Literary Zone

Short story: The past acts that block the way forward

14 May 2020 at 18:29 | 1322 views

The past acts that block the way forward

By Koyie Mansaray, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Jobs are not easy to come by these days. Probably there are a lot of qualified individuals than there are jobs. Or, we may be right in saying that there are far less resources to ensure that every member of the active population, skilled or unskilled, in every country can find a means of earning a living. But being skillful and competent as well as experienced do not suffice in certain cases. One’s human relations as a reliable team player are additional assets certain potential employers put a lot of premium on.

Mamadu Sesay, a professional driver, discovered this truth, albeit too late, when he failed to clinch a post he was over-qualified for at the Tempico Mining Company.
Mamadu Sesay was recruited as a simple driver some fifteen years ago. He was attached to the HIV/AIDS Control Project of one United Nations Agency in Freetown. He was recruited as the project driver. His overall boss was Mr.Boniface Bamba, a native of Niger, who was the Project Manager. Another senior international officer was Dr. Mahamadou Diallo,the Project Technical Coordinator. Dr.Diallo, a specialist in public health, was from Mauritania.

The National Programme Officer was Mr.Salif Keita. He was in charge of Communication and Outreach Programme of the project. He was a compatriot of the driver. The four of them were based at the Project Implementation Unit (PIU), supported by a secretary and a finance/administration assistant.

Because it was a low-budget project, it had only one Toyota Hilux as utility vehicle. The driver also neither had a desk nor a personal computer for the in-putting of personal information.

Mr Bamba was a very kind-hearted fellow who saw off each of his two senior officers, before finally heading home. This arrangement was not to the liking of Mamadu Sesay the driver. It meant that he would go to park the utility vehicle much later than usual at the UN Vehicle Pool.

Being sure that the Project Manager was not au fait with all the rules governing the allocation of utility vehicles and being also aware that national officers benefitted from transport allowances on their monthly emolument, the drivertook time one day to give an impromptu lecture on the matter. His main objective was to drive home the point that Mr.Salif Keita was only enjoying an unmerited privilege extended to him by the kind-hearted Mr.Bamba, the Project Manager.

Besides, the two international staffers were often away on missions or on rest and recuperation breaks. During their absence, Mamadu Sesay never put the vehicle at the disposal of Mr.Keita, the Communication and Outreach Officer. Being a very unassuming and modest person, Mr.Keita never made any issue out of the deprivation he suffered of the vehicle in the absence of Mr.Bamba and Dr.Diallo. The unwholesome affairs was nothing to him.

The Communication and Outreach Officer, however, made a very startling discovery one day. That discovery did not go down well with him and he was far from indifferent as from that juncture. He was on board a taxi going to work, when he spotted the project utility vehicle moving at a top speed towards the main United Nations House down town. Driver Sesay was at the wheel, but, on the front passenger seat, was ensconced one of the secretaries at the main UN House. As a journalist with a knack for investigation, Mr.Keita made an unscheduled visit to the local UN Headquarters that very afternoon in order to ascertain who that secretary really was. His sources revealed to him that, his Boss, the Project Manager , was dating the secretary in question. Apparently, in his absence, the driver had instructions to be taking the young lady to and from her place of work. Keita was taken aback! Because the Project Manager had been telling the driver in the hearing of all officers to be giving him the Communication Officer all the support he needed in his absence.

However, as the driver Mamadu Sesay, only grudgingly drove Keita home in the presence of the Project Manager , much could not be expected of him in the boss’ absence. His discretion obviously tended towards the Project Manager’s girl-friend than towards giving the required support to the highest national project officer. In his usual characteristic calmness, Mr.Keita considered this attitude to be an act of insubordination born out of deceit.

There is always a limit to human endurance, as the saying goes. Two months to the end of the project cycle, Mr. Salif Keita, who was also, a human resource specialist, got employed as the Human Resources Manager of a thriving mining company, called the Tempico Mining Company.

As the HIV/AIDS Project was folding up, there was a vacancy for a Chief Fleet Driver at the Tempico Mining.The Chief Fleet Driver would be in charge of 15 junior drivers. The compensation package and fringe benefits were very attractive.
Many qualified drivers applied for the vacant position. Mamadu Sesay was ,however, not among them.

To his utter dismay, he learnt that Mr.Keita, his former national officer whom he tried to ostracize at the HIV/AIDS Control Project was the chief recruiter at Tempico. As our people always say: You may continue your journey if only you hit your feet against some obstacle. But you may not go ahead if your mind bumps against an unsettled matter”

Moreover, the relationship between Mamadu Sesay and Mr.Salif Keita hit an all-time low, just before the Communications Officer resigned from the project. One of the reasons that precipitated his early departure was a clear case of theft that occurred in his office one mournful, rainy day in August.

The driver had requested the use of the Communication Officer’s desk and computer for him to do entries for his Annual Evaluation. Mr.Keita was almost about to turn down the request and he suddenly recalled that he would be accompanying a sick niece to the hospital during the lunch break. As it was almost 5 minutes to 12:00 noon, he allowed Mamadu Sesay to use his machine and office in his absence.

After an hour or so, Mr.Salif Keita returned. Sesay returned the keys to the Communications Officer as they met along the corridor. Mr.Keita entered his office and discovered that everything was intact. He proceeded to reboot his desktop computer and everything was all right. He worked for the rest of the day and never suspected anything was amiss.

It was when he was about to leave that he checked in one of the drawers where he had kept an amount of $200 but the money was nowhere to be found. He then rushed out and went straight to ask the driver whether he saw that amount of money. He answered in the negative. Mr.Keita then made a report to the Project Manager. The latter summoned the driver to his office and the answer was still nyet, he did not see any money.

Two days later, Mr Keita made another discovery of another theft. There was a very sophisticated camera the Communications Officer had been using. It was in one of the lower drawers. It had disappeared. Apparently, it was taken the very day the $200 amount was removed. As he was not using the camera all the time, he only became aware of its disappearance when he specifically searched for it.

Mr.Keita again made a report to the Project Manager. As usual, the driver was quizzed and he denied having taken any camera. No further enquiries or serious attempt was made to investigate the instances of theft. This was why Mr.Keita became a very frustrated member of staff at the PIU. Immediately he finished editing the Project Completion Report, he tendered his letter of resignation.
In exactly two months the project folded up. Mr.Keita moved to the Tempico Mining Company and secured a better job.

Jobless Mamadu Sesay, after all that transpired between him and Mr Keita, did not have any clear conscience to face Mr Salif Keita anywhere in this world, let alone make a request for recruitment.