African Voices Summer 2017 AV Summer 2017 Digital Issue - Page 25

FICTION The Expat by Ozimede Sunny Ekhalume On the production line, he sighted one of the pickers tuck away sachets of powdered milk into the cups of her bra. This didn’t bother Tosan anymore knowing they would soon tire out. Some would go as far as stashing milk in their underpants. He knew it was muggles – new factory hands – who snitched milk that they would later lick dry inside the toilet or during their break time. It took a few days for them to realise their folly when their stomach would start to run from too much lactose. Nobody thereafter needed to warn them against pilferage. Of course, there was no way of them smuggling milk out of the premises. Each production staff was searched down to their briefs before they left the factory. Anyone caught with milk was dismissed immediately. So they were forced to consume any milk they pinched within the factory premises. Tosan’s intercom beeped and he lifted the receiver. It was CEO calling for a meeting. He picked a pen and his diary, switched off his air conditioner and hurried out of his glass cubicle. “This company is bleeding and the chairman has asked us to do something fast or we will all be fired by the end of the quarter,” CEO, seated behind a massive mahogany table, said to the five Divisional Directors in attendance. On the wall above his head hung the picture of a goddess with multiple arms. Despite the air conditioner, beads of sweat formed on CEO’s brow. His fingers quivered as he gesticulated. A cigar dangled between his lips. It was a no-smoking organization. But CEO exempted himself from the rule. He sipped black coffee from a cream teacup and wiped his bushy moustache. The coffee was extra strong, Tosan could tell, from the smell and thick-black color. The whiff of the cigar and the coffee gave the office an edgy atmosphere. CEO was an expatriate. He seemed to do the least in the company but earned multiples of what the highest paid Nigerian received. He was paid not for the value he added but for his color and “expatriate-ness.” Many wealthy Nigerian business owners believed an expat was an expert. They believed expatriates were better than their compatriots even if they cost the company far more. Tosan was tired of seeing cheeky job vacancies that said, under qualification and experience, “Expatriates only” or “Must be an expatriate.” As though foreignness equated competence. CEO enjoyed fantastic perks which no Nigerian staff member was entitled to. This included a yacht which ferried him after work from Apapa to his house in Ikoyi so as to beat the evening traffic gridlock. He liked to bully the staff in a desperate attempt to retain his position and perquisites of office. He browbeat to cover up his incompetence. Since he took over three years ago, the company’s cash cow brand, Mamari, had seen its fortune nosedive. Mamari’s position as the market leader had been seriously challenged by competition. The brand’s market share had plummeted. african Voices 25