Tuesday, September 1, 2020 4:13 pm
By Bayo Adeyinka
It was 2002. I lived at Ashi in Ibadan at that time. As I drove into the expansive compound comprising of four blocks of eight flats, my neighbour drove in after me. I got down to greet him as he was more elderly. He beckoned at me to approach me. He told me a bank was setting up a new branch somewhere around his own office and wanted to know if I was interested in working there. His friend was going to manage the new branch and he was looking to hire staff. I said a big YES. I have learnt never to say no to an opportunity.
I was in his office the following day where he introduced me to the man who would later become my Manager. He had a chat with me and told me he liked me. He gave me a note to proceed to HR in Lagos. I took his note to Lagos and after an initial initial interview at HR, I was invited for a panel interview at a later date.
I arrived the Lagos venue of the panel interview very early but I met quite a few candidates waiting to be interviewed also. All of them came from Ibadan. It was going to be very competitive. One could cut through the anxiety in the air with a knife. Everywhere was silent like a graveyard. We didn’t talk to one another- even though a few of us knew ourselves in Ibadan. Everyone had a serious look. It was easy to see we were all tense.
A few candidates were called before me. After some time, I heard my name. I walked up to the interview room, knocked the door slightly, waited for a response and then entered. Sitting at the head of the table was the Indian MD of the organization. He was surrounded by three Executive Directors who introduced themselves. Then the questions rolled in- why do I want the job? Why do I want to leave my employer? What were my achievements on the current job? How much of Ibadan do I know? I was asked to dimension the location where the new branch was sited? I answered the questions to the best of my ability.
Afterwards, I was asked by the MD which grade I wanted. I mentioned it. One of the EDs shouted me down. He told me they will not give me what I wanted. He offered a grade lower. I declined respectfully and told him the value I would bring if hired. The process of negotiation was getting heated with the man insisting on the lower grade. In my head, I was asking myself to succumb and not push my luck.
Then, the MD spoke. He said he was going to ask me for the last time if I would take their offer as suggested by the other man or not. His statement was with a note of finality. My head dropped and I was about to cave in. The lower grade was still a better offer than what I had then. What happened next still amazes me till this day.
All the interviewers sat behind an oval-shaped office table with their legs covered by the huge table. I sat next to one of the interviewers. As I was about to respond to the MD by capitulating, I felt the interviewer seated next to me stretched out his leg under the table towards my direction and stepped on my toes in a very sharp and hard way. It was so hard I winced and looked at his direction. On his face I could read the word ‘no’ etched indelibly on his face. He also shook his head slightly. I got the message. I looked at the MD and declined the offer he gave me respectfully. I told him I would love to have what I asked for initially. I stood my ground.
The other interviewer started to talk about how the interview had come to an end but the MD cut him short. He said he would give me my grade as requested but I should be ready to work hard. I couldn’t believe my ears. I saw that the man that stepped on my toes smiled. I had never seen him before. He didn’t know me before then but somehow God used him to favour me. I got the job. That was the first and last time I saw him till I left that organization.
I love the way Psalm 44:3 (The Living Bible) puts it: “They did not conquer by their own strength and skill, but by your mighty power and because you smiled upon them and favored them”. Favour is real. Others may have more experience or talents but God’s favour can cause you to go to places you never dreamt of. According to Mark Twain, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in”.
May the Lord show you favour this week.
-Bayo Adeyinka, banker, public affairs analyst and social entrepreneur, writes from Lagos