We Knew Them Part 25
“There’s a protest going on at Wilpac. You have to go over there.” Bode said to Jumoke as soon as she walked into his office.
And so began a rough day for Jumoke. The team working on the Wilpac project promptly bundled themselves into the official car and headed to the crisis. Bode had gotten word that the union had embarked on a strike, to protest the “unjust” retrenchment of their former colleagues and their own poor working conditions.
As they drove into the compound, Jumoke could see the workers standing and seating idly, dissatisfaction and anger etched on their faces. They were ushered into the conference room where Lanre, Remi, Gbemi and five other senior management staff were seated, staring grimly at nothing.
“Can you tell us why after we did all you asked us to do, we have this kind of problem on our hands?” Lanre asked Jumoke directly as soon as she was seated.
“We will get to the bottom of this sir.” Jumoke replied coolly.
“You better, otherwise your company won’t hear the last of this. I asked for the best, I was told you guys were the best. I have to say I’m highly disappointed.”
“If you can’t do the job, you should consider hiring another firm to do it for you…” Gbemi said, facing Jumoke.
“As I said,” Jumoke interrupted. “We are going to get to the bottom of this and fix it.”
“I know the CEO of Whitman Consulting, I think I should call him…?” The Deputy MD asked, looking at the team distastefully.
“Let’s give them one day…” Lanre replied, looking at Jumoke.
“We can’t afford a day’s loss right now!” the Deputy MD countered.
“We will sort this out.” Jumoke said again, maintaining her composure.
Jumoke took several deep breaths and stared at her reflection in the mirror.
“You can do this, you’ve been through worse.”
Sniffing, she grabbed some toilet paper and wiped her hands. The door opened and Gbemi walked in, appraising Jumoke slowly and noting how beautiful she really was. She observed how her gown sat on her body in all the right places and realized with resentment that no matter how nice her dress or hair was, she could never quite match up to Jumoke who was effortlessly alluring.
“So here you are.” She said to Jumoke who had refused to pay her any attention but continued to wipe her hands and disposed the paper in the wastebin.
“Looks like you’ve done well for yourself.” She continued. “You managed to get a life when my brother wouldn’t fall for your pregnancy trick.”
Jumoke grabbed her bag and made to leave the bathroom, Gbemi’s words were making her feel suddenly warm with anger.
“I’m still talking to you…!” she said when Jumoke walked past her. “Did you have that baby?”
Jumoke stood still, the question had rattled her.
“Oh, that’s what it takes to get your attention uhn?” Gbemi said from behind her.
Jumoke closed her eyes and breathed in deep. Jummy you really, really need to control your temper, she heard her brother say. Her body trembled slightly, she felt the need to slap Gbemi’s mouth but she knew her game. She hadn’t forgotten how she liked to rattle her with her words. Gbemi wanted to incite her to do something she would regret. She pursed her lips and walked out of the bathroom.
“Oh don’t be a coward!” Gbemi yelled. “We deserve to know what you did!
Jumoke had to step out of the building, she needed some air. Standing in the parking lot, she saw the workers loitering about and decided to go and talk to one of them. She was not sure what exactly she was going to say but she sensed that it could help the situation. Her proposal had been foolproof, why had it been unacceptable to the people? She needed to know.
“I would like to talk to you sir…” she pointed at a man whose rumpled white shirt had seen better days.
“Me…?” The tired man asked looking around him.
“Why do you want to talk to him? He’s not the representative of the union!” A lanky man said, towering above her.
“I’ll talk to the representatives of the union later. Now, I want to talk to him.”
“You can’t talk to him when he’s not our representative!”
Jumoke wondered why the man was making such a fuss about who she had decided to talk to. She realized that he would only get in her way except she found another way to get what she wished for. Stepping back she faced the growing crowd.
“I’m here for you all…” she began.
“If I’m not for you I wouldn’t even come here!” she yelled above the murmurs. “I would come with a team, I wouldn’t come alone!”
“What can you do for us?” Someone yelled.
“I am the team lead for Brighton Consulting, my name is Jumoke Oludare. I just want to talk to you, hear your complaints…”
“Then talk to all of us!” someone yelled from the back.
“Yes! Don’t take one person away.”
“Alright!” she held up her hand. “Alright.”
“You can’t talk to all of us at the same time, that’s not how it’s done.” The lanky man said in a subdued voice.
“Well maybe we need to try something else so that we can resolve this conflict. Or what do you think people?”
The murmuring continued until someone yelled.
“Tell us why you want to sack 60% of us!”
Jumoke frowned. “What? That’s not true!”
“Tell us why you’re not giving us our Christmas bonus!” one woman yelled. “I’ve planned how I’m going to spend that money!”
Jumoke was even more surprised. “That’s not true!”
“Ah ah what is not true? They sent us emails to that effect.” Someone said.
“What about those you’ve sacked and the useless money you people paid them?” Yet another person said.
Jumoke stared at the workers in confusion and with each complaint, realized that the proposal that had been presented to Wilpac hadn’t been adhered to.
“You created this mess for yourselves!” Jumoke almost yelled.
Lanre had been amazed when he was told that Jumoke wanted to see him.
“What do you mean? He replied irritably.
“Why did you hire us when you intended to do your own thing?”
“What are you talking about?” He asked perplexed.
“You didn’t abide by the proposal!”
“And why wouldn’t we do that?”
“Why then would the workers say that you intend to lay off 60% of them?”
“Isn’t that what you proposed?”
“Of course not!”
“So whose proposal are we following?” Lanre asked confused.
Jumoke laid her iPad on the table in front of him. “This is our proposal!”
Lanre studied the presentation before him, then sat back in his chair after a while. “What’s going on here?” he asked.
“You should ask your staff.” She replied with her hands on her waist.
Lanre was suddenly distracted by her posture, her figure was perfect. He observed the contrast of her red nail polish against her grey dress. Why had he not stood up for this gorgeous, intelligent, woman? He momentarily imagined how life could have been if they had stayed together.
“When you’re done looking at my body let me know, so that we can get back to the business of the day.”
“I never stopped thinking about you Jumoke. I really never did.”
“Neither did I.” she replied with a short laugh. “How could I forget you?” she replied coldly.
He got up from his chair and walked around the table.
“Things were more complicated than you think.”
“I don’t need your explanation Lanre. Call your staff and find out who’s working against you. My team and I would be waiting.”
He reached out to touch her and then pulled back just in time.
“You must have a short memory.” She said before leaving him.
The crisis had been handled, Lanre had promised the staff most of the things on the new proposal. He decided to deal with the trouble maker later. The day had been saved because Jumoke had decided to talk to the people.
As she walked into her office later that day, her phone rang.
“Hi Jumoke, this is Derick.”
Jumoke couldn’t stop her heart from feeling lighter at the sound of his voice.
“Is this a bad time?” He asked.
“Okay, I just wanted to know if you would like to have dinner tonight. I know the chef of The BlueCow Restaurant, and he swears that the chicken tonight is going to be especially good. So, what do you say?”
Jumoke found herself smiling and was glad that he couldn’t see her. “I can’t, I have to pick Hope up from school…”
“Err… I kinda talked to Gloria about that. She said she’d pick her up.”
“You went behind my back to…”
“Plan a beautiful night for you.” he sighed. “Please don’t say no Jumoke.”
“’Okay, I’ll meet you there by 6.30.”
When Jumoke walked into the restaurant, Derick was conversing animatedly with a middle-aged man who looked like the chef. As soon as he saw her, he rose and smiled.
“Hi, I’m sorry I’m late. Traffic… ” She said.
“That’s okay. This is Chef Lexy as he’s popularly known. And Lexy, this is Jumoke Oludare…”
“She’s as beautiful as you say she is.” He said, smiling and stretching out his hand to take hers. “It’s lovely to meet you miss.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” she replied politely.
“I have made you the perfect chocolate cake to make your smile brighter.”
“Is that so?” She asked pleasantly, she liked this man and his warm smile.
“Oh yes, let me be on my way. I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about.”
“How was your day?” Derick asked when they were seated.
“Hmm… you don’t want to know.” Jumoke replied seriously, taking a sip of her water.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. I promise you’ll have a good time.”
Jumoke looked away and felt her heart thaw a bit more.
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