“Phil, the graduation list is out!” Liz exclaims on the phone. She and Philip have been friends since their undergraduate days. Back then, Philip was a commerce student, while Liz was a law student. Their paths crossed in the Christian Union, and that is where their friendship began. Today they work for the same company, Gakoromone Traders Limited. Actually, Philip got this job through Liz. They had lost touch after their undergraduate studies, but they reconnected when they found themselves in the same MBA class.
Liz has been working at Gakoromone Traders for six years now. She joined the company as a legal intern almost immediately after completing her undergraduate studies, even before she graduated. She was hired to assist the then legal officer of the company, a man called Elias Kinyua. The company paid for her to go through Kenya School of Law, and she did the Certified Secretary professional papers privately. When Elias left to go into private practice, she became the head of the legal department as well as the company secretary. She has three legal officers working under her, one for each of the three subsidiaries of Gakoromone Traders Limited.
Gakoromone Traders Limited may sound like a small wholesale shop in Meru Town, but in essence it is a giant corporation with interests in banking, real estate and retail. It did start as a shop, hence the name. The owner, Ezekiel Muruja, started out as a mali mali trader in Meru town back in 1977. He opened the first actual shop in 1980. By 1987, the shop had grown into the largest wholesale outlet in Meru Town. In 1994, Gakoromone Supermarket opened its doors in Meru Town. By 1997, it had four branches: two in Meru town, one in Maua and one in Nkubu. In 1998 Muruja rebranded it to Easy Supermarkets as he prepared to expand out of the then Meru District, now Meru County. The brand name was a play on his nickname “Ezy” which in turned was a short form of “Ezekiel”. On the day he officially rebranded the supermarkets, he opened two more outlets, one in Chuka and another in Embu. Today, Easy Supermarket is the fourth largest supermarket chain in the country. The original wholesale shop is still in existence, and it is the largest in Meru town. It is now part of the supermarket chain.
In 2000, when Muruja was already a wealthy man, he began buying land within Meru Municipality and putting up commercial buildings. He now owns three commercial buildings in Meru town, one in Maua and one in Nkubu. In 2014, Muruja ventured into banking by buying a seventy percent stake in Matuja Microfinance Bank, which he renamed Easy Microfinance Bank. He reorganized the business into four companies. Easy Supermarkets Limited, Easy Real Estate Limited and Easy Microfinance Bank Limited are all owned by Gakoromone Traders Limited, which is now a holding company. Liz and Philip work at the holding company, supervising the operations of the three subsidiaries.
None of Muruja’s five children is interested in running the day to day affairs of the company. However, all of the five of them directors of the company and they do attend board meetings. Muruja convenes board meetings once every two months. Two of the children are doctors, and they have their own level three hospital. Their father provided them with the capital to establish it. The third child is a DJ, but has a string of businesses of his own. The last two are university lecturers and they live and teach abroad, one in Copenhagen and the other in Cape Town. The two lecturers used to fly in for the board meetings, but these days they attend virtually and only fly into the country once a year, in December. Muruja is now 71 years old, and he is thinking about his succession. This year he decided that since none of his children want to come to the company full time, he would hire a second senior executive officer, besides Liz, who would occupy the position of Chief Operating Officer. The idea is that Muruja will groom the both Liz and the COO for a few years, and then he will step aside and let Liz become the CEO. The COO will deputize Liz. Muruja will then enter semi-retirement, retaining his position as the Chair of the Board of Directors but without day to day executive functions.
Muruja asked Liz to find him someone who could be trained for the job, and specified that experience was not a huge factor because he would be training that person himself. He only wanted someone bright, and someone teachable. Liz knew the perfect person for the job: his MBA classmate Philip. For the better part of the six years since he graduated with Bachelor’s degree in commerce, Philip had been slaving at a struggling Sacco, earning peanuts as a teller. Actually, he spent one year at home, jobless. He is doing the MBA after getting a scholarship from their alma mater on account of his first class degree in commerce, six years after he graduated. But Liz knew that Philip is bright and hardworking and therefore fit for the job.
But there was a problem.
Nancy, the office administrator cum secretary and who is also rumored to be Muruja’s mistress, also wanted the same position. Nancy is the longest serving employee of the company, having been hired fifteen years ago as a secretary, straight out of high school. She has since completed a diploma in secretarial studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Liz does not think Nancy should be allowed to take an executive position in the company. Even as a secretary, Nancy behaves as though she actually owns the company. She treats other employees with disdain and contempt. She has installed herself the gatekeeper who determines who sees the boss and who doesn’t. More often than not she demands that employees state their business to her and leave her to forward it to the boss. Women employees are in particular routinely denied access to the boss. And this includes senior employees like Liz herself. Several senior employees have complained about Nancy’s behavior to Muruja, but he never does anything about it. That is what has been fueling rumors that Nancy is his mistress.
Liz does not want to imagine the kind of power struggle that would ensue between her and Nancy if Nancy became the COO. To avoid that eventuality, she convinced Muruja that a Master’s degree should be a prerequisite to getting the job. When she presented Philip two months ago, she pointed out that he was her classmate in the MBA class and that they had completed their course work and had successfully defended their theses, and were just awaiting graduation. It was on this basis that Philip was hired, although Muruja put him on probation until he graduates with the MBA. Philip’s current contract lapses at the end of December, and Muruja made it clear that if Philip will not have graduated by then, he will start looking for someone else to take the COO position. Liz could not argue with that because she is the one who convinced Muruja to make Masters a mandatory requirement for the COO position. But she was not worried because she was certain that Philip will have graduated by then.
“Yea, I have seen it, but I am not on it,” Philip replies to Liz’s statement on the graduation.
“What do you mean? Didn’t you complete everything?”
“Yes I did.”
“Then what on earth is going on?”
“When I become the dean I will answer you,” Philip replies, laughing.
“How can you even be laughing? This is serious.”
“There is nothing I can do about that tonight, Liz. I will go to the university tomorrow and figure out what is going on.”
“Have you seen the graduation list I have sent you?” Tabitha asks her sister Nancy.
“Yes. I have also seen that our boy is not on it. How did you do it?”
“It cost me, just so you know. I had to sleep with that disgusting man Jim, the ICT guy, so that he could breach the system and fail Philip in one of the units of his course work.”
“What if Philip has transcripts that he can show to prove that his results were altered?”
“Final transcripts are not out, and when they come out they will reflect whatever Jim keyed in. Provisional transcripts don’t count.”
“And the lecturer cannot change it again if Philip goes to him or her?”
“I will ensure that will not happen. I chose the unit which he was taught by the Dean himself. That man marks those transcripts in my house as he waits for me to cook and strip, so he will do anything I say. But I don’t even have to tell him anything, because I already stole Philip’s booklet and destroyed it. Your boy will have to re-sit that unit, and that will only happen next year. By then he will have been fired, and if you stop fooling around and assert yourself more, you will have the job.”
“I don’t have a Master’s degree yet, siz. You know that witch Elizabeth convinced Ezy to make a Master’s degree mandatory for that position. That is how she brought in her friend.”
“You have to be careful with that woman, siz. She will snatch the man from you.”
“She scares me, but what can I do?”
“Take the COO job and edge her out.”
“Did you hear what I said? I don’t have a Master’s degree.”
“Stop being foolish siz. We both know that you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree either. I can help you get a Master’s degree the same way I helped you get the Bachelor’s degree. But it will not be an MBA because Philip and Liz will figure out that it is a fake since you were not in their class. That will create a scandal. I will get you a Master’s in Finance. Jim will create your student identity in the portal and give you course work. We buy a thesis, forge the signatures of approval and then add you to the online graduation list. But to do that you know Jim will want your body as well as mine. And you owe me big time for these sacrifices I am making for you.”
“That is not a problem, and you know that. But my question is, isn’t the graduation list already out?”
“That is a very minor issue siz. Whatever is circulating is a provisional graduation list. Corrections will be made before the final copy is taken to University Senate for approval. Trust me next month you will have a Master of Science degree in Finance and Ezekiel will promote you to COO. Your biggest task right now is to ensure that he marries you. That company should be yours girl.”
“Thanks hun. But how will I make him marry me? I have been sleeping with him for fifteen years and he doesn’t seem interested in leaving his wife.”
“Get pregnant. That is what I am doing. I had planned to tell you this over the weekend, but here it goes. I am pregnant with this Dean’s baby.”
“Waoh! Congratulations siz! But what if he doesn’t want the baby?”
“These older men are not teenagers, siz. They don’t abandon their children. Yesterday when I gave him the news, guess what he did?”
“He went to a lawyer and filed for divorce. He kicked out his wife from their Loresho home and took me there. I am now the woman of the house and will invite you soon for dinner. You should do the same. Consolidate your position in that man’s life. Get yourself a baby and lie to him that the contraceptive malfunctioned. Trust me these old men love the children they get in old age, with their beautiful, youthful wives.”
“You are welcome. And remember, when you become the COO of the company, even before you become a wife, your first duty is to get that woman Liz fired. She is a threat to your interests, and threats should be eliminated as early as possible.”
Image by Kelechi Smith from Pixabay from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/vectors/afro-girl-brown-girl-black-girl-4526142/
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