Bonja took a look at his watch, adjusted his tie, fastened the Mont Blanc pen on his jacket and sat up to wait for his European visitor. He thought of sending a quick text message to his latest mistress, but immediately decided against it; she recently formed a habit of calling him each time he texted her. Her call will most probably come at the middle of his meeting with the oyibo man, and if he does not pick, she will accuse him of having an office mistress.
Women and their ways, he thought, as he considered how much to ask for from the Oyibo. The higher you climb the more complicated and delicate things become. As a junior officer processing primary shipping documents, such transactions were simple, a blanket sum was collected in lieu of each required document. His task was to place the ‘Complete and Processed’ stamp on the envelope of cooperating clients. 90 per cent of clients cooperated, the 10 per cent who did not would go through a long and tortuous route to complete documentation. As the first of several levels of officers that clients must settle, Bonja could only ask for so much.
The higher Bonja climbed, the higher his share became, and the more complex life turned out to be. His wife’s demands grew with his career and his tastes grew as well. Now, his women must be top-of-the-range, well-bred and elegantly constituted, and those came with serious maintenance fees. He worked hard – he would always remind himself each time he parted with a heavy check after spending time with any of his five mistresses – so he could play hard. These days, Bonja would only drink aged single malt scotch whiskey and nothing that emits smoke touches his lips that is not Partagas Seri D. He held numerous positions across communities and organizations and receives tons of invitations from them for the launching of this or that. He never disappoints and would often part with a minimum of one hundred thousand Naira per invitation.
Mr. Farrow walked in with a smile as huge as the metallic silver briefcase he carried under his gangly left arm. “Bonjay my friend!” He exclaimed, pausing for a careful moment to place the briefcase on the wall adjacent the wooden door behind him.
Arms spread as if conducting an orchestra, Bonja tightly embraced Mr. Farrow. “My good friend, my very good friend.” He said as he held on and patted the back of the man he was meeting for the first time. If close friends did things together and kept each other’s secrets, then that is what both men were at that time.
“Very nice office you’ve got here” Mr. Farrow spoke, still standing and looking around. His eyes rested on the numerous plaques on the long oakwood drawer that ran from one end of the wall to the other. He walked closer to read the writings. Much of them came from Bonja’s village association, his religious group and other organizations, and all congratulated Bonja for some undefined achievement.
“Thank you, my friend.” Bonja responded, proud at being so complimented. “ But don’t tell me this is anything compared to what you have back in your country. You must invite me to come and see how you people do your own thing over there.”
Mr. Farrow stood smiling and nodding his head.
Assuming he should know the chairs were meant to be sat on, Bonja talked about how bad things were in Nigeria.
“We are simply shuffering and shmiling like we say it here,” he said before pausing to breath.
“May I?” It was the arthritis on Mr. Farrow’s knees that spoke. His briefcase-free hand pointed at the single chair that faced Bonja’s desk. Bonja would not have such a close friend sit so far away. He shifted to the end of the sofa where he sat, the one that doubles as a couch for his siesta and a comfortable spot for when one of his mistresses visited.
“Come here, my friend.” Bonja insisted. Both men sat, Bonja talking, Mr. Farow nodding, smiling and clutching on his briefcase. In reality there was not much to say. They had discussed over the phone. Mr. Farrow had come as agreed. He would return with the evening flight.
“I hope things change for Nigeria.” Mr. Farrow chimed in solemnly in response to the litany of transgressions his newly met friend continued to enumerate against the government of his country.
Bonja, put out an up turned right palm towards Mr. Farrow.
“How?” He asked. “Where will the change come from? When will it come? When they are busy sharing our money and making nonsense laws that are impeding businesses. Look at your company now, honest business people, but to simply deliver your goods to Nigeria, you are being frustrated by unnecessary bureaucracy. Now, you have to come all the way to facilitate what could have been a very simple and easy process.”
“Not at all, Mr. Bonjay. It’s all in a day’s job.” Mr. Farrow spoke as he directed an intentional gaze at the door and then at his briefcase. Bonja got up and turned the lock on the door firmly. He returned to find Mr. Farrow pressing a complex set of numbers on his briefcase. When it finally opened, it was as expected.
“It is complete, Mr. Bonjay.” Mr. Farrow’s smile was wider than when he first came, as if the Euro filled briefcase was being handed over to him, instead.
“Thank you, my friend.” Bonja’s teeth threatened to burst through the seams of his thin lips.“You know I could have said let me bring a note counter here to make sure, but I trust you.” He repeated the statement again, as he smoothed out unseen wrinkles on the stacks of currency.
Bonja got up, and walking to his desk, pulled a drawer and extracted a Ghana-Must-Go bag. Returning to his position, he began to transfer the bundles of bank note.
“You know we trust you white guys.” He told a perpetually smiling Mr. Farrow as he turned each bundle around, clearly wishing his eyes were some note counter, before placing it carefully in the bag.
He completed the transfer and spoke.“I am so sorry it came to this. As soon as you leave here, I am going to take everything to the people who demanded it. I am not interested in getting anything, my only interest is for your business to benefit everybody in this country.”
Bonja saw Mr. Farrow off to the door, returned and opened the Ghana-must-go bag. After some time, he picked up his briefcase, emptied its contents, fixed his telephone headset and called his newest mistress, the one who loves shopping in France. As they chatted, he was smiling and staring at the Euro notes, now neatly arranged in his own leather briefcase. What a beautiful life, he thought.
To be continued…
The above is a work of creative non-fiction based on the recent efforts by the Nigerian Customs Service to rid the organization of corruption. The efforts is commendable and this is hoping it yields positive gains.
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