Magnus was to make a presentation to a potential client. He was the CEO of a real estate firm that was worth millions. Chief. Ajibola was the grandson of an Oba (chief). He had his name on the board of several companies and no patience to suffer fools. Magnus had pleaded for the opportunity to be the one to handle the pitch, hoping to use it as leverage to ask for a promotion. The 2 other laywers who started with him had all been promoted. After 8 years with the firm, he firmly believed it was his turn.
He checked the projector, his laptop, and hard copies of his notes. Then, he stepped into the bathroom to check his teeth and straighten his tie.He had had no breakfast because, Ijeoma left too early to prepare anything. Besides, she went to bed angry and he could not tell her all about his opportunity. Usually, he loved to practice his speech before her and bow when she smiled approvingly and applauded. For some months, she had become very critical and sarcastic. Though she had always been outspoken, he never knew her to be so vitriolic. Sometimes, he wondered if she was a mutant of her former self.
Suddenly, he heard voices from the conference room and realised the people he was expecting had arrived. He was embarrassed to be seen exiting the bathroom which opened into the room but, had no choice.
“Good morning, sir”, he greeted as he stepped out. The hand he extended was ignored. “Sir, you’re welcome. Please make yourself comfortable. Do I offer you tea, coffee, or wine?”, he asked solicitously.
The man refused to even acknowledge him. His principal stepped in and greeted Chief. Ajibola warmly in Yoruba. Magnus stood there puzzled when the man responded enthusiastically. Was he expected to do the presentation in Yoruba? How would he win this man to him? Next, a colleague 1 year his junior entered and prostrated. Magnus was baffled at how the client warmly patted his back and smiled. He knew then, he was in trouble.
“You’re welcome once again to Jide, Echejile, and Spike, sir. We have a short presentation for you”, he boldly began everyone took their seat. He turned to the screen and switched it on so the slides would show. For some reason, it wasn’t working. After fiddling for a few minutes, all the while sweating profusely, he picked up the hard copy. His hand was shaking.
“Jide, Echejile, and Spike, is the firm to handle all your legal affairs, sir. We have been in business for 20 years and we have a rock solid reputation of delivering on all our client’s expectations. Some of our landmark cases include….”
Suddenly, he stopped. The paper he was holding was blotched. Jonah or Kevin had probably spilled water on it. He couldn’t read the words. His throat was dry as he shuffled the papers, trying desperately to remember what to say.
“Mr. Ozo, If I may”, this came from Pius, who had prostrated earlier.
He rose and adjusted his suit confidently.
“We handle corporate, criminal, and civil cases. Currently, we have 12 lawyers in our employ. Some of the companies we represent include Cadbury Plc, Nestlé plc, Advic Insurance, Lewis Consult and many more. Yours will be our only Real estate firm and we promise to devote our best brains to your account. Your solicitor will be on call 24 hours a day. Also, you will have the experience of our principal Barr. Echejile, who is a Senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He has never lost a case in his 26 years of practice. This is the firm you want on your side”
Magnus stood by sheepishly, while the room was silent. All eyes were on Chief Ajibola. He held his chin thoughfully for a few minutes.
“What is your name?”, he asked.
He turned to Barr. Echejile. “Let him handle my account”
“Of course”, he smiled.
“Thank you, sir”, Pius enthused, bowing slightly.
Chief Ajibola got up and left with his entourage. Barr. Echejile and 2 others got up to walk him to his car. Magnus was dumbstruck. He could not believe what had just happened. A presentation he had worked on for days. How could an unbeliever just take his birthright from him? Loosening his tie angrily, he slumped in his chair. Suddenly, the projector started working. All his slides were up on the screen.
“What rubbish is this? This is just unbelievable! “, he muttered.
Pius who was being congratulated left and right by colleagues, turned and looked at him. “Guy, no vex o! I hope you don’t mind. I saw you were in a fix and had to step in rather than let us lose the client”, he put a hand on Magnus’ shoulder.
“Na wa o!”, Magnus complained.
“One of my friends has a neighbour who works for him. I had to do some research on what he likes and how to impress him. Please, don’t take it personal. I really meant no harm”
“You meant no harm? I lost an client that would have earned me a promotion and pay increase. Listen to yourself”, he got up and stormed out.
Pius watched his as he left, shaking his head in pity.
“Leave that guy. He’s a loser”, another colleague named Andrew put an arm around his shoulders. “Let’s go. You owe us drinks”
Magnus drove home fuming. He narrowly missed knocking down a bike rider who attempted to cross ahead of him. The man let loose a string of expletives that only served to further infuriate Magnus.
“Imagine that small boy, Pius, being promoted over me! That is sheer wickedness”, he muttered. His phone rang as he drove into his street. Pulling over, he picked it and saw that it was his friend, Justin.
“Hello”, he said.
“Mag the mag!”, Justin hailed.
“I’ve been calling you all day. Why was your phone off?”, he asked angrily.
“Don’t mind that phone. It needs to be replaced. Sometimes it goes off on it’s own. How was the presentation? ”
“I messed up”
“Guy, as we speak, Pius has been promoted over me”, he mourned.
“How did it happen?”
“As if the devil just woke up for me. The projector refused to work, my hard copy was destroyed by the kids, my mind just went blank!”
“Honestly, I suspect that guy of doing something diabolical”
“From nowhere, he took over the pitch and had Chief eating out of his hands”
“Meeen, that’s too sad”
“I blame Ijeoma for everything. She won’t give me peace at home to prepare very well. Just count yourself lucky that you didn’t marry a nag like her”
“No one is perfect O. Shirley has her days”
“Does she starve you of food and attention? Does she call you names before the children? I doubt it”
“Let’s meet at Ked’s bar. Over pepper soup, we can talk more”
“Okay. No need going home”, he ended the call and reversed.
To be continued.
*Na wa O! – Pidgin for Unbelievable!