Chief Edozie gave the eulogy at the funeral. Because of the sombre mood in the church, no one could tell that he wasn’t happy doing it. At some point in his speech he was tempted to walk away from the microphone stand and even away from the crowded hall because it felt hypocritical saying nice things about a man that defrauded his company of millions of naira. Edozie knew that the dead man in the expensive gold-plated coffin waiting to be lowered six feet beneath the earth wasn’t the saint in the five hymns selected by the nineteen-man burial committee made up of family members, pastors, friends, former classmates and collegues. If anything, he was a fiend.
Rowland Edozie wanted so badly to call out the late Donald Wakama. He thought that the world deserved to know him for who he truly was, a liar, a manipulator and a thief, but his nerves failed him. He wanted very badly to desecrate the memory of the embezzler and somehow make his family pay back immediately every kobo stolen from him but he didn’t. The truth was he could afford to wait until after the funeral because he had a plan that was already in motion.
He thought it was ominous though that every time his gaze fell on the widow and young children mourning the tragic loss of a man they loved and respected so much, images of himself in a similar box flashed through his mind. He couldn’t help thinking that if the prayers and rituals he and his wife had procured for his situation didn’t work, soon it would be him lying still in an imported coffin, oblivious of the cares of this life. Powerless to do anything about the haters and pretenders in the midst of genuine mourners and sympathisers gathered to bid him eternal farewell. When that day came, no matter the transgressions and atrocities he committed while alive, and no matter whom he offended, he wouldn’t want Ohita and the children disgraced publicly in the way he let his mind wish for Wakama and his family.
Chief Edozie was unhappy and irate. In that moment, he wished he had superpowers. The kind that bestowed on him the ability to bring back someone from the dead and whip their behind really hard with koboko until they bled, confessed their wrong and begged for forgiveness.
Chief Edozie considered himself smart and courageous. In life and in business, he was a risk taker so it was no secret that he liked people with audacity. What he didn’t like however was when people applied that same audacity to outsmart and steal from him or undo him thinking there wouldn’t be consequences. He also didn’t like being blindsided and that was what Donald Wakama did when he doctored the books, forged his signature and took out money from the company.
Initially unsure as to how to handle the situation and get his money back from the dead man, he confided in his longtime friend and former business partner, Ambassador Nebu Anele.
Two days after they spoke, the ambassador called him back. He said he had thought of something and Chief Edozie couldn’t wait to hear the plan his friend had come up with.
The solution was Shata Anele.
Nebu reminded Chief Edozie about his first son. The all-grown-up-now one he had before they met in the university and became great friends. The diplomat told him with pride that Shata was now a forensic accountant with the Federal Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in Abuja. He said “the boy” was one of the best in the country. Before moving back to Nigeria from the UK where he acquired his first and second degrees, Shata worked for one of the biggest auditing firms in London but Chief Edozie didn’t know any of these because for many years he and Nebu weren’t on talking terms.
The ambassador sounded extremely confident over the phone that his son was the man for the job. He told Edozie that Shata was very good at what he did and that he could trace any money wrongfully taken out of the company’s accounts. Nebu Anele was certain his lad could uncover the person or persons behind every theft carried out in Edozie Express, whether in the past or present, and get back most if not every naira – spent or stashed away in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Chief Edozie was pleased with the information from his old friend and instantly agreed to enlist the services of the younger Anele.
The older Anele had a condition for him though. The condition was that Shata be appointed the new CFO of Edozie Express in place of the man he would be investigating. He said Shata was tired of the civil service and that the slow pace of things in his ministry was killing his talent and zeal for investigative accounting.
Because he was expecting a more stringent demand, Chief Edozie was surprised that the condition for poaching Shata from his government job was that he be made Chief Financial Officer in EE. As far as Chief Edozie was concerned, bringing Shata on board was a no brainer. He didn’t have to think too long or hard about it. He didn’t have to consult widely on his choice either because he called the shots and the other directors on the company letterhead were mere rubber stamps.
Chief Edozie was happy with the choice of Shata Anele. Not only would the young man be spearheading efforts at recovering funds he feared may be lost forever, his appointment also solved the immediate problem of succession in a key division of his company – Finance.
Another thing he considered before giving his approval in principle, and this was very important to him, was that Shata joining EE afforded him the opportunity of making up for the dreadful treatment he meted out on Nebu in the past. But with Shata Anele working in the company, he could finally rest easy knowing that the animosity between him and the young man’s father had been quashed for good. To him, it was a restitution that should have been made years before.
Although he didn’t say it out loud to anyone, meeting Shata felt like turning back the hands of time. It was essentially returning to another generation of Anele the stake they rightfully possessed in his business empire because of the founding role Nebu and his uncle, Colonel Cletus Anele played in the establishment of Edozie Express and keeping it afloat for many years. The two men were instrumental to his success and he knew he didn’t do right by them.
The formal announcement of Shata’s appointment was made one week after it was brought to his attention. This was during the Extraordinary General Meeting of Edozie Express held in Yenagoa.
That same day, Chief Edozie also stepped down as CEO of the company he built from the scratch. A new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer was announced and formally introduced to the shareholders, board of directors and employees of the company.
Of course, unknown to everyone else, the process of appointing a new CEO and CFO was accelerated because Chief Edozie had very pressing personal issues of his own he was dealing with.
Baba Iperu wanted him to stop working. The native doctor informed him quite bluntly the last time they spoke about timelines, that the efficacy of the ritual he was preparing and grooming him for was predicated on the recipient, in this case Chief himself, being in isolation in the coming months. Baba Iperu said he had to be removed from anything and any situation that could constitute a distraction or affect his mental state for the cleansing to work.
In those months, his body would be lacerated to receive the medicine being prepared for him. He would lose weight and experience strange things both in the physical and spiritual realms. When those things began to happen, he didn’t want Chief Edozie to be around people that weren’t his immediate family members because they would gossip and say nasty things and their negativity would ruin everything for sure.
Knowing he would have to relinguish his position as CEO and Managing Director of EE, and completely distance himself from the day to day management of the affairs of the company, Chief Edozie had to chose a replacement fast. For weeks he scanned his horizon but couldn’t find anyone he thought suitable and trustworthy enough to fill his shoes. If there was anything Wakama’s betrayal thought him, it was not to trust too quickly. On face value, a few names came to mind, but ultimately, he chose to put trust and loyalty above competence so he didn’t get his fingers burnt a second time.
Chief Edozie was in a bind, but at the end of the day, it was the same Nebu that came to his rescue. Though he wasn’t told the real reason why his friend was relinquishing the position of CEO of his own company other than that he needed to take care of his health and some personal issues, Nebu had an epiphany. Right there on the phone when the conversation was going on, Nebu Anele came up with the obvious solution.
“Why not? You married her after you lost your first wife, right? And from what I’ve observed she’s smart and very capable. She’s a graduate, and don’t forget she’s the mother of some of your children. Rowland, if I know anything about women it is that they would do anything to make sure their children are taken care of so I don’t see her running the company down and being wasteful because of the children and their inheritance. Then again, you’re not going anywhere, right? You’d be here to guide her on the job.”
“But she has been a housewife for so many years now. I don’t see her being able stay afloat and swim in the shark infested waters of business.”
“I agree, but you said you wanted someone you could trust and if you can’t trust your wife, who can you trust?”
“I trust her completely because she is a good woman with a kind heart. My only worry is that she hasn’t been involved or even showed the least bit of interest in the affairs of the company.”
“Rowland my friend, you’d be surprised how much our wives know about our jobs and business just from hosting dinners and eavesdropping our phonecalls.”
They both laughed, but Chief Edozie knew that Nebu had a point. After the call, he pondered on the suggestion for days and on the day of the EGM, after the unveiling of the new CFO, the name of his successor was made public.
The announcement came as a huge surprise to his staff because they weren’t even aware of his decision to step down from the management of EE. Many cried and immediately took to social media to say how much they would miss having their Padrino in the building. However, after the shock wore off, they all pledged their loyalty and commitment to the new Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Edozie Express.
At the end of his eulogy, the crowd applauded loudly. There wasn’t a dry eye in any of the pews after the touching stories he recounted about his close relationship with Donald Wakama. Everyone was touched by the moving tales he told for the first time in public of a loving husband, a doting father, a loyal friend and a faithful employee.
Back at his seat, the officiating pastor came over and hugged him, Donald Wakama’s widow gave him a slight nod, Shata did a modest hand salute and Ohita handed him a clean white handkerchief to wipe his tears with.
The people around him he couldn’t shake hands with, he acknowdleged with a warm smile before reaching for his wfe’s hand for comfort.
“That was a fantastic speech, Chief. I know Don is in heaven watching and he’d be happy at the nice things you said about him,” Ohita whispered in his ears.
“I hope so too, Madam CEO. I really hope so.”