… where sa-tyres never go flat

FeatureFrom Our Allies

The search for greener pastures│Seun Akioye

The search for greener pastures│Seun Akioye

Originally published via Facebook on June 16, 2017.

I pity young people who abandon their education saying ‘I will continue my schooling abroad’ and they have visiting visas. I pity the young men who dropped promising career here thinking their celebrity status here automatically translates to work in “the abroad of the London or in the America.”

One day, I woke up with what I believed was the solution to all my money, love and career problems. Just one masterpiece of an idea that would level every mountain in my life. Armed with this, I went to my editor at The Source, Hon. Victor Afam Ogene, and told him I was resigning. My colleagues, Edward Dibiana and Olukorede Yishau, felt I was mad. “You this boy, what is wrong with you?” My editor cried. I could not be bothered. I pitied Korede and Eddy, they would end up as veteran journalists if care is not taken. I didn’t want that at all.

That week, I had been promoted from a reporter to senior reporter and my salary doubled to a whopping N12,000. The letter read in part: “Your performance has pleased the management”- yea, darn right.  I was a fairly good journalist and was acquiring a reputation for getting the story no matter how horrible the situation, you could say I had prospects. My plan was simple. I would relocate to London and make it big. A year before, I had taken a fancy to reading all of London’s best writers and I felt I could do as well if not better. I was adamant my life will not move forward if I do not travel out. If I stayed in Lagos, I would grind out in poverty and frustration with N12,000 salary. That was 2003.

I arrived in London in the winter, no jacket, no money save 20 pounds. I was armed with the book 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene — it actually belonged to Adeola Akinremi. I reckoned, by the time I had practised at least 20 of the laws on the white people, I would be rich and famous. As I struggled inside the cold on my way to Woolwich, I was planning which law I would deploy on the editor of The London Telegraph newspaper. I must get a job with that paper and I would start the next day.

I began about a week later, I drafted a fine application letter. My gang in Lagos led by Tosin Orogun had created high tech CVs and fantastic way of writing applications. For instance, we would say: “Dear Editor, I hereby forward to you, the basic pre-requisite as regards my suitability for the above-mentioned position. I have had four years of increasingly progressive experience in the print media…”

I also photocopied some of my ‘greatest’ writings in The Source magazine; I did them in A3 so the Telegraph editor won’t have to squint to read them and posted the bulky envelope. Two weeks later, I received no response, I wrote another letter, nothing. Time was going, I had bills to pay. So I went to a bus stop and copied the addresses of all the leading London newspapers. I would bombard them with my applications, after all, 48 Laws of Power said we should never give up.

I wrote flowery applications to The Times, Guardian and The Independent. No response. I was getting desperate, these people are joking with me, do they know what I can do for them. Then I started calling them, the operator would ask why I wanted to talk to the editor, reluctantly, I would say it has to do with a job.

“Sorry, there is no vacancy at the moment.”

At the moment? So when will there be a vacancy. “Sorry, there is no vacancy at the moment.”

I decided to go lower, to the Daily Mail, the Mirror, Sun, Daily Express, papers I don’t like. It was the same. I felt these people must be racist, it is because I am black. I went even lower, I applied to local newspapers like the free Evening Standard, then Borough papers with barely eight pages in length. I went to the headquarters of The Mail somewhere in Kensington and I was not admitted to see the editor. In desperation, I penned a last letter to the Telegraph editor with the title: I AM ONE OF A KIND, TOO GOOD AN OPPORTUNITY TO IGNORE. I was ignored.

I decided to do something with my talents. I trekked to Old Kent road where I had a complementary card printed with my last money. The card read: JOURNALIST AND MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER. I took out all the notes from my Pastor, Sam Adeyemi and crammed all the seven steps to success and all such things as the Parable of Dollars, Success Tips, Dream Seed.

I would stand at the bus stop and begin to distribute my card. “Oi mate,” I would call to people and begin to introduce myself as a motivational speaker and a journalist, I wasn’t sure if I would get anyone willing to engage an unemployed and hungry motivational speaker. Nobody hired me, no church called me back to speak to their youths, I did not see the light at the end of the tunnel, so one day, I went to Amour security company, owned by one rich Nigerian man called Chief Bala and begged them to get me a job as a security guard.

Sequel: My first job in England

{Originally published here.}

So I got a job with a security company, I did not have any training nor passion and it was far from my dream job but hunger drove me to accept it. It paid far less than minimum wage and the only way to make any appreciable pay is to do long hours, like 24 or 36 hours at a stretch. When I was called to resume, I actually rolled on the floor in thanksgiving.

But problem number one: The work is in a city called Leicester.

I was to resume at a shop called The Perfume shop in the city centre. I left London on Sunday, checked into a bed and breakfast and in the morning went to the shop. I was dressed in a full uniform (I lost all those wonderful pictures, you will think I am a Group Captain in the Air force), with cap, suit, tie and boots.

The shop attendants small fine girls like that welcomed me and commented on how handsome my uniform was and how much handsome I was. I was blushing like a baby.

Customers started coming in, old and young, they would commend my beautiful appearance and my eloquence, I stood by the door blushing and bellowing “Hiya,” “Thanks for shopping, please come again.” (I had spent three days perfecting my British accent).

I was to work from 7am to 7pm on my feet. From the start to like 9 am, I was full of spirit, greeting, helping people and deterring robbers.

Now, the job of a security guard is to catch a thief, many of our people who had no work permit often resort to security work. The company would collect 12 pounds per hour and pay the undocumented Nigerian only 2.50 per hour. At work, your employers expect you to work like you are paid 12 pounds, you will work as someone being paid 2 pounds. Then you must catch a thief, well nothing difficult in that, we catch thieves in Agege and Oshodi. But once you catch him, you will call the police, the police will ask for your name and find you are illegal… next thing is deportation, you see the dilemma?

But I digress. By 12 noon, my legs could no longer support my head, I was having a dizzying feeling, I had been standing for 5 hours. I could no longer smile broadly, I only chuckled. One man called me and I could only mutter “hunm”.

2pm, I had been on my feet for 7 hours. It was no longer funny, I felt some faint sound in my stomach and I began to desecrate the air. I saw my whole life pass in front of me, I could no longer see people coming or going and if armed robbers had stormed that shop I would gladly have helped them carry their bag in exchange for 3 minutes of rest.

By 3pm, something happened. Suddenly, I felt an earthquake, the ground shook and the whole store was turning upside down, this was disaster. I began to scream, “May Day, May Day, this store is gonna fall, everybody out.”

I leaned on the closest wall and held it tight, trying to prevent myself from slipping over as the store began to fall apart. Soon reality dawned, I was hallucinating, there was no earthquake, no May Day.

The people in the store were stunned, the attendants were very disappointed. “Why didn’t you tell us you wanted a quick rest, your break is at 3pm but you could have asked for a rest earlier,” they told me angrily.

An elderly man looked at me, held my shoulders and took me outside to the MacDonald store where I loaded on Double Quarter Pounder burger (I would later become one of the best burger flippers in London) and I regained my strength.

So what happened to the job? Well, I was sacked that evening, the next morning, I left for London in shame and regrets.

4.3 4 votes
Article Rating

Share this post

Wanna leave a reply?

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Uthman Alao
Uthman Alao
4 years ago

Nice piece

I kept laughing throughout the piece

It was a cool one ?

Rasheed Otegbola
Rasheed Otegbola
4 years ago

This is a thoroughly revealing read and twice as entertaining.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x