GETTING A JOB IS A JOB – Chapter2
Getting a job is indeed a job that requires years of learning and honing of skills to near perfection, but the job indeed is not the job, it is the preparation, the journey to the destination where an opportunity is never unexpected. – Abidemi Babaolowo Oderinlo
The first time I learnt that “getting a job is a job” was in 2010 during our very own NYSC year in Jigawa State and it sounded cool if you get the real meaning of it. I had finally made it to NYSC with a HND like ten years after Secondary or High School depending on what they call it in your part of the world, graduating and making the cut before “Serve-O-Pause” unlike my friend “Sanya” was the important thing so it was hard and fun, and the right thing to do in order not to end up like our erstwhile “Oluwole” Minister of Finance, or require an affidavit or NEPA bill like the General if I wanted to contest an election or serve in appointed capacity “if you know what I mean”? Although I wasn’t the religious type, I identified with the Corper’s community as a Catholic and Christian, and with our host community as Corper and the Great Grandson of a Fulani woman. I blended into the culture without losing my identity, and by what my NCCF humans will call divine arrangement and a little bit of toasting, I was appointed the Zonal General Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Corpers Fellowship (NCCF) for the Hadejia Zone covering six LGAs of the State. A few months later, a fresh batches of corpers arrived, and my younger brother from “Mummy White-House” Sola Akinbode arrived in Jigawa with it and somehow became the State General Secretary of the NCCF at Dutse the State capital, blessing the whole of Jigawa with two Ipaja brothers in the order of things without any provocation. I was “Uncle” (that’s the pseudo for the office) at NCCF, Abidemi on the streets, Mallam Farouq at my PPA and Engineer on special assignments.
It was during my Uncle duties as the manager of the NCCF family house that I had met a young vibrant “Taofeek Sanni”, a very vivacious corper who was hell-bent on becoming a motivational speaker and a trainer like his mentor “Aruosa Osemwengie”, a HR professional and Consultant who had just authored a book titled “Getting A Job Is A Job”. The book was a self-help book targeting graduates and job-seekers the right market with the intent to prepare them for the labour market, and of course earn returns and he was on a tour with the book already. Taofeek had somehow reached out to Aruosa and was ready to use every resources he had to bring him to Jigawa since Kano was on his tour list already; a day in Dutse, the capital of Jigawa will cost him a few hours and he can easily return to Kano the same day and catch a flight to his next destination. Since I was the NCCF “Uncle” for Hadejia Zone where Toafeek was serving, he had approached me and was on my neck and tail with the details of how he was working on bringing Aruosa’s to Jigawa within the NCCF schedule for excos inauguration and send-forth among other events. Taofeek had become the champion of his own project, going ahead of me to get other things that didn’t require my help done and together with others, we brought his dream to live.
Helping Taofeek succeed became a job, so I ensured that he’d gotten all the help he could. The book tour stop had become a part the NCCF calendar in a way as well, so Dutse was a destination I couldn’t avoid. I had arrived in Dutse, and even though I wouldn’t have planned to attend the seminar if it was scheduled for a different time, the success of “Getting A Job Is A Job” done became my job and I was elated at the smiles on Taofeek’s face after the success of the event as he posed to take pictures and exchange pleasantries with all and sundry. When the confetti’s had settled, Taofeek came to me and said
“Babaolowo, the core of this book my boss just launched is what you are always telling us, you tell us every time that people don’t dress up for where they are, they dress up for where they are going, they dress up for the occasion, the destination”.
I smiled at his remark and somehow, I realized that even though I have always said those words as a reaction to people’s lackadaisical attitude towards their work and responsibilities as corpers, I’d never really practiced it myself the way it has been presented. Aruosa was a professional HR personnel with years and years of experience, but all the knowledge he had packed in a book and rolled out a campaign to project are the normal nuggets I had shared on reflex without taking it to heart to practise them functionally myself. I decided it was time for a paradigm shift so I rounded everything I was doing in Dutse up and headed back to Hadejia for a new beginning. For reasons I can’t remember, I didn’t buy a copy of the book, neither did I sign or collect any autograph but somehow, there was a reawakening of a consciousness I’ve always carried around unconsciously so I was going back to Hadejia with a resolve.
I remember becoming utterly clothless after graduating from High School because wearing uniforms for five days every week made it easy to have no real clothes, I wasn’t heading in the same direction as a corper, but there were a lot of things I wasn’t putting into perspective living in Hadejia. Although I was motivated to do the things I was doing for myself, there was no motivation to prepare in certain aspects because being just casual was more than enough, and I’d forgotten that I wasn’t preparing myself for a very causal future even though I am not a fan of suit and ties. I was preparing for the responsibilities beyond NYSC but wasn’t gearing up for the space beyond Hadejia and I risked repeating that post High School experience I had at the break the cycle.
I sat down and ask myself “Mallam Farouq, where is your destination, are totally dressed for that destination”? I pictured everything (including my wardrobe in Lagos filled with causal shirts & jeans) and I laughed at myself the way my ancestors would have laughed at me; I knew cognitively that it was important to dress for the destination and here I am, only clothed for now and it had to change. I initiated a caucus meeting with friends that were around in the family house and intentionally presented my post High School dilemma. It wasn’t surprising that almost everyone had a similar experience even though we were all from different background and times. Ojay and Akpan were ghosts but luckily, they were around on this particular day because there was an announcement for head count. They were both married, working and experienced so Ojay took over the convo, giving scenarios and unintentionally substantiated my seemingly needless gist, so we all agreed it was the right time to ACTIVATE.
I had never given taking up a regular salaried job a pass or priority (except in oil company or oil service firm and of course for the money), but I knew there was a need to prepare for the next phase indeed beyond intellectual muscular development that I already doing. I came up with some sort of exercise, more like an idea with Prince, Alfa and others as part of it, and we got the exercise in motion. Allawee was just N8,900, but part of the plan was to buy at least one thing every month until our watch will end in this “New World” called Jigawa. Barrister Feyi was the plug since she traveled to Kano every month because she had a sister in Kano, her scheduled travels defrayed the cost of transportation, making it for us to spend less. Her responsibility was to ensure that we bought something formal, a shirt or pant, a belt or cuff-link every month at least and she made it work until we left Jigawa. A few months later, I was back in Lagos after fleeing the electoral demons of northern Nigeria that were usually released when a Northerner like Buhari loses a major election without provocation. I had hardly arrived when I got the information to apply for an IT role in Solution Media and Infotech and I did, few days later I was invited to show up for the interview and I didn’t even have to think of what to wear.
The day of the interview arrived and it was at Protea Hotel on Isaac John in Ikeja, I showed up looking like I was there to negotiate the purchase of the hotel itself in one of the shirts I’d bought in Kano, smelling good with no ties involved. The venue was like an event for a select few but we were many, and a number of NOW popular shots in the Nigerian entertainment industry were there as well to interview because somehow, the unknown profile of the company as presented still attracted a lot of young, crème Nigerians that were interested in the growth of the entertainment industry. It all looked like all animals were equal because we all sat down together for the interview process, I met a number of interesting people that are still a part of my life today beyond the work space, and realised along the way that all animals are not equal.
The day began with a briefing, candidates were split into two groups for the main events and pretty much prepared for the unexpected. We kicked off with a written aptitude test for starters, had the verbal interview as main meal and as promised, the potential profile of the company was reeled on the screen as dessert as we “Hoo!”, “Haa!” and wowed in admiration, but now I knew what the company was really all about. My oral interview was conducted by a female professor from UNIJOS, I can still remember every question she asked me till date. When the interview was over and it was time to go home and hope, a token for taxis was announced. Although getting a t-fare for attending an interview wasn’t alien to me, I had received such before at the Shell Intensive Training Programme (SITP) test centre, but this was unexpected and totally surreal for a company that barely existed. For others, it was a totally new experience, and a few lied about their destinations when they discover that coming from outside Lagos attracted more money. I met Vanessa Omorodion who was totally excited, she retorted that she had attended a number of interviews since graduation, but she was being treated with respect as a graduate for the first time and that alone is enough even if she was never called back for the job. We left in the same taxi since we were heading in the same direction; I was not expecting a call back after the interview myself but I was wrong.
Two days later, I got a message that I have been invited for another stage of the interview process at Protea so I went back looking peng, hoping to own Protea with just looks this time. On arrival, I met very few faces from the previous interview including Vanessa, I settled in and in less than an hour, I was invited in to meet the Executive Director who gave me an offer that I instantly rejected. Remember I mentioned that candidates were split into two groups at the interview? The grouping was done based on experience, education and expertise and I’d chosen the IT, but now I was offered a role of a video editor with training because they felt I will make a good one. I wasn’t in their feelings and easily declined. He was surprised at how easily I rejected the offer, queried to know if it was the pay and asked me to indicate how much I was expecting to see if it was reasonable enough. I explained to him that my motivation wasn’t money, I wasn’t just interested in joining the Production Department of the company as offered and will consider working with the company only if I was offered a role in the department I chose during the interview process.
I stepped out of the room without an envelope like the others, and I remember Vanessa and Moyin (another applicant) came after me, wondering why I don’t have an envelope like them and tried to convince me to take the job like that when I told them what had happened, there premise was because it involved travel opportunities as well and the usual “there is no job in the country” of living memory. I told them I wasn’t interested. I got back home, gave Asurf the gist and my decision not to take the offer because I wanted to go on a different path but he gave me a lovely sermon instead, insisting that I should consider taking the job if they agree to my terms because the experience might be essential; he was even optimistic they will call back and I laughed it off. The following day, I got a call to come down to Coker Road, Ilupeju, Lagos and the journey began.
I arrived at the address looking absolutely casual. The moment I stepped into the living room of the house, the CEO whom I had met on the day of the interview called my surname “Oderinlo” as soon as he saw me. There were other faces from the day of the interview in the room and I greeted most of the with a knowing smile as I sat down in one of the green leather cushioned chair in the living room. He motioned to someone to bring the “employment offer letter” I was presented with the day before and had the Production Department role offer crossed out, and the IT role written in ink above it. He told me that a new offer letter will be typed later but pending the time that will be done, I can sign and take the one he’d altered with the ink as proof that I’d gotten the job already. He went straight from that to asking if I had a travelling passport and I told him I didn’t, he asked if I knew how much it will cost to get one and I answered “N15,000” on reflex because I already inquired and was planning to get one. He pulled out a wad of cash from his pocket, gave it to me and asked me to count the fresh N200 notes. I counted N18,000 and confirmed it to him and he said I that I should go and get myself passport immediately because I will still be travelling with the Production Department on the scheduled training for the Production Department, the same one Moyin and Vanessa had tried using to persuade me into accepting to take the initial offer.
The room felt quiet even though he continued talking while others listened or laughed depending on the conversation. My brain was running a trillion thoughts at the same time, but my ancestors from my father’s side kept telling me not to do anything stupid. His voice jerked me back to the present as he began to make a light joke about what had happened on the day of the interview itself and mentioned my name again as he relived the experience. I laughed as I remembered how he walked into the interview hall after the written and oral interviews to introduce himself properly and show us those videos that got us wowing. After the videos, he talked about office politics and asked “who amongst you is a politician or politically inclined” and I raised my hand without even thinking about it. Fortunately and unfortunately, only my hand was up so he talked about how the company will not be a ground for politics or unionism anyone that gets employed will have access to him. He made a sly joke about politicians and immediately, almost everyone in the hall fell for the bait and started taunting me, making not-so-derogatory remarks about politicians, I can still hear the voice of Faith because she was almost the loudest with those remarks until he announced, “I hope you guys know I am a politician”, everybody suddenly went mute and all I could hear in the room was the humming of the lamp of the video projector. I went through the document, signed it, made a copy, handed it over and bade everyone a farewell with the N18,000 he gave me for the passport lining the wall of my pocket.
It all felt like a dream as I left the house (which later became our temporary office), trying to wrap my head around the events that just unfolded. I kept telling myself “guy you calm down”. I alighted from the bus at Yaba and hardly sat down in the “Health Centre/Oyingbo” bus that will take me home when I received a text message, asking me to join the others the next day to Abeokuta Passport Office to sort out the international passport together instead of me doing it solo. I felt the N18k in my pocket and it was still there, I came down from the bus at the next bus stop to slow things down a little. I walked across the road and bought a bottle of water, rinsed my face while I clutched the letter I was holding with my armpit. Getting a job is indeed a job, but choosing a path seems to be harder than getting a job already. In one hand, had just won an international essay competition and had the window to a diplomatic and writing career, and on the other, I had a potentially great opportunity filled with promises and somewhat on the side of reason but there I was, walking the street of Ebute Meta offer-letter in hand, weighing my options.
I am Abidemi ‘BABAOLOWO‘ Oderinlo.