It was finally over, the 8:00am classes, the all night reading, the stress of assignments and tests, it was over and I was ecstatic. I had finally finished school against all odds and I was so excited about the life ahead of me, the good job I was sure I’d get judging from how impressive my result was, the houses I would build, the fact that I would finally let my mother retire and take up the responsibilities…I was hopeful.
“Emeka! Emeka!!” my mom screamed. It was a Monday morning and I was knotting my tie, preparing for the job interview I had been invited for. Two years after graduation and I was still jobless with no money, prospects or even skills. “Maaaa,” I replied. I was frustrated with her constant calls whenever she was on the phone with her brother, a big shot mechanic in Abeokuta. He had indicated interest in taking me up as his responsibility sometime last year and my mother was excited.
“Mama, you realise I would be working as a mechanic. Mama, a graduate like me, a mechanic! Never mama” I told her when she shared the idea with me.
“Emeka, Ndo! I know how you feel, but just think about it,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes.
“Come and talk to your uncle. Brother, he’s coming o. He’s preparing for…ok…he’s here,” she quickly said as I gave her a disapproving look.
I had told her not to share my business with Uncle Chidi as he was very judgemental and I disliked him.
“Hello Uncle,” I said as I took the phone.
“Ah Emeka, kedu?” he said.
I replied that I was fine and he went on his usual incessant rambling about spare parts and the present manager of one of his parks who was stealing his money. I listened while looking at my time. The interview was by 10 but I quickly told uncle Chidi that I had to run when I realised he had switched the topic to the missing spare parts in another workshop in Lagos. I handed the phone back to my mother and she said the final goodbye to her brother and disconnected the call.
“My son, you’ll get this one o!” she said as she helped me adjust my tie. Of course I wouldn’t get it, I thought as I left the house. I would either be too qualified for the job or the call for an interview was a mistake as they had already filled the vacancy. I was always prepared for the worst.
Life outside the university turned out to be very different than I had expected. In the space of two years I had gone for interviews in six different states, all funded by my mother. I became a burden, with no father and two younger sisters to cater for, I needed a job badly. I applied for all the white collar jobs I knew. I did odd jobs just to contribute to the purse at home, I lost all hope, even contemplated suicide once. My youngest sister, 15 years of age called me “useless” after I had scolded her for disturbing me for money for new school sandals. Sandals which uncle Chidi ended up paying for. It was never supposed to be this way. I had big dreams. I had hope of a bright future. But here I was, 24 year-old with nothing to my name. Most of my friends had big uncles or fathers who had hooked them up with one appointment or the other immediately after graduation. Some of them didn’t pick my calls anymore. Who can blame them? I was a burden, I didn’t run in their circle anymore and like a bad branch, they cut me off. Not all of them though. I remember seeing Ayo, a very intelligent colleague of mine at the motor park in Yaba, calling for passengers. He was a driver. I remember feeling a sense of joy on seeing him as I realised I’m not the only one after all. We exchanged numbers and talked for a while until I stopped picking his calls…he reminded me too much of my failures.
I had come close to getting a really good job three months ago. I got the mail that I was one of the 3 applicants shortlisted for a final interview and I was to report to their office the next Monday at 8:00 am prompt. I was overjoyed knowing that they had two vacancies. Surely I would get one, I thought to myself. I remember walking into the company for the second time and imagining my life as the new sales or product manager until I got to the reception area and I met the two other applicants, yapping away with the receptionist. They both had strong British accents…too strong as though they were trying to sound as foreign as possible. They certainly had the receptionist smitten as she listened with keen interest to their description of their first experience with snow. I said “good morning”, sounding a little too excited. They glanced at me for a second and nodded, turning back to their conversation.
“I’m sorry errr…Emeka, but we need applicants with a little international exposure, you are a strong applicant and I will be sure to recommend you to my partners”, the bald headed personnel manager said. Just as I had expected after the first applicant walked out of his office and told the other applicant that he’d definitely get the job. Basically I had lost this job because I schooled in Nigeria and not the UK. That was when I realised that the problem was Nigeria and not me. I left the firm that day with mixed feelings, more of self-loathing than calm. I narrated the experience to my mother when I got home and she said “Don’t worry o… you’ll get the next one”. I nodded. As usual.
“You carry change? No change o,” the conductor screamed. I boarded the bus to Abeokuta to manage one of Uncle Chidi’s motor parks after incessant pleas from my mother. I hated myself for settling with that option but what choice did I have? Uncle Chidi offered to pay me ₦35,000 a month and considering the fact that I was going to be living with him for a while, it was a good deal. I let my mind wander but I couldn’t find any happy thoughts. Well, I sighed. At least it’s not in Lagos I thought. I wouldn’t want any of my acquaintances to know what Nigeria had reduced me to. A microbiology graduate, now a motor park manager.
You can catch up with Entinyene Jimmy on Twitter: @etinyene_