended up hightailing out of there and ended up having drinks. All in a days work.