Who are the kinds of characters that make up a typical Nigerian office? I have drawn up a list, and I must remind you that all the incidents reported below really happened, but the names of the characters have been doctored a bit. I guarantee that everyone who has worked a 9 to 5 would be familiar with at least one of the types of characters below. Enjoy….
- THE FORM ACTIVITY CHARACTER: This person loves to act as if he (or she) is carrying all the workload in the office or as if he is always super-busy to have time for his mere mortal co-workers. He normally moves at a 1000 miles per hour, making photocopies, punishing the keyboard by typing very loudly and talking loud on the phone to clients. Even a simple personal task like getting water from the water dispenser is done with much ceremony, like he is Moses about to part the Red Sea.
Yep this character loves to “form activity” but actually lacks any substance or depth to his persona. He usually gets found out at meetings where suggestions or reports are required. This is the type of dude to show up fully suited up with a big yellow tie which stops on his midriff on TGIF Dress-down day. He did get the memo/email to dress down, but his own akproko is too much.
I once worked with a Form Activist for a start-up firm somewhere in Lagos (won’t tell where). One day a higher-up was making his rounds in our department, as he was supervising some people working on a major project for a big Abuja investment firm. Mr. Form Activity was not involved in the project, but he was sitting in the corner typing away on his computer, making loud noises like it was an old Olivetti typewriter from the 80s and not a Dell PC. He was also flipping paper stacks and acting like he was drafting a new constitution for Nigeria or compiling a dictionary for Hon. Obiahiagbon. The co-workers in the office were looking at him like, what the hell is dude up to. Apart from the few guys working on the Abuja project, it was not a particularly busy day. Mr. Form Activity was acting up because the higher-up who was top director was around, and he wanted to look like an effico employee.
The director didn’t even seem to notice the effico guy as he was standing behind two of the guys working on the project, dictating what they should type and edit in the report they were preparing. They then tried to print the 1000 page report but the printer connected to the PC they were working on was jamming.
The director then uploaded the report onto the company database, and then without warning walked over to Form Activist’s desk so he could print from that computer which was connected to another printer.
Form Activist’s PC was switched off.
It could have been worse. He could have been nabbed playing Solitaire.
2. JEZEBEL FEMALE WORKER: Woe betides you if this brutal female is your boss or supervisor. The female co-worker from hell is a staple of every office environment. If she is a spinster, her work becomes her life and she is impossible to work with. But wait it gets worse: if she is in a relationship, she brings all her marital baggage to the office. On the day her hubby slaps her, she comes into office and slaps every one with impossible tasks.
I once had a female Jezebel boss. All the workers were scared shitless of her. She addressed a meeting where she announced to 20 anxious male lawyers and 2 cowering female ones: “Some of you are not pulling you weight in this organization. I have initiated Operation Shelltox. I will weed you out like I am pulling jigger (a nasty parasitic insect) from a villager’s foot. Everybody gulped – including the hard-workers. Banks were also laying off, you see.
I later realized that Jezebel boss’s husband was mighty frightened of her. He was a very meek looking geeky dude. The guy looked like he only went near her physically whenever it was time to procreate. He was a software engineer or so. He swung by the office sometimes to bring her things she had requested or to help with minor IT issues with the company servers.
There was a day he had come into the office and was working on a mainframe computer some desks away from me. We were the only ones in that section of the office as most of my co-workers were at clients or in the other section. The Jezebel Boss was in her office which was on the 2nd floor in the other side.
Then the telephone situated near the boss’s hubby started ringing. He refused to answer it. It rang like 7-8 more times, but dude ignored it. Then my own office line rang so I picked the phone up: “It is Esco. Who is this?”
It was Boss Jezebel on the line. She inquired without greeting “Esco is this how you greet clients when you answer the phone. Okay remind me to get at you later for this. Is Mr. Jezebel there?”
I replied in the affirmative. She then barked “Then tell him to pick up the bloody phone!” I placed the handset on the receiver.
Then suddenly the other phone started ringing again.
I looked at the hubby sitting next to it. He glanced at me with beads of perspiration and terror in his eyes. I had to break the bad news to him: “Kind Sir, it is your wife calling. She says you should pick up.”
Dude looked like I had just asked him to swallow a spoon of Worm medicine.
He picked the receiver with his hands jerking like he was about to disarm a Boko Haram bomb. This message will self-distruct….
3. THE SOCIAL OLOFOFO: In every Naija office is some prick who treats office life as the epicenter of his/her social existence. This olofofo organizes the TGIF small chops and rice, or helps buy and distribute aso ebi material for any co-worker’s weddings or ceremonies. This olofofo even attends every single event from condolence visits to bereaved colleagues to house-warnings and naming ceremonies.
Fair enough, but what used to irk me is that the olofofo feels hurt if anyone was not on the same page with him. I know a dude who used to wait in the office after he had finished his tasks for the day “to soak in the environment and socialize with people from other departments.” Err, sorry that’s why it is called a 9 to 5. Left to me, it should be 7 to 3 because I would rather arrive early and leave early, but it is what it is. By the way GEJ is there any chance that you could sort this out. Maybe I should move to Spain.
My cousin who was a banker nearly got into it with a social olofofo who was always suggesting inconvenient Saturday “team-bonding” events. Seriously, no I am not waking up early again on Saturday morning, driving down Third Mainland to attend some bloody team work retreat about Better Customer Service and Marketing at Badagry Beach of all places. I need my Saturdays to do other things with my life. I don’t want you in my Saturday too.
Social olofofo looked visibly hurt: You have betrayed the circle of trust. And I have already ordered and deposited money for the small chops and paid for the canopies….
4. THE OFFICE SUCK-UP: This one is always trying to curry favors with management, and will throw anyone under the bus to get a quick rise. They are a bit like the Form Activists except that they are more calculating and dangerous, and have a bit of a method to their madness. And their madness dey plenty.
They may usually snitch on their co-workers to higher-ups. But what gets my goat is that how they “seek perch.”
There was an instance where the Boss had just returned from an official trip to England and brought candy for the ladies and some really smart ties for the chaps. The office suck-up was a girl called Dupe, and she was really on a roll that day. She pranced around looking at everyone’s gifts, and remarking about how the Boss had very good taste, and how he must have spent a fortune. She even said she would not eat her candy as she was touched by the Boss’s kind gesture. Men, if that girl suddenly contracted Lassa Fever that day, she would have tried to touch the Boss’s garment to get healed. Na so her suck-up reach.
The Boss was now joking about his trip, and about the crooked Customs chaps at MMIA asking for egunje and things of that nature. He then said something.
Dupe suddenly burst out laughing loudly, and baring all her gnashers and rubbing her belly. If there was a raffia mat on the ground, she would have even rolled on the floor with laughter sef.
Everyone looked at her like she had kolo-ed or something. The boss also had a confused look on his face too. Later on, the boss’s secretary came to get him, as he had a meeting.
When the boss was out of earshot, she drew me aside and asked me “What was the last thing he said. I really could not hear the joke.”
I replied “It was no joke at all. He said he lost his wallet with about 700 pounds in it, and he suspects he left it on the aircraft when he disembarked at Murtala Airport.”
Eh? Kilo wi?
5. THE IT MAESTRO:
You had better be on the IT Maestro’s good side. Depending on where you work (State or Local Governments and “One Man Offices” do not count) the IT Maestro can hook you up with all the new tech stuff like wireless keyboards or a shiny slim PC monitor, or a printer which actually works and does not print smudged ink like Tie and Dye cloth.
If he hates your guts, you may end up with the fat old white computer with the dead pixels. Or a UPS system that works like NEPA. IT Guys have some kind of power in most offices, but they seem more power-drunk in Nigerian offices. Trust us, we like to exert authority whenever we are given lofty positions.
Before Blackberry phones became pure water in Nigeria, I know an IT guy who hooked up a female intern lawyer with access to the office server so that her work emails got pushed to her private phone. This was a privilege only the firm’s Partners enjoyed. I don’t know how she paid back that favor, but she always wore some saucy “push-up” bras to work. I am just saying o. Push me, I push you.
These IT guys always seem to work on a different time-zone from anyone. Late into the office, early out. In some companies, they are allowed to dress down, and their favorite garb are polo shirt, jeans, geeky glasses and a knapsack. They also like oily food.
Don’t let the Steve Urkel get-up fool you. These dudes are more vicious than Bola Koof.
A friend called Remi who was once competing for the affection of a sexy girl named Segi with an IT dude. They took their war to another level, but IT girl went “no-holds barred” when he discovered that Remi had taken Segi for dinner and movies at Silverbird the Saturday before.
The IT guy decided to play his ace-card. Remi was due to give a presentation on Private Equity Law in Nigeria to a bunch of Chinese clients in the office boardroom. Two of the firm partners were also going to be present along with interested workers of the firm, and these clients were a very lucrative account for the firm.
Remi had worked on the PowerPoint presentation for the best of one month, and had finally completed the slides the evening before. He set up the projection apparatus, and then the clients and firm partners came in and took their seats. Okay, educate us…
Err, when Remi tried to locate the files with the slides, they were nowhere to be found. He started to sweat profusely, and the partners looked on embarrassed as he fidgeted with the projector. As Remi struggled in front of everyone, sweating buckets, he looked up and saw IT guy seated at the back. He was not even supposed to be here.
IT guy gave him a knowing wink. Like, I don winch you today.
Remi avoided Segi like Boko Haram States after that.
*Please leave your comments and experiences. What kind of characters have you worked with? I need at least 30 comments o or it will be 30 more months before another article. Haha! You know I love you.