My brother Ekei and I had just concluded our National Youth Service Scheme when the advertisement hit the dailies, we are both Geologist, I was fortunate to be working with a Geophysical company where I had been retained after service, he had served and was working for a friend and brother of ours who was selling high end automobiles in Victoria Island, Lagos.
We quickly applied along with millions of other Nigerians seeking a career with prospectively better emoluments relating to our field of study. We were shortlisted along with millions of other Nigerians with Lagos State being our location to write our first test. Lagos candidates were asked to go to the NNPC Zonal office in Ikoyi to find our exam centres as several locations had been selected due to the large volume of applicants.
D-day, we arrive at the NNPC office in Ikoyi, there we get our first inkling of ineptitude. The list was there with the centers allocated; a lot of pages pasted on the wall. One would expect that the names would be listed in alphabetical order, it’s easy to do in excel and word but it was haphazardly listed.
The search began in earnest, eventually, we found our names and centre, a secondary school in Ikoyi. With our friends we had come with and the ones we met in the search for our names we proceeded to the school. On getting there, we meet a carnival like atmosphere. It felt like the entire applicants in Lagos State were assigned that one center. How KPMG handled everything is still hazy to me.
We start to see people we had schooled with, the intelligent students, those we had last seen in secondary school who would correct the mathematics and physics teachers, the first-class graduates from university and one part of your mind tells you to just go home and sleep, I mean why bother when all these brains are your competition, but alas, you trudge on.
I can’t recollect the details of the test; it was over 20 years ago but I remember I did my best and I was not despondent at the end of it. I was in good spirits and followed my mom’s (God rest her soul) usual advice “Do your best, leave the rest to God”
A few weeks later, I was home alone when my neighbor knocks on the door to answer a call, this was the time of land lines and for the affluent, GSM. We had used our neighbor’s phone number when filling the form as our contact number. I pick up the phone and a man ask, “Is that Paul Duke?” I say “yes”, he congratulates me on passing the first stage of the NNPC exam and says I will be contacted with the date for the second stage. As soon as he’s done talking, I ask him about my brother Ekei, he curtly tells me goodbye and hangs up. Despondent, I go back to the house.