31 May 2014

James - a special staff, a unique person

At a time when almost all the news coming out of Nigeria was bad, this is a personal, somewhat refreshing story from inside Nigeria.

It is not often that you read or hear of anyone speaking well of a staff in Nigeria. James was different. Reluctantly I had to let him go last Sunday week. It was one of the most difficult discussions I have ever had.

James was neither the staff tasked with coding our online presence nor the effective marketer that brings business. He couldn't even read and write. However, he was equally important in our lives. James was the cook-steward that made our lives easy. He knew how to make efo with ample supply of thick peppered sauce the way I like it. He could predict the type of meal he should prepare to suit a particular mood or match a particular dish. He was also the one that switched off the generator when power is restored late at night and back on when there has been a power cut.

James didn't come to us with much skill, but the pace with which he learned was rapid. From cooking us mushy rice in his first few weeks of employment, he graduated to become one of the best makers of fried rice, moin-moin, sponge cake and a host of other delicacies.

James is very versatile and knowledgeable. He has a brief on almost everyone in the estate where we live. He also seems to have the map of Lagos on the back of his hand.

I admire James’ brains enormously; he is a great example of one who more than compensated for the lack of formal education with generous common sense. He is a living proof that we are only limited when we fail to push ourselves.

Unlike many domestic staff, James is not at all interested in what does not belong to him. This meant that nothing ever went missing in the house - a very rare feat in most homes.

James is also a good manager of resources. He may not always know when to replenish dwindling stock in the kitchen, he was however not wasteful or greedy – even more rarer attributes amongst domestic staff in Nigeria.

He took up many roles that were strictly not in his job description. And he did everything with joy. He was also the first point of call whenever we try to find things. He has a fantastic memory and would fish out a needle even from the bottom of a haystack.

In terms of level of productivity and sheer usefulness, I have no doubt that he is the best staff that ever worked for us.

Perhaps, the most important attribute of James was that he had our back. He is fiercely loyal to us and he passionately and genuinely protected us, and our interest. We will forever be grateful to him for this.

I have believed all along that getting an inverter (used in storing and supplying electricity from batteries) was the best investment I made in Nigeria; now I know that employing James topped that. James is a special man. And he proved conclusively that though we may not be special all the time, we are all special in our own ways. We will miss him in our household, and we wish him well. PostcardfromLagos