We sat inside the campus shuttle heading to Yaba. Chioma was sitting in between us as she scrolled through her phone and occasionally giggled. We arranged the exact day to submit our letter at the Federal Department of Fisheries, Victoria Island and kept exactly to it. The shuttle stopped at Yaba, and we alighted. Chioma stopped to glance at a woman holding the shirt of an old-looking man as she yelled at him. Her voice thundered to the attention of people as they walked past us. We couldn’t grasp their ramblings and I squinted to see clearly. Her lips vibrated and the man began to pull himself free from her grip, as she moved backward. As he did, the woman moved toward him, while still gripping him tightly. The man would sometime move back and her hand would quiver.
“I go beat this woman o. I go beat am!” the man kept yelling.
“Madam leave am alone. Na somebody husband he be,” a chubby woman said.
The woman shot an angry stare at the chubby woman. Chioma’s expression changed and I wondered if it’s due to the sunlight. It had an angry demeanor. She stared like she would devour the woman if she had a chance to. The woman looked away from the chubby woman and swung her head while continuing to grip the man tight. The noise in Yaba blared and the air settled and went back to its normal hotness.
I saw Seyi’s glance flickered to my side and I noticed Chioma wasn’t standing next to him. “Where is—” he shot a glare at me and his eyes roamed all over the surroundings. We finally saw her behind the market women, standing still and looking lost in their attentions. “Chioma,” he yelled.
Chioma vibrated, turned and glanced at us. Her eyelashes flickering up and down. “Err. What?” she said and ran toward us.
“That’s how we would have forgotten you,” Seyi said.
“Really?” Chioma asked, pressing her hand to her chest.
I smiled and looked away from where we were standing. A bus stopped in our front and the conductor jumped down immediately almost falling to the ground. People began to come down slowly. “Conductor my change! My change is 50 naira, 100naira, 200naira…”
“Abeg, make una cam dan,” the conductor shouted and moved back in annoyance.
“You dey craze. Why you go dey tell us to calm down,” an old woman yelled.
She pulled off her hands, formally rounded at her back and began to point her fingers at the bus conductor. She kept walking closer to him. “All the pikin wey dem born these days no get respect again.”
“Mama calm down,” different voices begged her.
She continued hurling invectives using different kinds of swear words. Then, her finger dropped at the conductor’s mouth. He flung her hand and it faltered in the air. A man walked towards her and held her shoulder preventing her from falling. She gasped and the conductor handed her change to her. She cursed at him and spat out.
“Na your wahala be that. Abeg next bus stop,” the conductor called.
Seyi tapped Chioma’s shoulder. She had been glancing at the woman at the other end. The woman was no longer holding the man. She had shifted the battle toward the chubby woman and they began to exchange vitriols. Chioma turned and followed us as we walked into the bus. It was a breezy journey, jumping from one bus to another until we stopped at Victoria Island.
At the entrance, Chioma read out the signpost loudly, “Federal Department of Fisheries, Victoria Island.” We walked toward the gate and the gatekeeper requested we write down our names and sign before walking in. Seyi glanced at the building rolling his head side to side. There were no many structures. Just a story building looking like an uncompleted one, situated in the little compound. Algae had not started feasting on it and it looked new but uncompleted. Plastered but not painted.
I looked around the building, and my face flustered. “Is this where we would be working?” I asked. My facial expressions could tell I was disappointed.
“Obviously,” Seyi said.
“It looks small. This little place? Where are the fish ponds and everything?” I asked.
Chioma laughed. “This is not where we would be working. It’s more like a headquarter for filing and office related works that are done here. You will file and take files from one office to another. We would be posted to different areas for field trips,” Chioma said.
I nodded. We began to walk towards the building. The first office we entered had a woman working on her seat, skimming through words on an A4 paper on her table without taking notice of our presence.
“Good afternoon, Ma,” we greeted.
She lifted her face and glanced at us. She squinted as if she had seen one of us before. “Good afternoon,” she replied.
“We want to submit our SIWES letter, Ma,” Seyi said.
“Oh. Not here. Use the staircase,” she said, pointing forward. “Branch to your right and you’ll see an office with a training inscription on the door.”
We walked into the office and met two men and a woman. After interacting with the IT officer, he shook his head because according to him, there had been other students who came to submit their letters and they were all from our school. He complained about a large number of students applying to work within the institution and how there is a plan on selecting those that applied early. He reminded us that there will be no compensation in the form of a stipend or salary. He registered us and signed our documents. When he was done, he told us that whenever we were ready to resume, we should come for our letter of appointment.
On getting home, I laid on the bed wondering how I would cope with going to work every day at Victoria Island without pay. The door creaked open and two of my roommates walked in. I relieved and dropped my phone into the pillowcase and slept off because it had been a tiring day. At least, someone was in the room.