Today I sit on one of those yellow-and-black painted killers they call buses in Lagos. This one I’m on is better compared to the many I’ve been on recently. Quietly I sit by the window eating Lagos traffic staple of Gala and of course La Casera. They say the La Casera company underpays staff but who cares? So long as it’s cooling my internal system in hot, fume-filled, horn-blaring Lagos traffic while I let my imagination run, it’s none of my business. Not like I have much in the way of business anyway.
Just then, a song catches my ear. And before you think it’s the usual we produce as Nigerian music, it is not. It is a bunch of children come to my side of the bus window to beg for money. About 5 to 6 of them, all girls, are singing in that incoherent manner I barely make out as English. Just to get them moving, I give them the squeezed N20 in my palm. It is change from a pure water seller from earlier. They greedily left me and went to the next window opening to harass the next passenger. I look out the window to see another set of girls coming my way; I quickly shut the window as I look towards the conductor who is still screaming, “Ladipo, Ikeja Along, Agege o. Agege Agege o”
You see I’m one of the millions of young graduates in Nigeria who every morning leaves home in search of greener pasture. In truth, I’m not even looking for greener. I only want pasture. Before graduation, I had it all planned out. Finish school with good grades, serve Fatherland, save some cash during service, get back home, apply to companies, get a good paying job and live.
Here’s how that went. Finishing school with good grades is not a problem. It however becomes a problem when your good grades end with an HND. Serving Fatherland, that’s relatively easy too until you realize you are expected to work 8 to 5 daily while earning 19,800 Naira a month. That’s if you weren’t first thrown like a piece of garbage to a town where you have to travel miles to get phone network. That means all plans of saving anything just went downhill. As one who is never afraid of days of Garri, that isn’t a big deal either.
I’ve been home now a few months. Tens of job applications have been sent with the promise of “We’ll get back to you”, which almost never comes. The reality I was afraid of is already dawning on me. Most firms are requesting for Chattered Accountants. The ones that aren’t asking for an ICAN certificate are requesting 5 and above years’ experience and that’s making someone like me out of the league, for now.
Banking institutions? Those ones won’t employ HND holders as Staff. And as Tellers, the pay is certainly not encouraging. I’m not sure it will take care of transportation to and from work each month, not to mention feeding and accommodation. But I’m here on this bus eating Gala and hoping to get a call soon from this company I just left.
I feel a tap on my shoulder. It is a young man well-dressed in a buttoned-up shirt complete with tie. He is holding a transparent folder, the kind you keep important documents when going for an interview. He quietly whispers to me. “Bro, abeg you get 50box to take me to Ikeja Along?” Recognizing a kindred spirit, I dig into my wallet and hand him a worn note. Then I go back to looking out the window.