Saturday, 15 July 2017

Send Down the Rain: A Lekki Flood Story

When Tina woke up very early that fateful Saturday morning, and saw the dark clouds gathering in the dusky Lagos skies, excitement filled her being.

"Yes! Yes Lord, send down more rain, send it down heavily. Ha ha ha. Nkechi will cry blood today, this rain must spoil her wedding. Shebi she thinks she's the only one that can marry," she enthused and dropped to her knees in prayer. "Lord, send down the rain and shame my enemy today."

She watched with a satisfied smile as the clouds immediately waxed stronger and it began pouring heavily.

How she disliked Nkechi, the girl who lived next door and always acted like the world belonged to her. With her very good job and obviously rich boyfriend who drove a Range, her shoulders were always high which made Tina abhor her to her bones.

Tina went to stand by her window and saw with pleasure that water was fast rising from the heavy rain and their compound was flooding over. The apartment Nkechi and her family lived in was on the ground floor and the water was already half-covering their apartment and cars parked outside.

"There's no way that water would not have entered their house," she mused happily. "I can imagine their beautiful parlour flooding over already. Thank God we live on the top floor and will not be affected by the flood. They will cancel that wedding last last."

As she moved away from the window, her phone rang. She picked it up. "This is Sheri from Top Savings Micro-finance Bank. I am calling with respect to your job application with us. Our MD is in town today and would like to meet you. Please come to our office by 11am today. Apologies for the short notice."

Tina jumped up in excitement. Top Savings Micro-finance Bank was one of the many places she had applied to in her fervent job search. It was the first place ever to call her back and invite her for an interview. Thank you, Jesus! Then she remembered the heavy rain and resultant flooding. How was she going to get to Ikeja where the bank was located with the flood outside?

"Ma, can I come on Monday? It is raining very heavily and there's flooding in Lekki..." she tried to plead, but the woman's voice cut her short coldly. "My MD is leaving Lagos by 2pm today and must conduct the interview of shortlisted candidates before he leaves. Find a way to come down to our office if you need this job, madam."

The call ended on that note and Tina was thrown into confusion. She knew she had to find a way to get there. After 3 years of searching for work with no luck, she had to grab this opportunity tight. She decided to have two set of clothes for the interview. The first one would definitely get soaked on her way so once she got to the mainland, she would look for a place to change her clothes before going in for the interview.

She told her parents about the call and was on her way by 8.30am, a transparent folder containing her credentials in one hand and an umbrella in the other. She did not expect the flood water to be as deep as it turned out to be; it was at waist-level and was even worse outside the compound. Every step was like struggling to walk in a powerfully flowing river. 

At the bus stop, she waited 45 minutes for a bus to arrive, to no avail. There were a few other people around and some turned back while a few others started walking to God knows where in the water. A couple of men even started swimming through the water! "Oh, Lord, let this rain stop and the flood disappear," Tina prayed now. But there was no sign that that prayer was about to be answered. 

At that moment, a Toyota Hilux pulled up."Thank God," Tina breathed as she rushed to it, but stopped short when she saw Nkechi and some members of her family inside. "Where are you going?" Nkechi asked her, and when she told her Ikeja, "We are going there too. That's where the wedding venue is. Come in let's drop you off. Somebody can lap you." But Tina was not about to let Nkechi, whom she hated so much, rescue her like a drowning cat. She shook her head. "I am expecting my fiancee, he would be here to pick me shortly." Of course she did not have a boyfriend, not to talk of a fiancee. 

She hissed angrily after the Hilux had driven off, unhappy to see that Nkechi was not much affected by the weather situation. "I don't need them. A bus will soon come," she tried to reassure herself. But the few buses that went by, swaying precariously in the flood, were more than full to the brim. The cars as well were too busy trying to navigate safely through the flood to think of helping people stranded at the bus stop.

Finally, she saw two women and a man trying to steer a boat through the flood. She rushed to them; half bread is better than none. It was already past 9.30am and she was desperate to be on her way. "Abeg, make I join una now,"she pleaded "You go pay o. N500," one of the woman informed her in a guttural voice. Tina quickly agreed.

She got into the boat and the women began rowing. They had not gone up to 15 minutes when the boat suddenly started shaking and upturned into the water, spilling all of them into the dirty flood. Tina's head was submerged and she could not swim! She struggled wildly to get her feet on solid ground but the water was just too deep. She dropped her envelope and umbrella in desperate bid for survival, waving her hands for help.

The man came to her rescue and pulled her to her feet so she could stand upright in the water. "My credentials!" she shouted. Her transparent envelope had somehow come open and its content was swimming in the water too. The man and women helped her scoop them up, but not too gently. Tina felt her heart almost rip apart in her chest when she saw that not only were her certificates thoroughly soaked, some of them had gotten torn. She burst into tears as she put them back into the transparent bag. 

Her bag at least was still strapped to her shoulder, but when she opened it she saw that the things in it were wet - the spare clothes she had brought and her phone. She had to quickly take the battery out of the phone, hoping it had not gotten damaged yet. "Oh, God, why is all these happening to me?"

The boat riders left her and pushed their boat away, but made sure they collected the N500 they had charged her first. She had to walk through the rest of the tummy-high water, soaked to her undies and to the weaves on her head, to the nearest bus stop.

There was a crowd of people at this bus stop, and once any bus pulled up, chaos immediately ensued with everyone rushing to get in. Tina had to join the scuffle, it was already 10.45am and she had to get to Ikeja in 15 minutes. It took her 20 minutes of struggle to finally secure a place in a bus, and that had not been achieved without her weaves almost being pulled off her scalp and her already wet clothes being further soiled by many grappling hands.

With all the time it took the bus to paddle through the heavy Saturday traffic which was compounded by the rain, Tina arrived at Oworonshoki at 1.15pm. She was close to crying again. She couldn't even call them to explain why she was running late because her phone was yet to get dry. She frantically hailed a bike to take her straight to Ikeja.

She alighted in front of the micro-finance bank another fifteen minutes later. When the bikeman told her the fare, she shouted, "2,500 because of what?" "Madam, pay me my money jor. You no know say Oworonshoki far to Ikeja well-well?" Tina scraped all the money she had in her wallet together; it was N2850. How would 350 take her back home? But she quietly gave the bike man the 2,500 and rushed into the bank.

A middle-aged lady was closing the door as she was about going in. "Yes, can I help you?" she asked, taking in her wet clothes and untidy hair with a look of disgust. Tina had been unable to change her clothes as planned since the spare clothes were already wet too and she was too late to even think of buying new clothes. "I am here for the interview, ma," she responded. "Like this? Anyway, it is almost 2pm. My MD has concluded the interviews, selected who he wants and left. Maybe next time." And the woman left.
Tina began to sob. She was drenched, her credentials were soaked and some torn, her phone might be damaged, and yet she had not gotten the job she had almost risked her life for. 

As she stood there weeping in front of the micro-finance bank, a woman went by. She was obviously demented from the ragged nature of her clothes and the dada on her head. She pointed a finger at Tina and proclaimed, "When you point a finger at someone, the remaining four points back at you." Then laughed wildly and continued on her way. At that moment Tina recalled her prayer that morning and burst into more tears.


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1 comment:

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