I walk in to the office that Thursday, some minutes before noon. After filling the visitors’ record book, I walk straight down, open the door leading into the reception area on the ground floor. “Hello, good morning! I’d like to see the ED.” “Please, fill this form,” the young lady politely instructs as she hands me the visitors’ form. I swiftly fill in necessary information and hand over the A5 paper to the eager receptionist who then puts a call through while I take my seat.
About ten minutes later, she announces, “Hello Sir, you can go upstairs now.” I get my bag and notes together, carefully mount the flight of smooth, tiled stairs unto the first floor. The ED’s receptionist welcomes me in response to my soft knock on the door. “She’s in a meeting at the moment. Have your seat, please.” The air conditioner renders the room rather chilly. And I pretend to be okay. The elderly receptionist punches away on the keyboard, occasionally picking calls on her intercom. Fifteen minutes into my silent perseverance and heightened anxiety, the intercom rings. I can now go in to see the ED.
I knock the door, and walk briskly into the large office. She is seated to the right, facing her workstation. “Mr. Segun! How are you?” “I need someone to go up north. We are concluding a Packard project in four Northwestern states and I need you to interview principal officers and beneficiaries of the programme.” She readjusts her spectacles and headgear, reminding me of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala. “You will then write a detailed story on each of the sixteen organisations. Can you do it?” “Yes ma, I can.” She reaches for a map of Nigeria and readjusts her seat. Armed with a pen and clean sheets of paper, she plots out my itinerary for the two-week journey. Like a loving mother sending her son on a shopping trip, she carefully illustrates and encourages me to ask questions. “You will be going alone, which means you will be responsible for company property-digital camera, files, cash, tape recorder… I’ll be releasing my personal laptop for your use.” “Is there a directory of contact persons in those states?” I ask. “Yes, there is. Mrs. Jacobs will prepare all the documents for you. By the way, do you have any Guinea native wears” “No.”
The ED puts a call through, “Mrs. Jacobs, call me Bayo. We’ll need to sew native wears, including Hausa caps, for Segun.” The office help comes in five minutes later. “Bayo, you need to call that tailor who makes your native attires. He should be able to use your own measurement(s)… He should make four sets and they should be ready by Saturday when Segun will be here to pick up the last set of materials for his trip.” She turns to me, “So, Segun, you need to be careful with cash and other things you would be taking along… Please, avoid night travel… How often do you eat in a day? Please, make sure you feed well because you will be very busy and frequently on the road. You may not find many good eateries over there, so you may need to eat in the hotel…” I nod.
She continues, “You can go brief Mrs. Jacobs about the documents and stationery you need. Also meet the Accountant to discuss finances. Give her your account details. You can meet Mrs. Jacobs tomorrow and she will be here on Saturday to ensure you pick up all the necessary items… Enjoy your trip!”