At the time, I had just got a brand-new job as an editorial manager for a UK-based international consulting and business intelligence company.
It was 2017 and getting a variety of editor jobs in the UK truly was my dream job at the time.
In January that year, I flew to Nigeria for a year-long mission: not the safest country to move to, you may argue.
But the thing is, I’ve always had been interested in Africa, and the only other option I was offered was moving right into the middle of nowhere in Saudi Arabia and sharing a flat with a colleague who hated me (and still does, and I still don’t know why).
Describing what it’s like to live and work in Nigeria to those who’ve never been there before and don’t know Naija very well may be tricky, but I’m going to try.
My job was all about conducting business meetings with high-level and not-so-high-level decision-makers working in the private and public sector in the country; in a land such as Nigeria, this is guaranteed to turn every single day in an emotional roller-coaster.
My day-to-day routine was packed with excitement and interest for everything that was new and unexpected, but also with constant disappointments and delays, unbearable levels of stress, ages spent in traffic jams, unhealthy food.
I spent so much time travelling up and down in Lagos that I ended up knowing this Nigerian city better than my hometown back in Italy.
In Nigeria, I was working and living with a female colleague with whom I shared joy and sorrow; D. is a lovely Romanian girl who’d already been living in the country for quite a while, and we got along very well.
Part of our job involved dealing with the public sector located in gigantic and decadent Soviet-style buildings where the employees spend their time playing cards, watching the telly, eating snacks and gossipping about the latest wedding in town.
But don’t get me wrong: there still are, of course, competent and hard-working people in the public sector in Nigeria, even though the picture I painted above is still a sad reality.
That day, in May, we were returning from a business trip to the Capital, Abuja; we were going back and forth by plane all the time hoping to strike an important deal with one of the Nigerian ministries. They promised us that they were going to sign the contract on that day, but we had been sent back home empty-handed again from some employee with an obscure job title – something like Under-Secretary to the Public Relations attached to the Deputy-Something of the Development of Whatever.
Our flight was supposed to last one hour, but we were delayed by two hours (as usual), and when we finally landed in Lagos at about 9 PM, my colleague D. stumbled in her high heels while walking down and broke her foot.
Our walk out of the airport was kind of tragicomical – still not sure if more tragical or more comical: as I was carrying both her and our two pieces of hand luggage and she was jumping on one leg accompanied by the rhythmic bounce of her generously-sized boobs, her mobile phone started ringing furiously.
The Under-Secretary to the Public Relations attached to the Deputy-Something of the Development of Whatever asked if she could get back to Abuja on the following day to finally strike the deal.
D. wanted to remain in Nigeria to stay with her boyfriend who is from there, and she feared being relocated somewhere else that she didn’t claim any sick leave, not even a single day off.
The following day, at 6 AM, she was boarding a flight to Abuja in a wheelchair.
But the deal didn’t go through.
Neither that day nor ever after.
Despite the huge disappointment we had, we went on working at full capacity in the following weeks and months, arranging business meetings all over Lagos.
Lifts or elevators are as scarce as hen’s teeth in Nigeria, so I basically carried D. on my shoulders like a koala up and down any types of stairs.
And then we presented ourselves (almost) impeccably at each and every meeting.
So, every time I hear about soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork, resilience and problem-solving, I have a good laugh.
And the picture of me carrying D. on my back comes back to my mind.
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