Dust, Flies and Lizards
Rachael was excited about her promotion. It meant that she could finally leave her parents’ house and move to a place of her own. Freedom at last! She did not mind that she would have to move about 736 kilometers northeast from Lagos to Maiduguri to resume her position as branch manager of the commercial bank she worked for. The thought of living alone. The thought of never having to listen to her mother’s nagging that she get married. Rachael was beyond excited. It was the 90s after all. Nothing wrong with a single successful career woman.
Although, she worried about how her father would take the news, she was sure that he would understand. Her mom on the other hand would bring down the roof. But, Rachael could care less. She had heard enough of her mother’s nagging about her status as a single woman. For Rachael, it was time to move ahead in her career, and that she did.
Maiduguri was not exactly as Rachael pictured it. She understood the blazing sunshine, but she did not bargain for the dusty skies, flies, and lizards. She also never thought that the first person she would speak to at the Maiduguri train station 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. Anyway, she thought to herself that she would make the most use of this experience.
Rachael resumed work full of excitement. She was even more excited when she found 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. Other than the fact that the air-conditioning unit did not work, the Maiduguri branch office felt just like Lagos. Except of course, it was not Lagos. And nobody told Rachael that in these parts, it is very difficult for women to attain such positions of authority.
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. He was rich. He also happened to bank 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, real quick. Alhaji Shettima came 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.
Rachael was on the train back to Lagos twelve days after the encounter with Alhaji Shettima. The regional manager called to say that her services were required in Lagos. On the train, she could not help but wonder how the people of Maiduguri lived with so much dust, flies and lizards.
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