Emeka, Egbon Saka and the rest of us

Let me say this before I start, Saka is not his true name, and the name Saka here can either be Hausa or Yoruba. I had to hide his identity to protect him so the monster that bent him does not crush him. His story is not the essence of this piece, he is just one of our many stories.

As at 2003 when we met, Egbon had stayed at home for five years after secondary school. he left secondary school in 1998. He was from a very poor background, the type I could call poor even as poor as I was. He struggled through secondary school and since there was no mean of going further, he continued to believe while he took up several jobs to survive, that was when we met. I was hanging on a tiny thread at that time as well, so I was always in school till evening, he would come to our school in the evening to read so as to stay sharp, so we became friends. He was probably the most brilliant self-taught that I have met in my life. Every year he thought he would go to the University, every year he could not afford the required tuition, no one would borrow him, no scholarship, the country had no plan for people like him, but he never gave up, he was always hoping the following year would be better. At a point things were so bad that he offered to help people clear the bush around their compounds just to survive.

Several years down the line, Egbon eventually went into one of the top Universities in the country, it was a breakthrough for him, he was happy. Fourteen years after secondary school, egbon bagged a B.Sc in Economics. He not only got that, he became a chartered accountant in the process as well. Then we lost contact, I saw him years later only to hear his story, and no, that was not the type o story I expected. He told me all the jobs he dreamt of at that point, he was screened out of all, and sadly, not because of his grades but age, he was not even selected let alone interviewed, he was already over 30. And yes it is a crime to be 30years old as an entry level applicant in corporate Nigeria.

He shared his frustration with me, how much he felt that all he labored for was for nothing, as Nigeria was determined to make his life miserable. I was going to start my holier than thou sermon that “egbon you don’t have to lie about your age” when he interrupted me. He said he could not lie to me, that eventually after his uprightness was thoroughly dealt with and hunger was going to start a second coming in his life, he removed almost 10years from his age! And almost immediately, he got a job! All I could say was “wow”

Emeka and I worked at a factory in Lagos at a point, he was married, so he wanted something more that he could add to the meagre income we all earned. The good lord was on our side, one good hospital put up a request for a cleaner, we all felt Emeka needed the offer more so we asked him to apply. Emeka approached the company, but to his surprise, he was told he needed at least four credits in his O’Level to apply. He came back worried, I was shocked, I could not understand what he needed O Level for to mop the floor. Two weeks later, Emeka came back to the factory that he got the job, I was happy that the hospital later changed their mind on the unnecessary requirement. Anyway, a week later, one of us told me that Emeka had to use someone else’s result to apply eventually.

We live in a country where those who make rules do not check all the facts before they make them, Declaration of age is probably the easiest thing to get in Nigeria, I still don’t understand why companies think the age barrier they create really fence people off, it only frustrates people who hitherto had integrity, and makes them look like fools. Why Emeka needed O level result to be a cleaner will still be a mystery to me till tomorrow, all that was needed was to interview him, get him a place to mop and see how good he could do it, none of this was done for him, just O level result, and he got the job of a cleaner.

Daily discussions have been limited to politics and this is not even one of such, this is an average man’s experience in the country. Why did Emeka need O’level result to be a cleaner? Why did Egbon Saka need to lie about his age to get a job he was qualified for? These people told their first lies just to survive, and it was just unnecessary if workplace policies were right, just and values required skills above sentiments.

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About Me

My life’s journey is that of many parts, every day I try to bring all the parts to an agreement, but I am yet to succeed at that, or maybe I shouldn’t even be trying to do it, I really don’t know yet- but while at it, I try to find how each part makes me better, and how each part can make the society better

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