“You said you’ll be joining me at Ikeja, didn’t you?” Dele asked when I ran into him at lunch time. He had sent me an email about the meeting that morning. “It would be a good opportunity for you to meet some of the other directors working on the project, and of course Aleena Kadiri will be present, too.”
A chance to meet Aleena Kadiri, the CEO’s daughter, was the main reason I was considering accepting the impromptu invite. There was another meeting scheduled in a week’s time where my presence, as team lead, was mandatory. The directors—Information Technology, Cyber Security, Audit, Law, and Human Resources that Dele wanted me to meet today would all be there, too. That meeting was going to be for a longer period and the purpose was for all of us to get more familiar with each other so the project could run smoother.
But I’ve always admired Aleena Kadiri and her achievements at Kadiri Holdings, or KH as the multinational company was popularly known, was simply phenomenal. She has earned every bit of the respect accorded her in the corporate world. She was particularly interested in Ka-Tell, the telecommunications arm of the company where I work. She had worked at Ka-Tell for some years before leaving to work alongside her father at KH headquarters. But it was still very obvious that she had a soft spot for Ka-Tell.
“But it’s okay if you can’t make it, though,” Dele continued. “I know it’s pretty short notice, and you may already have plans.”
I did. It was my fiancé, Nifemi’s birthday today and I’d planned to leave the office early so I could go over to his place. I knew Dele inviting me for the meeting was an afterthought but nevertheless, it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. Maybe I could attend the meeting and leave early enough to make it back to Nifemi’s place.
Yeah, I can do that.
“I’ll be there, Dele.”
He smiled at me approvingly. “Great. I’ll see you there, then. Do you want to join me in my car?”
I shook my head. It would be tricky to leave early if I did. “Thanks, but I’ll find my way.”
My mind went back to Nifemi after Dele moved off. I had spoken to him earlier in the day and I knew he was really looking forward to seeing me. He was also expecting me to leave the office earlier than usual to join him at his house.
I sighed as I wondered if I should tell Dele I couldn’t make it afterall. But it would be the very first high-powered meeting I would be invited at Ka-Tell. That, and the opportunity to meet Aleena Kadiri made it even more exciting. Maybe I’d get a chance to talk to her—make an impression. That would definitely count for something and right now, I was all about making the right career moves. Attending the meeting, and getting the chance to network with some of the bigwigs in Ka-Tell would definitely be in my favour.
Yep. You need to be there, Mina.
Adesua was very good natured about not receiving an invite to the meeting but I could see that my being asked to come along by Dele irked Nonso. I deliberately deadpanned anytime I saw him before I left the office, but I was smirking inwardly at his annoyance.
Dele was happy to see me when I arrived at the meeting which was taking place at the conference room in the KH office at Ikeja. There was a short ice breaking session during which Dele introduced me to some of the directors.
Aleena arrived just before the start of the meeting. She looked even prettier close-up and I looked admiringly at her elegant outfit. Her recent engagement to Jayden Idris was still trending in the news and social media, and the good-sized rock she had on her finger flashed anytime she raised her hand.
A couple of directors spoke before Aleena did. What they said was very informative and I jotted down some of the points they made on my iPad. I also made a note to ask Dele for the recoding of the session later.
Aleena’s speech was every inch as inspiring as I’d felt it would be. She knew about telecommunications and her speech showed it. She made some projections about what we could achieve at Ka-Tell over the next three months, and I felt every everyone would be motivated after her speech, to give it their best shot.
But to my disappointment, she left almost immediately afterwards. I’d expected she would stay for the rest of the session.
There goes my dream of meeting her one on one
I glanced at my wristwatch. I knew we’d be going into a questions and answer session soon. I decided to stay for a bit, before heading back to the Island. I glanced wistfully towards the side entrance through which Aleena and her security detail had left, hoping she’d return by some miracle. But no such luck.
A few minutes into the session, my phone vibrated as a text came in. It was Adesua.
“Are you still there?” Her text read.
“Yeah.” I texted back. “The meeting is just starting to round up now.”
“You’d better start heading back to the island. There’s been an accident at Oniru and traffic is building up really fast.”
“Seriously?” My eyes widened in alarm. I needed to go through that route to get to Nifemi’s. I glanced at my wristwatch. I had stayed a little longer than I had planned to.
“Yeah. It’s not sounding good. Osaze just came in from work,” she texted back, referring to her younger sister. “And she said she was in traffic for about three hours.”
“From Ikoyi to Lekki? Goodness!”
“That’s what I mean. Just thought to give you a heads-up because I know you plan to see Nifemi tonight.”
“I’ll be on my way now.”
I glanced towards Dele. He was talking with another director. I decided I’d text him later about my leaving early, and made my way out of the room as quietly as I could.
An hour and half into my journey, I knew Adesua hadn’t been exaggerating. The traffic situation at Oniru had spilled over to the adjourning roads and many of them were clogged up. I knew the road networks pretty well but anytime, I took another route to avoid the major roads where I thought traffic would be heavier, I met them clogged up, too.
The traffic news came on through the radio. It was dismal. They were describing the situation as the mother of all traffic, and warning anyone who hadn’t gotten into it to avoid those routes. I sighed. I didn’t have a choice. I had to see Nifemi.
“Move, move, move.” I chanted under my breath, willing the cars in front of me to miraculously start moving but it was almost a total standstill and the three lanes in the motorway were filled back-to-back with cars, making it seem like we were in a giant car park.
I glanced at my wristwatch. It was going on for 8.00 pm. Nifemi has been calling me but I haven’t taken any of the calls because I wanted to have travelled some way before talking with him. He was unaware I had gone to the mainland. I knew he may not have liked it especially since he’d know I didn’t really need to be there.
Why on Earth did I really go to Ikeja?
I shook my head. “Wrong move, Mina. You need to learn to say no.” I muttered.
I felt even guiltier when I remembered I had canceled the date Nifemi and I were meant to have gone on earlier this week because I’d had an impromptu meeting at work. “Wrong, wrong move tonight, Mina.” I reiterated.
But forty minutes later, when I hadn’t moved more than a few yards, I decided to return his call.
“Hi, birthday boy,” I tried to muster a cheery tone when he picked my call.
“I’ve been trying to reach you. Are you okay?” Concern laced his voice. “I thought you’d be here by now.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m stuck in traffic. I’m just getting to Ikoyi.”
“Ikoyi? But why are you in Ikoyi? Did you go back home? I thought you were coming straight here from your office?”
“Erm, I went with Dele to Ikeja.” I told him about the meeting.
“I see.” His voice sounded rather cool. “I heard the traffic situation is really bad around Oniru, though. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to get into it.”
“I have to see you, Nife. It’s your birthday.” That sounded so hypocritical. If I knew it was his birthday, then why didn’t I go to his place straight from the office?
“Drive safe, then.”
“You don’t have to go yet.” I said quickly as I sensed he wanted to disconnect the call. “We can still talk for a bit.”
“I’ve got some people here with me. I need to attend to them.”
I felt too guilty to ask him who they were. “Okay, see you soon, Nife.”
“All right, then.”
I heaved a sigh after the call. I wished again that I hadn’t gone to the mainland. I hadn’t even gotten the opportunity to meet Aleena. Now, I was stuck in traffic for all my trouble.
“Bad calculation, Mina.” I muttered as I shot a glare at the cars around me.
Some motorists have been horning incessantly, and the din they created was beginning to give me a headache. I looked longingly at the opposite side of the road. It was still relatively free. The traffic was only affecting motorists heading towards Lekki. I glanced at my fuel gauge, grateful that I had topped it up the day before. At least, I didn’t need to worry about that.
By 10.30 pm, I was just approaching Victoria Island, and the traffic was as slow as ever. My phone vibrated as a call came in. It was Nifemi.
“Where are you?” He asked.
I described my location as best as I could.
“Okay, you need to turn back home. At this rate, you won’t get here until the early hours of the morning. I heard the toll gate is now totally clogged up, too.”
I felt awful about not seeing him tonight but I knew he was saying the truth.
He described a turning I could take which was just ahead and told me how to navigate my way through the side roads back to Ikoyi where I live.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Nifemi.” I told him when he was done. “And I’m sorry I couldn’t be there today.”
“No worries.” His voice was still cool. “Let me know when you get home.”
About forty-five minutes later, I was finally able to take the turn that would lead me back home. There was still some traffic on the way, but thankfully, it was nowhere near what I’d just gone through.
As I got ready for bed, I thought about how the day had gone, and I regretted afresh the decision to go to Ikeja. Next time, I’d just have to make sure I had my projections right.
I sighed as I picked up the picture frame by my bedside. The picture was taken when Nifemi and I were on a boat ride about a couple of months ago.
“I’m sorry, honey. I’ll definitely make it up to you.” I whispered as I stroked my finger across his face.