Rachael was excited about her promotion. It meant that she could finally leave her parents’ home and move to a place of her own. She did not mind that she would have to travel about 736 kilometers northeast from Lagos to Maiduguri to take on her position as branch manager of the commercial bank she worked for. The thought of her mother trying to nag her into marriage was enough to leave Lagos in the dust.

Her father didn’t take the news well, but he understood. Her mom on the other hand brought the roof down. For Rachael, it was time to move ahead in career and in life.

The North was not exactly as Rachael pictured it. She understood the blazing sun, but she did not bargain for dusty skies and so many lizards. She also didn’t think that the first person she would speak to at the train station — upon reaching her stop in Maidguri — would be a Pentecostal pastor from her hometown of Alayi in Abia State. She had always imagined Maiduguri as a place where there would not be many Southerners let alone pastors.

Rachael resumed work full of excitement. She was happy to find that members of her staff were not just from the Northern part of Nigeria, they were from the South and the East and the West too. They were Christians and Muslims.

The Maiduguri office felt just like Lagos. Except, it was not Lagos. Alhaji Abba Tanko Shettima was one of the richest men in Maiduguri at that time. He had fleets of trucks that deliver perishable goods to other parts of the country, he had over 750 cows, and he had been to Mecca more than 12 times in the last 15 years. Simply put, he was rich. He also managed his accounts at Rachael’s bank.

 

It was six weeks into her new job, and Rachael had settled in fine. She had earned the respect of her staff and was even starting to eat fara, even though she could not get why people choose to eat fried grasshoppers, she enjoyed the taste anyway. Her mom called often to express fears over the new job, but Rachael always told her that she had nothing to fear. Rachael was soon to find out, however, that as far as Maiduguri goes, there were many things she did not know.

What started as a normal morning one day, turned real ugly, and escalated real quick. Alhaji Shettima walked into the bank and asked to see the branch manager. When he was directed to Rachael’s office, the look on his face said it all. The Alhaji could not believe that a woman was in charge of his millions. Shettima expressed his displeasure and told Rachael to go home to her husband and children.

Eleven days after her encounter with Alhaji Shettima, Rachael was on the train again. The regional manager informed her that her skills were needed managing a different branch. Luckily, the bank honored her promotion and augmented her relocation costs. On the train, the dusty plains whizzed by. Rachel thought how quick she adapted — even with all the dust and lizards.

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Oluwatosin Ayeni

Oluwatosin is a Nigerian living in the US. He has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maiduguri in Borno State, North East Nigeria. He is currently pursuing degrees in Manufacturing Management and Quality Management. He loves to read Nigerian fiction and do some writing in his spare time.
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