By Uzo Maxim Uzoatu
It is in my constitution to make very powerful enemies. It’s as though I cannot stop myself from fighting diabolical principalities and powers.
There is this friend of mine who keeps saying that one of the wonders of the world for him is that I’m still alive!
The thoughts on my always squaring up with the high and mighty seized my consciousness after discovering a Thank-You card in a disused bag in my house.
The address atop the card reads: “C/o P.O. Box 1667 Mushin, Lagos. 4th July, 2002.”
The message of the card to me goes thusly: “Dear Maxim, No words could ever say enough to thank You for all You do – All the same, thank You for your kindness day after day. Thank You for caring the way You do. SIGNED: C.C. Ahaneku – For & on behalf of the 1,000 workers Victimised out of the CBN service in 1996 & 1998.”
The sight of the card brought back memories of my encounter with the one thousand workers unjustly sacked from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The sacked CBN workers met me through a handful of their representatives while I was working for a Lagos-based national daily newspaper owned by one of the richest men in Nigeria.
The workers told me how they had taken their plight to virtually all the newspapers only to end up not getting published.
It was an acquaintance of mine who asked them to see me if they truly wanted a journalist who would dare all odds to publish their story. I heard the workers out and instantly knew that they had a good story that needed to be published for the general public to know.
I told them that I would first publish their story after crosschecking all the facts with the CBN, and then I would get the newspaper to do an editorial on the matter.
The workers were visibly happy and started murmuring amongst themselves on how to raise the money to pay me for my efforts!
I stopped them short by stressing that if they talked about giving me any money I would send them all away and publish no story. One of the workers looked at me steadily and shouted: “What that man told us about him is true o!”
I explored all the angles of the story from all the diverse sources, and I was warned that I was venturing into an area angels feared to tread. I told all my sources that I was ready to face all eventualities, come what may.
The story was then published in the newspaper, and all hell broke loose as the stooges of the owner of the newspaper threatened me with sack.
While the toadies of the publisher were still talking about sacking me, an editorial on the sacked CBN workers was published in the same newspaper!
I got to the office on the day the bombshell editorial came out, and there was this helluva shouting match before I walked away without waiting to receive the sack letter.
The bank workers came to the newspaper house and learnt that I had been sacked because of them.
I heard from some of my friends still working in the newspaper that the bank workers planned to raise some money amongst themselves to support me and my family, but they did not know my home address. I sent word back to them that I did not need any support or charity or whatever from anybody.
I guess it was through a friend of mine that they traced me to the home of my friend, Adewale Maja-Pearce, and then gave me the Thank-You card.
They also came with some money for me which I turned down. Some of them had tears in their eyes, saying that they knew I had a young family.
I told them if they needed beer to drink my good friend Adewale could buy them some beers!
They could not understand how I was making light such a tragic matter. I did the best I could to get them out of their mournful mood before they departed.
Joblessness does not frighten The Poet.
Uzo Maxim Uzoatu, a poet and veteran journalist writes from Lagos