You couldn’t possibly imagine my joy when we arrived in Nigeria. I was unperturbed by the harsh weather in Abuja at that time of year. It was HOT and my then fairer skin was getting it… a warm welcome home indeed. Kingsley was working in Akure, a town about 438km away. A few days into my return, I travelled there to see the place for myself. After all, our first home was going to be there.
You see, Kingsley has asked for my hand in marriage before I left for my Master’s. On a bus en route to Lagos from Abuja, he took me by the left hand and said my fingers were beautiful, then he asked me to give him my ring finger. That was such an impossible request and I went on to explain why. Well, later that night, while reminiscing on our time together, I realized what he was really asking. I called to say ‘yes’ and to tell him that that was the ‘weirdest proposal ever’. I mean, what happened to getting down on your knees in the presence of complete strangers and holding out a beautiful ring? This guy was just so unconventional. He felt really smart. I remember him having a good laugh and saying ‘So you finally got it’.
Akure was not what I expected. It wasn’t as modern, as beautiful or as organized as Abuja, and it was a far cry from the cities in Europe. I was also disappointed when I found that there was no multinational oil company there. I came to the conclusion that if we were to make this work, I would have to work with what was available. They had schools and I really enjoyed teaching during my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) so I decided I would start out as a teacher, then use my time after work to build a flour confection business and probably transition to doing business full-time.
Kingsley planned to rent a three-bedroom apartment he found in a relatively organized part of town. Its rental value was thirty thousand Naira per annum. The town’s taxi service was cheap and it was easy to get around even if you didn’t own a car. We thought we would save money over a few years and buy a fairly used vehicle.
I returned to Abuja to live out the rest of my spinster days. My M.Sc. result was finally communicated via email and I was thrilled to see that all my hard work paid off. I graduated with distinction and I rushed home to share the good news with my family. I also informed Kingsley about it. My elder sister always told me to keep my options open so I went ahead to submit my application to about ten companies in Nigeria. Feeling like a ‘hot cake’, I thought I would have an overwhelming influx of interview invitations. Surprisingly, I got no response.
I picked up my old income stream – making cakes – and that kept my cash flow up. Then a friend of mine came to town for an interview at an Environmental Solutions Company. I went along with her and after wowing the examiners, I was offered a job. She got an offer too but the salary was not enough to cover her relocation from Port Harcourt so she turned it down. I started what I considered a ‘placeholder’ job while waiting for something more interesting to come up.
One day, my mother went to visit some friends and returned with a newspaper that contained employment adverts. One of the juicy opportunities was from the No. 1 company I wanted to work for. I submitted my application and continued with everyday life – work, cakes, choir and other music rehearsals, church programs, and so on.
Soon enough, I was invited for an aptitude test… and then an interview, after which I was asked to stay for another interview, with a number of candidates eliminated at each stage. Finally, I had my medical screening. My placeholder employer first threatened to fire me when I asked for permission to go for these tests. But when I got the employment letter for my dream job, they offered me a pay raise to entice me to stay. No way, Jose! I put in a month’s notice and began to prepare to resume my new job in Lagos on November 1, 2007.
Around the same period, Kingsley went for a training organized by his office. At the end of it, he was posted to Lagos and was to resume on October 31, 2007. The companies we were to work for had branch offices in other States in Nigeria. This was definitely beyond coincidence. This amazing orchestration of events to grant me the desire of my heart was clearly a divine intervention, an answer to prayer in its truest form.
Goodbye, Akure. Hello, Lagos!