Step 1: Be Vulnerable
The sun was scorching hot when I stepped out of the house and made for the bus park. I was on my way to Ikeja where I had what was possibly the interview of a lifetime- not because it was my route to the senate- far from it. But as of now, it promised to be the ribbon that tied all my future plans neatly together. You see, I just finished my one year compulsory National Youth Service, a program I reckon is a complete waste of time, unless you used the spare time it affords you to pursue some personal development agenda of any sort. One thing was crystal clear in my mind; I didn’t want to practice as a doctor in Nigeria. So my plan was simple- or so it seemed back then- get a high paying, low commitment, possibly non clinical job, while you write the foreign exams that will save you from the rot that our health service and post graduate medical training was becoming.
So you should understand why I embraced carefree oblivion when I got a text message 2 days back inviting me for a job interview I could not remember applying for.
It went thus: “Supreme Wellness Health limited hereby invites you for an interview at 10 am, in xxx building, Awolowo way, Ikeja…”
“Call this number for more information.”
A gentle breeze of doubt tickled my cheeks, so I called the number.
A young lady picked up the phone. Her diction was decent enough.
“Bla bla bla… we also have vacancy for a director of our health maintenance organization”
I scratched off the pessimism on my left cheek. That was all the confirmation I needed, first a real human being was on hand to answer my call. Secondly, they had just the kind of job I was looking for. This life ehn, sometimes you just have to work by faith, I told myself.
Step 2: Be Gullible
So there I was sweating profusely in my 2 year old suit as I approached the gigantic skyscraper where our interview was scheduled to hold. I took a quick glance at my left wrist. I was about 30 minutes early. I took in the 30 or so people gathered round the entrance of the building-an eclectic army of ants around a disheveled cube of sugar, nervous faces also trying to size me up. It was clear we all needed whatever jobs they had on offer. I struck a conversation with a gentleman who very neatly summed up his adult life to me. An engineer (my mind registered technician), who was also a pastor (Hustler…check) and was involved in a couple of more endeavours I was too deep in thoughts to remember, being preoccupied with more pressing matters. I was scheduled to resume in the private hospital where I was currently working at about 3 pm. This was 8.30am. I’d have to leave here by 1.30pm max.
Currently my pastor-engineer friend was commenting on all the fine cars parked around the building. He shook his head as he stared at the ground before him. “God, I need this job”, he said in a husky Igbo accent, his brawny hands rustling through bushy hair.
In due time we were summoned to a well air conditioned room on the 4th floor of the building and told our aptitude test will begin in earnest. A fair skinned lady with too much make up and a blonde wig very soon distributed our questions to us, mumbling something about how integrity was paramount to the job we were there for.
I dived into the verbal aptitude questions heart first, acutely aware that I did not prepare for one measly second for this test. To my chagrin however, I couldn’t help but notice grave grammatical errors in the questions themselves. This did not feel right. It was then I realized I already had a virtual score board before my eyes. I ticked my new observation under the column marked ‘Negative’. A shove of optimism nudged me continually till I marked ‘Presentable and well air conditioned room’ under the positive column. The game was on.
In about 30 minutes time the test was rounded off and a Power-point slide buzzed into life on the wall in front of the room.
The woman who shared our papers to us initially was currently asking for our attention. In a weird high pitched voice she started speaking to us.
“Good day lads and gentlemen” she chirped. “Me I don’t talk too much oh! I just want to tell you about this great opportunity you are here for. First remember the words of Steve Jobs who said the ones who thought…think they are… sorry, the ones who are crazy enough to think they can shange the world are the ones who do”
“Mr. Dayo…Ahh! Mr. Dayo…such a great man. Me I will never forget how he has changed my life. Don’t worry; you will meet him very soon”
Negative ticks were flying left, right and centre in my mind. I stretched my legs before me and leaned into the chair.
“Let me tell you my story”, she continued. “As you look at me like this, I was ordinary, ordinary sales garl in Shoprite oh! But then I met Mr. Dayo, our C.E.O and he changed my life for good. See this business ehn! You will all become a millionaire. Did you see the black jeep parked near the side of the door?” She was beating her chest by now.
“It is mine. Small girl like me. All you have to do is believe. See ehn, this life ehn! If you meet the right people and take hold of opportunities you will make it.” She brought out what looked like a crumpled teller from her purse. “This is how much is in my account now, Let me show to just the man sitting here”
She walked towards a diminutive man in a checkered pink shirt in the front row. Arching my neck forward, I tried my best to observe him as he stared blankly at the piece of paper she shoved in his face. He either was not impressed by what she showed him or he did not see anything at all.
“Anyway, let me call my oga to talk to you” The nervous ‘Ko ko’ of her high heeled shoes faded into the silence that had engulfed the room as she stepped out.
Some disgruntled mumblings swept through the room as a shuffling of feet quickly culminated in a slim, rather well dressed lady storming out of the room as a man walked in. I reckoned he must have been the great Mr. Dayo. He was dark skinned and well-toned. He had a rather broad nose that wiggled slightly to show the disgust on his face. He looked down at us.
“Anyone else?” He had a crisp voice. I noticed a shiny briefcase in his left hand.
“Is there anyone else who would like to leave? We cannot force people to be successful”. When he noticed the mutters wane like tired waves he let his lips form into a gentle smile.
“The next set of millionaires in Nigeria” He started, his cocky walk carrying his 6 foot frame from one side of the room to another. He placed the briefcase he was holding gently on a desk in the front left row.
“Young millionaires” He added.
“Welcome to the turning points of your lives”
Step 3: Pay the Commitment Fee
“I will tell you a little story about my life. I finished with a first class in civil engineering from the great University of Ife” He let it sink in as he paused for dramatic effect.
“I roamed the streets of Lagos for 2 good years looking for a job”. “Two” He reiterated, with his right index and middle finger waving at us in case we could not count.
“After one embarrassing interview after another, I met Mrs. Perpetua. One conversation with her changed my life. Ladies and gentlemen, all you need is one meeting with the right person and your life will change for good. Two weeks later after she introduced me to this totally legit business I did my first job.” His smile became broader and warmer.
“I remember getting into my room and emptying a bag full of cash on the bed.” He let out a squeaky laugh
“Hard cash mehn! I had never seen so much money in my entire life”
Mr. Dayo paused thoughtfully and looked in my direction, his eyebrows arching acutely as he searched for his next words.
“See, I do not like to talk too much. All I’m saying is that that machine over there” He pointed at his shiny briefcase
“…has dollars, Pound sterlings, Euros, and any other currency you can think of in this world. What’s more, when you start this business, you will be like a superstar. As in you will actually be a superstar in your community. You know the way people think doctors are like superstars. As a matter of fact, till now many people call me doctor”
I glanced at my watch. It was noon already. I did a mental calculation. I should be out of here in about an hour’s time. By now, the virtual scorecard in my mind had closed as the ticks on the negative column had broken the board under its sheer weight. Right now, I was only hiding myself in this room from the unforgiving sun outside. The interaction was getting rather interesting anyway. Here I was 2 years post induction into the medical profession and I had no idea I was a superstar.
Mr. Dayo motioned to one of his subordinates who stood transfixed at the door, marvelling at the smoothness of his boss’s words. The man, bow tie and all, briskly walked to the laptop that was connected to the projector to begin a slide show. The first few slides contained quotes and charts from the works of Robert Kiyosaki, but they soon faded away to reveal Mr. Dayo in what looked like a hotel out of the country, swaddled in a snow white bathrobe. Other pictures showed him in the same bathrobe just outside the hotel with two Caucasian women in office clothes smiling sheepishly at the camera.
“You see, you will be called doctor,” He was saying, “Because you will not only be making money…lots of money, but also helping people’s health at the same time. All you have to do is write a contract to any organization. It can be your church, or even where you work- and ask them to book a date where you will use this machine (he pointed at his ‘magical’ brief case) to run tests on them that will tell them everything, I repeat, everything about their health free of charge. Then you will be able to sell some supplements I will give you to correct whatever problems they have.”
I swear I almost fell down in mirth, bent almost double when I heard those words. I have always heard people talk about a certain machine that you simply put your hand into and it diagnoses everything about your health. I’d be stupid to claim I know it all, but basic knowledge about the science that goes into the design of medical tests, and the sheer structural differences between different modalities of investigations makes the validity of such a test, at least for now, questionable. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imagining) works in a totally different way from a CT scan and gives a very distinctly different set of results. The reagents used to run a thyroid function test was more different from those used to perform a full blood count than Buddhism is different from space travel- they aren’t even in the same category.
So I was sure that if such a machine really did exist Nobel prizes would have been won over its manufacture and governments would throw banquets if they could purchase one for their state hospitals.
“But first” Mr. Dayo’s deep voice brought me back to the room
“You know the saying that no pain, no gain. You have to pay an enrolment fee before we can enlist you officially into the program.
Look, I am not forcing anybody here. You either want to be rich or you don’t.”
“Our gold members have to pay a tiny sum of 100 thousand naira to get the gold package.” He again looked in my general direction. I’m guessing it’s my suit that was causing the attention.
If you are interested please put up your hands so Mrs. Nkechi here can talk more to you in the other room.”
I stared at my watch. It was some minutes past 1 pm by now. I began to put my things together.
He gradually reduced the fees until it was about 20 thousand naira- I think that was the bronze package- when three enthusiastic hands shot up.
As I walked out of the room, I could feel his piercing eyes on my back.
He was explaining how all these dues were simply commitment fees so they could be trusted with the machine.
“See, in this life ehn, nobody can force you to be a superstar” he growled with sarcasm, his small eyes piercing into my back as I shut the door gently behind me.
As strange as it may sound this is essentially a true life story. I have tried to change names, and most likely made up for pockets of amnesia in all that happened with minor changes in the story. As you set off into the real world, do not substitute common sense for greed, and don’t let desperation set you off on a course that will end in regret.
Search every matter thoroughly, and pursue excellence with a deep sense of integrity and strong moral codes. Trust me when I tell you that in due time, everything good will come…
Oluwaseyi ADEBOLA (M.B.B.S)
C.E.O and founder, CreativeNaija.com
You can reach me via email- email@example.com