Emeka woke early the next morning, determined to allow his wife to sleep for a little longer than usual. He had finished waking and bathing the boys when his wife finally strolled into their room to find them awake, dressed, and chatting happily with their father.
“I love you.” She said.
“And I you, but you are not free yet, there are three hefty men here who need fuel.” He said as he kissed her on the cheek and patted her behind.
Emeka quickly showered and dressed so that he would be able to sit at the breakfast table with his family; something he had not done for the last few weeks.
James was an incorrigible rascal at the breakfast table and kept up a stream of antics that had Emeka holding his sides from laughter. Michael was more reserved and seemed to have an old soul in his young body. No matter how they came, they were his ilk and he would die to protect and provide for them.
“Everybody done?” Emeka called out. “I’m taking you guys to school today so mommy can rest a little while longer.”
“Yes.” The boys called out in unison.
“What have I done to deserve you?” Hadija asked her husband as he gathered the boys into his car.
“The same thing I have done to deserve you, love you unconditionally.” He said while kissing her deeply.
Emeka drove more slowly when his boys were in the car, aware that they observed everything that he did and would imbibe both the good and the bad habits.
He dropped them off at school and gave them the normal parental admonitions that drew the expected “yes sir.”When he pulled out of the school parking lot, he stepped on the gas and allowed his Mercedes to have fun with the road, intimidating lesser cars and daring his mates to challenge him.
The parking lot of his office was almost full but he could care less, no one would dare park in his spot. As he stepped out of his car he saw his secretary, Janet, rushing to meet him.
She was wearing a little black dress that showed off her beautiful petite frame. She really is fine, I probably would have had my way with her in my younger days he thought before shaking the idea out of his head and plastering a smile on his face.
“Came to greet your president huh? I could get used to this kind of service.” He said when Janet had gotten close enough.
“Sir, we have a big problem.” She said without even attempting to smile at his joke.
“Like what?” All traces of humor gone from his face and voice.
“Remember the forensic audit that you quietly ordered that external accounting firm to perform on Constellation fisheries after the internal one came back looking funny?”
“Yes, what about it?”
“The findings just landed on my desk this morning and it appears that there has been foul play in the finance department.”
“Who else knows about this?” He asked sharply, drawing her closer and lowering his voice.
“Nobody, I have been waiting out here for a while, you know you usually come earlier than this.”
“Yes, I know, so who has been implicated in the fraud?”
“The finance chief himself, James Obinede.”
“Ah fuck, anyone else but him would have been preferable; I need to take this direct to the Chairman. Keep this under wraps until we decide what to do.”
“Janet, good call, bringing it directly to me.”
“Thank you sir.” She said with a smile.
Emeka races through the lobby and squeezes into the elevator just before the doors slam shut. As people get off at their respective floors he curses them for delaying him even further. At last he is at the highest floor and spills out and sprints to the Chairman’s office, only stopping long enough to pick the report from Janet’s desk.
“Emeka, what is it?” Dante asks as his president comes through the door in a huff.
“We have been betrayed, the finance chief has been siphoning huge sums of money.”
“Where is the evidence to back up your claims?” the older man asked coolly.
“Everything is inside here.” He says handing the parcel over and hoping that Janet was correct.
The Chairman looks over the report closely and his face shows that the accusations are true.
“That is why the accounts for Constellation Fisheries are hard to decipher, James has been covering up his theft for GOD knows how long. I hope that he was working alone or with a very small group because a mass purge of the finance department at this stage would be catastrophic.” Emeka says in a rush.
The Chairman does not answer him directly but picks up the phone and talks to a disembodied voice on the other end. “Summon James Obinede to my office at once, tell him that it is urgent.” To Emeka he says, “Relax my young friend, we will get this whole thing sorted out yet.”
They wait in silence for what seems like an eternity before a tentative knock sounded at the door.
“Come in.” Dante calls.
James enters the office looking lost and a little guilty to Emeka but then again it may have just been the younger man’s imagination.
“Have a seat my old friend, do you know why you have been called here James?”
“No sir.” James replies promptly.
“Are you sure? Is there anything that you have done that is not above board? Wait, before you answer, think very hard about it, because you will not get a second chance.” The chairman said in a soft voice that did little to betray his inner state.
“Sir, I do not know what this is about but I have been the finance chief for years and my actions have always spoken for themselves.”
“Is that your final answer?” Dante said, turning the full fury of his steel grey eyes on James.
“Yes sir, it is.”
“I am disappointed in you, if you would have admitted your faults, I would have given you clemency, now my conscience is clear and I will not spare you. From this day forward, you no longer work for this organization, all your benefits have been revoked, and I am ordering the EFCC to investigate you and your entire family for theft of the highest order. Thank you for showing me that men are no longer loyal, now get out of my office.”
James just sat there stunned into immobility by the gravity of his sentence and he still was not clear about what he had done.
“But sir, what have I done to deserve such?”
“You have been stealing from me for a decade you ingrate!” Dante thundered.
As he heard the word steal, James seemed to snap out of his hebetude and fully grasp the gravity of his situation.
“Please Mr. Vincent, I am sorry, I was being influenced by the devil. I beg you to have mercy on me.”
“I am a man like you, beg your maker for mercy, now get out of my office, my building, and my life.”
James needed no further urging but turned tail and fled as fast as his short legs would take him.
“Emeka, get a new finance chief within two weeks and if there is nothing else would you mind excusing me?”
“Yes sir, of course sir.” Emeka stammered, awed at how quickly Dante was able to change from a raging Chairman to a polite colleague.
The media had a field day with the company and what it fondly referred to as the incompetent directors and the upper management. Even with the bad rap that the company was getting, the applications for the position of Chief Financial Officer of Constellation Industries were coming in thick and fast.
They were able to narrow it down to the top three within the two week time-frame only by putting everything else on the back-burner and giving the hiring process their full attention. When the dust had cleared, the three candidates that had come out on top were James Oyawole an MTN veteran, Michael Ramat an Oando strongman, and Cassie Petu a rising star in the Dangote Group.
These three would go through an interview with Emeka Personally who would tender his recommendation to the board later in the day.
James Oyawole was a great candidate on paper and Emeka was intrigued to see what the man would be like in person. He was disappointed from the moment the man stepped through his door. He was short, poorly groomed and wore an ill-fitting suit. Emeka was determined to give the man a chance in spite of these apparent drawbacks.
“Mr. Oyawole, I see you have extensive experience with the Finance Department in MTN, what do you think you can bring to the table here at Constellation Industries?”
“I’m glad you asked; I will bring my years of experience on how to run a successful department.”
“The last finance chief we had brought years of experience, what will set you apart from the crowd?”
“Well, um, I, uh, have worked with a telecommunications firm similar to Constellation Telecommunications which will allow me to hit the ground running.”
“The telecommunications portion of our business is only a small part in a much larger whole, the way I see it, having so much experience in just one field may actually serve as a disadvantage for you.”
“No, I disagree”
“Well, umm, I think that telecommunications are the bedrock of the future.”
“Is that so Mr. Oyawole? Thank you for your time, we will get back to you with the results of your application after the board deliberates, please send in Mr. Ramat as you leave.” Emeka said, effectively dismissing the ill prepared Mr. Oyawole.
Mr. Ramat cut a better figure than Mr. Oyawole by far. He strode in wearing a navy pinstriped suit with a red tie and dark brown shoes. He was well groomed and smelled good to boot. Emeka greeted him warmly.
“Mr. Ramat, welcome, I hope you have been able to find everything to your liking.”
“Yes, you all are great hosts.”
“Yes, thank you. I can see from your CV that you have extensive experience in the oil sector, how do you feel about oil as the energy source for the future?”
“To be honest Mr. Jones, oil is a dying industry due to the fact that it is a nonrenewable resource. If the existing oil companies do not pour their resources into renewable energy sources soon, then they will be dead in the water before twenty years runs out.”
“That is an interesting take on your home sector; having such specialized knowledge in your industry can be an advantage or a drawback, how will you be able to impact constellation industries?”
“As you said yourself, it can be an advantage or a drawback but I think that it is an advantage, since Constellation Industries is consolidating and focusing on a few growth sectors, I believe my insights will be able to steer the organization clear of certain pitfalls that may otherwise be overlooked. In addition to that, finance is finance and I am quite good at what I do.” He finished with a smile
Cocky bastard, Emeka thought, But I do like him.
They continued like this for a while and Emeka dismissed the man with genuine fondness and felt that the next candidate would really need to wow him to displace Mr. Ramat.
Ms. Petu strolled in just as he had completed the thought and he knew that this young woman had to be something else. She wore a floor length brown dress that managed to show off every sensual curve of her body while complementing her sun kissed yellow skin. The woman did not walk; she sashayed across the room to where Emeka sat. When she plopped down in the seat provided for her, she licked her bright full lips and tweaked her long pointed nose in preparation for the onslaught that was about to come.
“Ms. Petu, you seem to have risen through the ranks of Dangote Group rather quickly, why did you decide to leave?”
As she prepared to answer, Emeka could not help but take in the soft curve of her long neck and the way her heart shaped face complemented her round eyes and soft dimples.
“To be honest Mr. Jones, there was no room for disruption there, they are stuck in their ways and are not ready to compete with the best in the world. The best in Africa maybe, but not the best in the world.”
“So you feel that you can compete with the best in the world Ms. Petu?”
“What can you bring to our finance department?”
“Pray tell.” Emeka said leaning forward in his chair.
“Mr. Jones, we are on the cusp of something that Africa has never had the opportunity to experience before. The ability to tap directly into the global marketplace and poach the best and brightest and truly compete on a global level. In order to do that there needs to be a shift in thinking, we need to purge the old guard and make room for the new generation that believes that anything is possible. When I heard that a thirty seven year old man was heading up Constellation Industries, I knew that I had found a company with visionary leadership.”
“Ms. Petu, flattery will get you nowhere.” Emeka said with a smile.
Cassie, in addition to being a beautiful young woman, had a keen mind and natural business acumen. She explained to Emeka her vision for a new type of Company in the Sub Saharan region and felt that this was the only organization that was forward thinking enough to bring it about.
Many of her ideas were in line with his own, so it was no wonder that they were able to slip into an easy banter that lasted well over an hour. When Emeka looked up, he was surprised to see that Janet was signaling to him that it was time to present his recommendation to the board.
“Ms. Petu, it has been a pleasure, but duty calls and I must call an end to this chat. You will be notified before the week runs out whether you are a fit for the organization or not.”
“Thank you Mr. Jones, it has been a pleasure speaking with a keen mind all the same.” She replied while standing to leave.
As she turned around she allowed him to take in the beautiful sight of her backside as she sashayed out of his large office.
“That one is trouble.” Janet said as she strolled into his office to drop some files on his desk.
“I know, but she has the sharpest mind I have seen in a very long time.”
“So you are going to hire her?”
“Yes, I think I will, it’s time to break the status quo.”