Triumph {Chapter 1}


The sun was setting on another bleak day for Kenneth Duromola, with a glum face, he had trotted Lagos Mainland.  A morning that had shown a glimmer of hope had fast turned into another day of misery by sunset. In drooping spirits, he alighted from the bus he had boarded from Industrial Avenue down to the Gully– the slummy district where he lived.  With deep lines of worry across his forehead, and a tan holdall in his sweaty hand, he absentmindedly walked the patchy road that ran through the slum, with its mishmash of crumbling houses and seas of rowdy traders.                                                  Across the street, he spotted some groups of people pleading frantically with a team of men wearing red kits which he quickly recognized as the city demolishers from the town planning department. With a single glance, he knew the people who were making pleas were owners of structures in the street and were begging the demolishers to spare their structures from demolition. He knew their pleas were likely to be rebuffed for as far as he knew the demolishers had never spared a house that was marked for destruction.              As he gazed at the scene, he swiftly remembered that authorities had vowed to demolish all unapproved structures in the Gully and other districts. Now, it seemed, they‘re suiting their word to action.                                                                                                                                As he walked past the scene,  he agonizingly remembered the fact that the pale grey bungalow in which he himself lived down street with his uncle, Tammy, was also a component in the ungainly clusters of structures in the Gully and had also been penciled down for demolition. The house he lived with Tammy actually stood directly under high-tension cables and right in the way of a newly designed district road network and also on a sewer, and the latter persistently released a nagging stench that suffused the house for most part of the day. It therefore came as no surprise to the occupants of the house when town planning officials came early one morning and stamped a bold red X mark on its crumbling fence –signifying an imminent demolition.        The sudden remembrance of the impending demolition as well as a brief recollection of the challenges he was facing personally made him heave a sigh.                                               As the grief weighed heavy on his heart he found himself thinking about his ordeals since he came to join Tammy in Lagos. Over a year ago, he had arrived Lagos in high spirits after earning an HND in Accounting from a polytechnic and had hoped to land a job in a twinkle of an eye, but since his arrival and up to now, all his efforts in that respect had been in futility, making apathy and idleness to be his mates. A while ago, he had met with yet another hard luck at the textile factory where  he had gone in search of job, there, the resource manager had bluntly told him on setting his eyes on him: ‘’the vacancies have all been filled!’’                                                ‘’But sir, only last week I came to submit an application, then, you told me to come today for an interview,’’ he had pointed out, glancing at the ticking clock on the wall which had read 7:55.                                                                                                                                                            But the dark, burly manager merely ignored the comments, instead, turned a page in the newspaper before him and began to skim the contents. ’’Shut the door whenever you are leaving!’’ he had barked out at him.                                                                    His mind drifted back to the present as he tramped through the marked crumbling fence that partially enveloped the grey building with the small, heaps of garbage that littered its frontage. He strode briskly into the compound and towards the moth-eaten door that secured the entrance.                                                              As he approached the doorway, he fleetingly exchanged strained glances with Fikayo, Tammy’s wife, who sat like a hillock amidst other housewives less than ten yards away from a half-blocked water-channel that lined the house, with buckets of water and heaps of clothes. He clearly heard Fikayo and the other women cackle as he walked past and suspected they were indiscreetly poking a fun at him. He could imagine what their thought of him was: the professional job-seeker is back from another long wandering round the city.                                                                                            Not minding the taunts, he stoically strolled into the building’s passage, wiped off his sweaty face and heaved a deep sigh as he turned into his uncle’s apartment. The ever-present stench of the sludge from underground sewers greeted him as he opened the door and stepped into the boxy living room.                                                                                ————-XXXXX—————-

Minutes later, Kenneth burst out of the compound in a casual: a fitting black vest on blue jeans, and swiftly crossed the street over to an imposing green two-storey building which used to serve as a mini-shopping complex but which had now been deserted by traders because it had also been marked for demolition. The traders had deserted the building and – and bands of unemployed youths in the street had quickly moved in to fill the void left. The youths had now turned the expansive facade of the building into daytime recreation ground. They had astutely raised a large canopy that covered half of the facade by craftily knotting two ends of the canopy to a pole and another ends attached to the pillars of the building, thereby creating a shelter under which a flurry of activities constantly took place.                                                                    Kenneth inched towards the large red and white canopy and was promptly greeted by cheers and pop music emanating from giant speakers underneath it- the sound of which momentarily relieved the tension in his body.                                                                                 Under the canopy itself, he looked around and saw a couple of youths laughing and chatting around a big snooker’s table and a chess board. He resolutely headed for the chess – his favorite game. And after an exchange of greetings with the players, he swiftly looked around for a seat, found a vacant stool nearby, and settled down to savour the proceedings of the game.                    ‘’I learnt that the demolishers are close by,’’ said one of the players. Kenneth knew him very well, his name was Marcus Kore and he was a swarthy fellow with small, dark, awake eyes who was wearing in fading green jumpers on white shorts.                                                                  There was some shuffling across the chessboard, before Kenneth who sat close to Marcus said: ’’True, I saw them and their wreckage ball up street earlier this afternoon.’’                          ’’Why they insist on carrying out the demolitions still baffles me,’’ Marcus stated.                         ‘’Why won’t they?’’ his opponent whose name was Alfred Adewa replied. Alfred was also an acquaintance of Kenneth’s. He was a dark lanky fellow with dark wide lips and neatly trimmed goatee, who wore a collarless striped shirt on jeans.                                                           Alfred went on, ’’the Gully is the most hideous place on the planet and it needs cleaning up!’’                                                                                                                                                         The comment elicited murmuring in the group, then Marcus sharply lifted up his head from the chest board , looked up into his rival’s eyes and said, ’’You can   go all the way you want in supporting the demolishers and their erratic actions. I just hope you’re considering where you would lay your big head when your beautiful shanty is pulled down . . .’’                      The remark made Kenneth and Marcus laugh but Alfred took strong exception to it. ‘’If my house is a shanty then yours is a burrow fit for rabbits and squirrels,’’ he snapped and Marcus eyed him resentfully.                                                                                                                Kenneth briefly gazed at the two wondering how a simple discussion could degenerate into a fight so quick. ‘’Look Marcus, Alfred, there is no point hurling abuses at each other in this manner,’’ he said, ‘’it’s bad enough that all our houses have been marked, waiting to be pulled down…’’                                                                                                                                      ‘’You heard him likened my house to a shanty, didn’t you?’’ Alfred snapped then muttered, ‘’checkmate!’’                      The two players gathered the chess pieces and deposited them on the board which was folded up and cast aside.                                                                                                              Kenneth could have taken his turn with the game, but the current developments which had tainted the day like a large patch of stain on a snowy apparel, had somewhat left him in a dismay, sapping his vigour and leaving apathy.                                                                                     Marcus shifted his gaze to him, with robust apprehension in his eyes. ‘’Do you think they will come anytime soon?’’                                                                                                            ’’They’re already here,’’ Kenneth replied, ‘’ they’ve started pulling down the structures one after the other.’’                                                                                                              The small, awake eyes became dour.  ‘’I’m going to miss this district, aren’t they going to give quit notice?’’ he queried.                                                                                                              ‘’How many times are they going to do that? They‘ve issued notices to the affected houses since last year. Were you not aware? ’’ Alfred asked sourly, ‘’ I remember my old man got his own notice six months ago, we can only hope that compensation will be paid?’’                          ‘’They say the structures are illegal, I doubt if there would be compensations except owners of  affected houses can present certificate of occupancy and how many houses in the district can provide that?’’ Kenneth remarked.                                                                                    A while later public power supply was cut and a hush fell on the scene.  Kenneth briefly studied the landscape which was as clear as ever, while the other youths sat ruminating: the on-going demolition in the district had brought a tinge of gloom on the ambience of an otherwise bubbly gathering.                                           Each one of the youths silently wondered how he would fare in the aftermath of the demolition exercise, which was bound to sweep their houses away like a tornado.  The sordid nature of the district notwithstanding, the warmth and camaraderie which it offered were two things they were convinced they would miss and which they might not find easily elsewhere.                                                                                                                            From the opposite end of the canopy, Mathias Tonye, a tall strapping youth clad in slinky top on baggy jeans with a massive head and low hair-cut walked in. He was around six-foot-two, his towering height ensured his head brushed the roof of the canvass as he walked underneath. He briefly exchanged greetings with the other youths.                              ‘’Where have you been all day Mat?’’ Marcus asked the newcomer, as he settled on the table.                                     ‘’I’ve been out to do some running around but the day had ended luckless,’’ he said rather throatily then puckered his thick lips.                                                         ‘’Isn’t how it always ends?’’ Marcus quipped.                         The strapping man eyed him hatefully and then turned to Kenneth. ‘’Any luck today?’’                                      Kenneth shook his head despondently. ‘’To be frank Mathias, today’s experience was one of the worst,’’ he began, ’’I got there at 7:12, waited patiently till the resource manager came at 7:55. Then I went in to see him, but he coldly told me the post had been filled. No interviews or tests!’’                                                                              A long groan reverberated in the group.                                                                                    ‘’That doesn’t surprise me,’’ Marcus said with acerbity. ’’In this city every vacant post is already filled even before it is advertised. It’s a hopeless situation.’’                                                             A long silence ensued, and then Alfred chipped in: ’’I learnt International Flour Mills is recruiting.’’                                                                                              ‘’I also got the gist,’’ Marcus said. ’’In fact they are conducting aptitude test tomorrow; I guess they’ve contacted qualified candidates.’’                                           ‘’International Flour Mills,’’ Mathias rasped. ‘’There goes another big fraud, we all bought their recruitment forms and applied for the vacant posts, but since then we have never heard from them, now they are conducting tests for some candidates. Did anyone here get an invitation?’’ he asked sharply.                                                                                                            Another long silence ensued.                                                        ‘’Then we will all go to the venue and sit for the test,’’ Mathias said resolutely.                                             Alfred turned to eye him inquisitively. ‘’How can you say that when we were never invited,’’ he pointed out.                    The comments elicited Mathias’s fury. ‘’Quit talking like a child, Alfred! When was the last time you got an invitation for a test or an interview? You left school donkey’s years ago with flying grades, yet no employer in the city has remotely been impressed with your CV as to ask you to come for an interview let alone offer you a job. I bet they don’t even take a look at your résumé before dumping it into the garbage can.’’                  Alfred eyed Mathias hatefully then shrugged.               Not minding the disappointments that had marked his trials, Kenneth had found that his determination to get a job was becoming more and more intense by the day, and each time a prospect of a job offer appeared, his curiosity always rose. ’’Mat is right,’’ he said, ‘’there is really no harm in going to the examination venue, let’s go try our lucks.’’                                                                                       ————–XXXXX—————–


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