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Getting to grips!

– the funloving, but hardworking single parent

By Treena Kwenta
Hi readers! It’s amazing what hope can do for you.  After Dare told me that using Shola and his team to recover the debts being owed the company was the best solution for Seb’s company’s  money problems, you should see how my spirit soared. I began to walk with a bounce in my steps, and a ready smile on my face. It was as if Shola had already recovered the debts; the workers and our suppliers  had been paid, and the factory was buzzing with activities again!

Nanny beamed with smiles  as she took my brief-case from me when I got home.  “You’re looking so much happier and healthier this evening, madam. For some days now, you’ve been looking so ill that I was afraid something bad may happen. I really thank my God for bringing smiles to your face again.”

“Thanks for your concern, nanny. God won’t allow undue stress in our lives.” I told her. “By the way, have you heard from Papa Milwan today?” The thought just occurred to me that I should find out if she was in touch with Seb, and how. I didn’t believe that all his phones would be switched off permanently. He probably switched them off at the times he expects my calls. I wasn’t surprised when nanny said that she speaks to him every other day.  My pride prevented me from telling her that I always found his phones switched off whenever I rang him.

“Madam, we spoke this morning. He said all’s well and he’s still staying with Papa and Mama in Accra for a while, at their insistence, so that he can be well looked after before going to take up residence in a flat that is on the premises of his company.”

“I heard that,” I lied. “I wonder if his  madam is with him at my parents’ family house too?”

“Ah, madam, I didn’t dare ask him that.”

“I hope you didn’t tell him that I’ve not been looking well and happy since he left.”

“Er, sorry madam, I told him. You know how concerned he is about us, so I told him that something must be making you unhappy and sad. He asked what, but I didn’t know what to tell him, since I don’t know myself. I’m sure he’ll ask you himself when he rings you up, or when you ring him.”

On impulse I grabbed nanny’s phone from her and scrolled down to Seb’s name. I dialled.

He took the call at once. “Nanny!” he said with concern. “I hope there’s nothing wrong.  Is madam alright? Why are you calling again today? I was about to switch off my phones.”

For some seconds I was too stunned to say anything. I wasn’t really expecting to hear Seb’s voice.

“Nanny, speak for goodness’ sake!  What’s the matter?  Is it you? Is it madam?”

Fuming with anger, I silently handed nanny’s phone back to her and left the room. I then went and switched off all my phones, angry that Seb could take nanny’s calls while shutting down his phones when he knew I was going to ring him..

Nanny came up to my room. “Madam, oga wants to speak with you,” she said, handing me her phone. I hesitated. Should I return Seb’s childish behaviour or show some maturity and common sense? I decided on the latter and took the phone.

“Hello?” I said cautiously. “How are you, Seb, and how’s the company doing over there?”

“I’m fine. Thank you. Coco and I are working round the clock to put this branch back on its feet. How are you? Treena dear, it appears you’re angry with me. I’m sorry you had to use nanny’s phone to reach me. I’m sorry too that since I left Lagos,  I hadn’t got in touch with you. That was deliberate. I wanted you to have a free hand to run the company.”

“This is not the time to air my grievance. Is this your call or is it still nanny’s?  I wouldn’t want to waste her credit.”

“It’s my call. I told her to ring off and I rang.  What’s the matter?  You sound quite tense.”

“You should have had the decency to tell me that the company is in debt to suppliers, and  is also owing the workers three months’ salaries. Leaving like that and then telling me over the phone that I should go manage the place and put it in a sound financial state is callous.”

“Callous? I hope you understand the meaning of that word, Treena dear. It should be used with caution, and it’s totally used by you out of context here. What’s wrong with asking you do a normal thing like supervising a company of which you’re part owner? All these years, it has been a case of ‘monkey dey work; baboon dey chop’. You left me alone to run it, yet it’s where your allowances were coming from. My health suffered as a result of the stress involved. Now is an opportunity for you to handle it and turn its fortune around, and you’re miaowing like a kitten.”

“You can call me what names you like, but I insist it was callous of you not to hand over the affairs of the company to me properly before you left. Being callous is being wicked. Do you know that my health has suffered great damage as a result of the shock that I got when I went over to Ikeja and discovered that you’ve run away from debts? Isn’t it wicked of you to expose me to such a risk? If I knew what to expect, I would have braced myself up for it. It’s no big deal heading a business. All you need is focus and discipline about spending.”

“Fine. Since it’s no big deal, don’t whine about being asked to go revive that company.  Do it and let’s see how focused and disciplined you are about spending matters. I didn’t misuse company funds. I didn’t do anything irresponsible. However, go prove your worth there.”

“God will help me. I still think you should apologize for not handing over properly.  Going off like that and handing over verbally and casually over the telephone  was in bad taste. If it’s because my allowances from you had been coming from the proceeds of the company, that you think you should chuck it at me after you’ve messed it up, that’s not nice of you. Why didn’t you leave it to me when it was making profit and doing well? Now, I have to divide my time between my regular job and the company; shuttling between Apapa and Ikeja in all that heavy traffic!”

I didn’t wait for an apology from Seb, instead, I rang off and handed the phone back to nanny. She looked at me anxiously, but I ignored her. I wasn’t in the mood for any conversation. I had switched off my phones so no calls came through.

First thing I did the next day before going to my regular job was to go over to CLAWS NIGERIA LTD. to have discussions with Shola about the debt collection.

As soon as he saw me, he wanted to start his amorous chat line, but my serious countenance made him chuck it. I explained why I had come, and asked if he could help out with the debt collection. I brought out the list of the debtors and he ran an expert eye through it, ticking the ones that were likely to pay and those that we should write off.

“Treena dear, even if you take these eight companies to court, you won’t get a dime because they went bust several years ago.  Mr. Kwenta knew this and felt helpless.  Poor man.”

“Hm! Okay, what about the others? What are the chances of recovering what they owe us?”

“It will take time, but they’ll pay up if I and my team approach them. We have our methods. Five can pay immediately, but there would be a delay with some of the others.”

“Alright. Thanks. So, can you start collecting straightaway so that we can pay workers the backlog? Oh, that’s if what we collect will be enough for that.”

“I think I have an idea of what the company is owing the workers. If these five pay up next week, you can settle them. You may have to tell those leaving to come at the end of the month for their benefits. In another month, you should be able to start paying the suppliers.”

“Ah, thanks for giving me hope.”

“One thing, Treena my love.  Don’t go blaming Mr. Kwenta for the decline of the company. It wasn’t his fault at all. Many of these debtors shouldn’t have been allowed credit in the first place. He was away and the matter was mainly decided by his GM and Sales Manager, who have since been relieved of their positions.

CLAWS was in similar position some years ago when I foolishly accepted to render consultancy services to some companies, without first checking out their credibility. CLAWS went into red as the money we paid resource persons, hostesses, etc. that we had used for the job was not refunded. Ah! Tayo almost sacked me. She was so mad at my naivety. She said I should have cross-checked these companies with her since I didn’t know them well. The thing was, these companies operated from posh offices and had very sophisticated young ladies working for them in Ikeja. Going by all these, I thought they must be doing very well in business and they were worth accepting jobs from. Not only did they not pay CLAW
S, they vanished from Allen Avenue overnight.  That was when I had to use debt-collectors.”

“Were they effective?”

“Very. They sniffed out those guys and using arm-twisting tactics, they recovered the money from three of the companies.  They couldn’t trace two, but the money lost was considerably less. That was when I decided to set up a debt-collecting unit on the side. By the way, you’ll have to do me a letter, authorizing me to recover these debts for you. Both our legal advisers will draw up the agreement. Our cut is 20% of whatever money recovered. Any questions, madam?”

I shook my head; seeing Shola in an entirely new light. So, the Lothario can be an astute and serious business man? But isn’t 20% too high?

“Treena, the love of my life, that’s very low.  It’s almost nothing. My team have to incur many expenses in order to achieve results. Ask Tayo or Dare. That’s very low rate.”

Well, pardon my ignorance in the matter.

Tara.


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