The sun rose so early, it seemed like it has so much to attend to for the day just like I had too. I was on the site as usual. If there is one compliment that has often been shot at me as an insult, it would be “you are the only construction manager who gets to site before labourers” Most times I get criticized for things I should be complimented for but my thick skin doesn’t mind.
This day, I did my supervision for close to 2 hours, no one was on site. I penned down my report and got into my car. The artisans didn’t start getting to work until 10 am. Perhaps because I wasn’t meant to inspect the site that week. They started strolling in lazily at 10 am and had good times philandering with the underaged food hawkers who flocked the site. I was in my car watching. By the time work started, the pace was as if we had no time limit and the project was meant to take forever.
I stepped out of the car and found my way to the site. More like the artisans just sighted a ghost. They were all startled. The ones who were sitting and singing, like the site was a studio for freestyle, all got up to work. My presence put the laborers who were flirting with the young hawkers on the spot. I paid no attention to them.
At that time, my assistant, Mr Timpreye, who I had made a call to after observing so many misconducts on the site was also around and checking up on my observations. I summoned the subcontractor on site. After exchanging pleasantries, I moved to the purpose of my 4hours wait.
“Please, can you explain to me, why the stairs are not even and why so many things aren’t as they were in the plan? I also want to know how many loads of gravel got here yesterday because all I’m seeing now seem like none was delivered contrary to the report you gave’ I said to him.
He nodded and immediately made to leave like he didn’t understand what I have said. I called back ” where are you going? I think I asked for an explanation. “Yes, ma’am. I have heard you” he said as he walked away to my shock. I decided to be calm and watch what he was about to do. I saw him walk up to my assistant and called him aside for a conversation. To say I was pissed would be an understatement but I held myself from being provoked.
A minute later Mr Timpreye accompanied by the subcontractor walked back to the spot he left me earlier. Mr Timpreye started giving an explanation to what I have inquired from the subcontractor. “Are you working as an artisan on this site?” I asked Timpreye with a stern face. He responded in negation and immediately shut his mouth. I turned again to the subcontractor.
“For you, why would I ask for explanations on things and you felt the need to walk out on me to explain to him? Are you too big to explain to me or am I in no position to make you account for things on the site?” I said. The tone of my voice was high and blasting as the walls of the building threw each word back in echo.
“I’m sorry madam, I thought I should explain to Mr Timpreye man to man so he can explain to you.” He said with a convincing voice that showed he must have believed he did the right thing. “So he can understand you but I can’t? That I don’t understand English or that I’m deaf? Please explain” I was beginning to lose my patience. “Madam, not so, you know you are a woman. You people do not understand things easily.” He responded with a sheepish smile.
“That is it” I knew all along it was going to be another case of gender degradation. In this line of profession, often times, my rank has been vitiated because I am young and more because I’m a woman. An attitude I can’t make sense of.
“I know! Every time I come here, you all disregard my instructions because I’m a woman. You feel you aren’t accountable to me even though I’m the construction manager, why? Because I’m a woman! Today will be the end of it. Resume to the office at 8 a.m tomorrow with a report of work done so far. For now, you will cease to work on this site” I left before he could start the emotional manipulation. They do that well, playing the victim and making it look like they are being oppressed.
For those who have no idea of the stigma I have had to deal with, they would think I was so squeamish but that wasn’t it. I have been through so much disrespect before time. So many professional recommendations I have given, have been turned down at different times on different projects, basically because they were believed to be “a woman talk”. A colleague once shut me up at a conference meeting with ” Madam, you are a woman. It isn’t every time you should have an opinion or idea. You shouldn’t be showing off yourself at every meeting, not good for a woman.” Although my CEO shut him up, those words still ring in my ears.
So many of my subordinates discredit my rank. Behind me, the anthem has always been ” what does she know? She must be sleeping with one Oga for her to have been made a manager” Well, yes, I should have been doing that. I mean who won’t sleep with those cheap men who entice a lady with their money, seducing her every day with all they got, badmouthing their wives just to get a chance? Just like men will sleep with cheap girls and be proud of their escapades, I should do the same but my level of decency will not allow me. It is odd however that my diligence is disregarded for such an assumption.
“Today, I must break this stereotype ” I mumbled as I drove out. Unlike some other road users who enjoy playing music in their cars, I love to have a silent ride. My car has always been my solitude ground where I get to reminisce in silence. Of course, you can never have a smooth ride on the roads here, the car jolts at every pothole and bump, then I had to be juddering in rhyme with it. There is a little shock absorber could do with Nigeria’s rough roads.
The roads are bad, the road users are erratic so I always drive at a low pace. Since I am always out before time, there was never a need to rush. While the recklessness of the heavy truck drivers has become a norm, the one that’s often time most annoying is that of the tricycle and bike riders. They are most times driving under the influence of alcohol and hard drugs. So I’m always careful enough to allow them to have their ways. Once they pass by me, they are always stealing glances; the riders and passengers alike.
Most of the time, the stares are despicable. Everyone knows there is this hate that exists between someone driving a car (doesn’t matter if he/she owns it or not) and the people on the bike. No one can explain the beef but it is real. The unexplainable envy is more aggravated when the person driving is a woman; a young woman at that. I’m used to the spiteful look, some provocative whispers come with it sometimes but I don’t get to hear them as my windows are always up.
The mobile car wash teenagers who are popularly called “by-the-road-car-wash” are another source of adventure on the road. These boys, most of whom should be in school learning, come on the road to wash up dirty cars snared in gridlocks. I was answering a call when two boys without seeking my consent got to the job of cleaning my car. I was caught between “how dirty could my car have been for some small boys to have volunteered to wash it and what would happen if they turn out to be armed robbers because I have heard in the news how some of these boys now rob unsuspecting road users”
I was lucky! After washing, they came by the window and were gesticulating in a way a beggar would for money. I couldn’t help smiling at them. The anger I felt on site and the fear of being robbed vanished. There is no specified price for the job, it was more of “I’m begging for money but while at it, I’m rendering service” I stretched out my hand and they rushed over like hungry dogs would when they sight a bone. What a pathetic state to be in!
Some minutes after I escaped the gridlock, a careless man has left his lane to overtake a truck before him. He swerved like there was no one on the other lane and it seemed like his car was flying towards me. I tried to dodge it, twisted and screeched but it was too late to avoid the collision. It happened in a flash. I couldn’t get off my car after as I was terrified. “This could have been the end of me,” I said quietly then prayed before getting down to check the dent on my car
“Sorry madam,” the man said. I ignored him and paid attention to my car. It was a bad wreck but I was thankful I didn’t lose my life in the process so I would let him go. I turned to him and said “but sometimes you people should be careful, how could you leave your lane like that, does it make sense” I said as calmly as possible, my voice still trembling from the shock.
‘Woman, please watch your mouth. Don’t talk to me anyhow, do you know who I’m? If you know you want me to repair your car, call your oga. Let me talk to him’ he responded with so much disregard.
Nothing has ever sounded so lame and insensitive. His words infuriated every bit of me. “What do you mean? You hit me this bad and you are saying I should watch my mouth. Who are you? Who the hell do you think you are talking shit instead of apologizing” I said with eyes blazing fury.
“You see, you are very rude. Who married someone like you. You must be beating your husband at home for you to be asking me to be apologizing. Were you deaf when I said sorry? I can’t be arguing with a woman like you, I have someone like you at home. Call your husband, let me talk to him man to man and know his decision ” he said
His conceited behaviour was displeasing but what makes it worse is the way he kept asking for my husband. I wasn’t wearing a wedding band either do I have anything on that could have suggested I was married but the fact that I was driving an expensive car already made a statement of ‘she has someone who bought this for her’. It seems this battle isn’t office specific and is never-ending.
‘Hello, please I just had a head-on collision on Ogudu road right now, could you please send two officers to check? Thank you, I would be expecting” I said to the assistant commissioner of Police over the phone. She happens to be my good friend so it was easy to get across to her so fast.
Now, Mr “do you know who I’m ” is here recruiting people to beg me to let go while I’m here wondering why people start a needless battle in the name of ego.