I woke up with that dull headache that reminded me of last night, the countless drinks and club hopping.
I yawned, stood up and went in search of drinking water.
Sated, I grabbed my phone and found two missed calls from Mr. Babalola Paul, one of the reasons I arrived at Ibadan last night.
I promptly returned his call. He asked if I was in Ibadan yet. I said yes. He tried to describe his office address. I told him it was too cumbersome. He said he would send one of his guys to wait for me at the Tantalizers on Iwo road.
I did not know who Babalola Paul was. A doctor friend gave him my phone number. A contract was said to have been sublet to him, one involving the certification of casual workers fit for work for a cement factory. He needed a doctor to carry this out. I happened to be the lucky one. We were talking about 60 casual workers and the overhead profit per worker could be close to six thousand naira. Do the maths.
I met the man, Mr Shobowale, standing outside Tantalizers. We shook hands and he asked after my car. I told him I had come without it. I asked him to lead us to Mr Babalola Paul’s office. He said he had some documents to show me first.
So we went into Tantalizers and he showed me two documents. One was a print out of quotation for hospital equipment. Apparently, beyond the fitness test for the sixty casual workers, there was also a need for a sick bay and I was supposed to set that up too. I looked at the quotation and made a few observations which I told him we would discuss at Mr Babalola’s office.
Off we went in a rickety cab down the Ibadan-Ife expressway at an unsteady pace. We highlighted at Temidire-Adegbayi. We crossed the road and walked down to an unpainted shopping complex. We climbed the stairs and walked into one of the shops which had been converted into an office.
There was Mr Babalola sitting in a torn swivel chair, smiling. A fair man, he looked like he was in his early forties. He offered us seats.
“You look quite young, doctor”, he said as we shook hands, “I was expecting somebody much older and fat and big. Anyway, nice to have you here. What can we offer you?”
“I am fine thank you sir”, I said, “Mr Shobowale showed me the documents, I think we need to do modify a few things about it.”
“That should not be a problem. All I care for is my share of the profit.”
At that instance, a tall man wearing white lace material walked in and greeted Mr Babalola stooping over.
Mr Babalola’s countenance changed. He answered the man stiffly.
“What are you doing here? Today is Sunday, a rest day, we did not agree on today, or is today Tuesday”
“I saw your car outside and I was around the neighbourhood so I said let me just drop by”, the man in white lace said meekly, his eyes seeking pity, his hands set like a supplicant.
“Mr Mattew, they will not beg you for useless things. Please I don’t like the way some of you people behave. This is business. An agreement is an agreement. No amount of pleading will change my mind”, Babalola turned to Shobowale and I.
“This will not take time”, he said, “I want you to hear me out.”
He began, “An elderly retired man once approached me in my other office that he wanted to sell his house in Bodija. I asked him why. This man had four children, three were in America and one had just completed his masters. The man said he was relocating to Osogbo and he no longer had a need for the house. I told him to rent the house out instead. He handed the documents of the house to me and I helped him look for a tenant. How, you will ask me? I put a To Let signboard with my phone numbers. Soon enough, I got a phone call. I asked the person to come and see me in person, as our people say; every conversation is about the face. The man came and I found out that he was Lebanese. I asked why he was looking for a house in Ibadan. He told me that he was a Marine Engineer building a textile factory at Akinmorin. He said he usually supervised the project on weekends and the hotel bills were too costly. I told him there was no problem, that all he needed was a Nigerian to stand in for him. That was when he brought in Mr Mattew here, his P.A. Mattew signed all the documents and I issued a receipt out in his name, two hundred and fifty thousand naira for one year, and of course, twenty thousand extra, my ten percent. The owner of house wanted his rent paid annually.
You can’t believe how quickly one year passed. I was in my office when the elderly retired man appeared at my door. He was distraught. He asked me why I had chosen to make him suffer. I didn’t quite understand. The rent for his house had been due for two months. I had totally forgotten. The man and I went to his house. We were quite dumbfounded when we got there. The house had remarkably changed. The gate had been replaced. Interlocking tiles in the compound. Yaro, the gateman whom I had gotten for the Lebanese, opened up and told me that the Lebanese was not in, but his P.A was in. We went into the house and it looked like a paradise. The elderly man panicked, asking me several times if his house had not been taken from him. Mr Mattew came out wearing just a towel and I asked after his boss. He called his boss on the phone and the house owner spoke to him. He said he was out of town and that he would pay his rent on his return.
True to his word, on his return he came looking for me. I even still have the two shirts he brought for me from his sojourn. He said he was going to Lagos and that he will be back in two days with the rent money.
What I heard next was that he had an accident on his way back to Ibadan. The accident was fatal, so fatal, his driver died instantly. The Lebanese was admitted in UCH. I went to see him at the ISU”
“I.C.U.”, I corrected, “Intensive Care Unit”
“Exactly. You know seeing the man, his condition was quite bad. They said he had a spinal cord injury. I told Mr Mattew that they should call the man’s wife. The wife asked them to send him to Israel. They took him to Israel and that was where he died”
“Haa”, a hiss of pity issued from Mr Shobowale and I.
“After the Lebanese died, Mr Matthew gave the Lebanese’s wife my phone number. She asked me to do an inventory of all her late husband’s properties. All the while, Yaro had been coming to my office to borrow money for his upkeep. I went to house and did the inventory. Lots of properties, household equipment, five cars, of which two of them were brand new. After about a month, the security guard came to my office. He gave me the eight thousand he had borrowed in small installments and a black briefcase. I asked him how he came about the briefcase and he told me that Mr Mattew gave it to him. He said that when the Lebanese’s wife came to pack her husband’s properties, Mr Mattew told her that he had purchased one of her husband’s cars, the Avalon. The woman rightly asked him to produce a proof of ownership which he could not produce. He sat outside distraught. Then he went into the Lebanese’s bedroom and brought out the briefcase which he gave to Yaro to keep. Yaro handed the briefcase to me and told me he was going back to Sokoto to take up farming. About two days later, Mr Mattew came to me and asked after Yaro. I asked him why. He said he kept a briefcase in Yaro’s care. I told him Yaro had travelled back to Sokoto but he left it in my care. He asked me to give the briefcase to him but I told him I couldnt. I was using it as collateral for the rent. He said he would go in search of the rent, but not before he told me what was in the briefcase, computer accessories worth a million naira. True to his word, he returned with some money, 175 thousand naira. The rent remained 100 thousand. He asked for the briefcase which I still refused. He went again and promised to come with the rest of the money on Tuesday. Today is not Tuesday, Mr Mattew.”
Mr Mattew stammered that he could not raise the money and that selling the computer accessories was his best bet.
Babalola said he was going to give him three options of releasing the briefcase:
- He should look for a house owner in Ibadan to stand in as guarantor for him.
- He should bring buyers of the accessories to the office to conduct the sales.
- He should give him the code to the briefcase so that he can go and bring half of accessories.
Mr Mattew promptly agreed with the third option and gave him the codes.
At this point, I wondered why exactly we were talking about this instead of the business that had brought me. Immediately Babalola stepped out, Mr Mattew faced Shobowale and I saying there were no computer accessories in the briefcase; that it was full of money from the oil bunkering his boss dealt in, dollars, hundred thousands of dollars, but that he did not know how to tell it to Mr Babalola.
At that instance, Mr Babalola walked in with a frown and a handful of dollar bills.
“I will arrest this man; I will report him to the police. Do you know that the bag was full of dollars”, Mr Babalola said showing what was in his hands.
At that instance, I realised what was happening around me. I asked to be excused for I was in an urgent need of a pee.
I ran as far away from the shopping complex as my legs could carry me.