There is a funny story I heard at the office about a colleague, Nnamdi.
Many years before Nnamdi began working at our company as the chief-technician, he worked as a houseboy for a German engineer, who had been invited to the country on a special assignment. At the time, Nnamdi had never seen a white man before, nor worked with one so things were a bit difficult at first. This man, Mr. Burk Ludwig, was the complete opposite of everything Nnamdi had ever heard about foreign people. He had previously thought they were very generous people but the man seldom gave any money to Nnamdi, except for when it was time to pay salary. Mr. Burk, himself, exhibited extreme distrust for Nigerians so much so that he never even allowed Nnamdi know where he worked.
This all changed the day Mr. Burk fell ill.
“Nam-dee,” Mr. Burk called out from his fetal position on his sick bed. “I’m going to die…”
Nnamdi resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Sir, it’s just malaria.” Why do these white people have to be so dramatic? He said to himself. “You are not going to die… I’ll just go and buy some drugs from the chemist and you will be well again, you’ll see.”
“Ha-have you had malaria before Nam-dee?” Mr. Burk stuttered, his eyes wide with fear as he awaited Nnamdi’s answer.
Nnamdi almost laughed but quickly realized the man was being serious. He reviewed his options: If he admitted to Mr. Burk that he himself had survived malaria countless times, it was sure to alleviate the man’s fear. Then again, he knew it was possible for Mr. Burk to think malaria was contagious as the man had several stupid notions about Nigeria.
At last, Nnamdi replied, “No oh, sir. How can? In fact, none of my family members have ever had malaria. But I heard one man from my village survived it.”
Nnamdi didn’t miss the relief on Mr. Burk’s face as the man took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He, then, ran to the nearby pharmacy and asked for Coartem.
In less than a week, Mr. Burk was back on his feet with an instantaneous change of heart.
For the first time, one fateful day, Mr. Burk finally entrusted Nnamdi with the task of buying his precious South-African oranges from the biggest mall in Abuja at the time, Amigos, with the sum of Fifteen Thousand Naira.
Nnamdi wondered why the man would need so many oranges as he headed out for the mall. On getting to the aisle where the oranges were, he looked at the price tag and couldn’t help the “Jesus!” that rushed past his lips. He even confronted an attendant to confirm the price. His sum of Fifteen Thousand Naira could only buy fifteen oranges. He eventually took the oranges to the counter and, with a heavy heart, paid for them.
“I do love my oranges!” Mr. Burk would say in a sing-song voice, smiling as he sucked on the juices of a sliced orange. According to Nnamdi, his German accent became clearer whenever he was happy. Meanwhile, Nnamdi stood in the corner watching his oga with a scowl on his face. How can someone just throw away money like this, Nnamdi thought.
This task of buying oranges continued for some time until one day, Nnamdi arrived at Amigos and didn’t see South-African oranges. Apparently, Amigos was the only place in Abuja that sold the unique oranges and they were out of stock. Nnamdi took the bad news to Mr. Burk’s office and he swears he saw tears brimming in the old man’s eyes.
An idea came to Nnamdi and he decided to take the chance. “Sir, I know where I can get sweeter South-African oranges for you!”
Next thing, Nnamdi was racing towards the food-stuff section of Wuse Market where he located fifteen juicy and attractive oranges which he haggled down to “three for Hundred Naira.” He, then, bought a fine white nylon bag into which he put the oranges.
“Nam-dee my boy! These oranges are Vonderful!” Mr. Burk exclaimed as soon as the juice touched his buds. “Where did you get them?” He asked, looking at Nnamdi with renewed reverence.
“It’s a secret sir…” Nnamdi replied with a sly smile, enjoying the newly formed bond between them. “Sir, hide it under your table, you know they are very expensive.”
Some years later, after the tragic death of Mr. Burk, Nnamdi received a package with a note that read, “To Nnamdi my boy, who knew just where to find the best oranges, the sum of five thousand dollars.”
This is a true story told to me by a funny man in my office. Of course, I twisted it a bit.
Thanks for reading!