KIGACHO, THE GATE KEEPER
Kigacho retrieves his hanky again, and wipes his tears

KIGACHO, THE GATE KEEPER

 By Patrick Ngugi

Its a fortnight since my chief accountant left, and my figures are in a mess. I need to get a reliable person to head that department just like Jason Amunga has done the last five years he has worked for me.

Jason is a fine gentleman, and I have known him since the days we worked together about 15 years ago at Moyoni Enterprises, where he and I got unceremoniously sacked by our jealous and incriminating MD who thought Jason and I were after his job, ironically due to our sterling performance which had made the company a force to reckon with in the industry.

I had worked as a sales executive and Jason was an accountant, following a disagreement with our general manager, Mr Manati Kunguni, who ironically was envious of our very good performance at the company, and had strange suspicion that we were after his job.

Thinking back, there would be many things I could accuse Mr Manati Kunguni, the jealous MD for. However, I do not regret his forcing me out of Moyoni Enterprises, because leaving Moyoni though through tribulations, it has made me own an empire in Target Insurance Agencies which has become one of the best insurance underwriting firms in the country.

But I may never forgive him for confusing and snatching my girlfriend Ruth from me, a girlfriend with whom we had great hopes of eventually getting married and raising a family.

Ruth Kiendiand I had joined Moyoni straight from College, while the company was a struggling food processing company, and together with a group of other sales executives we managed to bring its products of soft drinks and sweets to a top position, only rivaled by the biggest company in the country Sweet Tooth Limited.

But the challenge for the directors persisted within the company because though we were making good sales, the finance department was in a mess. However things changed when Jason, who was one of the accountants in the firm was promoted to Chief Accountant after the previous holder and his assistant were dismissed following the discovery of funds embezzlement.

Word among the staff was that even Mr Kunguni, the general manager, should have gone because he was believed to have been in cahoots with the former chief accountant, who happened to have been a relative.

However, since he was the one who had the power to hire and fire, he did not touch himself.

We soon forgot the drama and delved into work, turning the financial performance of the company from its rock bottom to heights that had not been experienced in the two decades that company had been in operations.

Trouble started when, a couple years down the line, the directors started bypassing Kunguni and speaking to me as the head of sales, and Jason as the chief accountant. During management meetings where the managing director sat, he would sometimes ignore Mr Kunguni completely, and pay more attention to us while he brushed off some of the general managers suggestions.

Real trouble came when the managing director, Mr Kihato, who really had faith in us was poached by a multinational company, and sent to Angola, where that company was launching a major product. Because Mr Kunguni was the closest to the management, he was promoted to the post of Managing Director, and he picked his ‘’yes-man’’ and robot, Augustine Kagogo as the new general manager. We knew then, our goose was cooked.

Within a very short time, Jason was frustrated and replaced by another yes-man, and eventually forced to leave over flimsy reasons. I also felt uncomfortable, for despite our sales still soaring, and my commissions improving every time, I no longer felt comfortable or secure, particularly when the sales started plummeting again. One day I was planning my way out and seek employment elsewhere when when Mr Kigogo called me to his office.

Though I had not liked Kunguni, Kigogo was worse. He had been handpicked as the new general manager while he was blank as far as the business was concerned. He was, in effect Mr Kungunis robot and spy checking who was doing what and report to Mr Kunguni.

Though I was used to Mr Kigogos summons, this one somehow felt ominous, for some reason I could not explain immediately. He had only called to hand me a letter of summarily dismissal from the company due to falling sales. I thought it was ridiculous because the performance of the company was joint effort from everyone.

It was useless to protest, and I thought good riddance. With my savings I would be able to survive as I sought for another job, after all I was already in the process of looking for work.

But things did not turn out well since I could not get a job immediately, and as my savings diminished, I also felt the love and affection I was received from Ruth, who was still working at Moyoni also depreciate. She missed our dates, came late and gave flimsy reasons.

I was not very much surprised when one day when she sent me an email telling me it was all over, and we could not continue as lovers. We had our own lives to live, and she had found someone else who she truly loved. I tried calling her a few times, but gave up and sent her a best wishes text. I learnt later that she was seen a few times with Mr Kunguni at several social places, and their meetings seemed to be more than just business.

Despite the disappointment, I forced myself to look ahead and plan for my future instead oflamenting of a lost love and employment.

Things were hard, and for some reasons I was not able to get good permanent jobs except for promotional contracts which would sometimes last for a month, and then I would be in the hunt for a more serious job or another promotional event.

Things grew from bad to worse, and I was eventually thrown out of the bed sitter I was living in and moved in with a friend from shags who agreed to accommodate me until I could get back on my feet. Then depression set in. I could not bear meeting Ruth at various times when we bumped into each other either at shopping malls or in the streets.

She was, now in a different class, and I could not be able to afford to give her the life she was now living, unless things changed drastically. The little cash I would get here for menial jobs which I would now take would go into cheap alcohol just to get my mind off the frustrations I was experiencing.

This did not last long as my friend Kiratu threw me out of the house, but he had good sense to advise me to go back home and organize myself, and on top of that giving me bus fare, which I struggled not to use it in alcohol.

My widowed mother welcomed me as if I had been a prodigal son, and I had actually been one, since I had rarely sent her anything in form of support, while I was employed. But she did not even mention that and treated me with love and warmth. She took me to church where, Fr Dismas, the local priest counseled me and gave me odd jobs until I was ready to go back to the city to try my luck again.

With the help of Fr Dismas I managed to get a job as a driver and salesman for one of the parishioners who had an import and export business in the city. This is where I got my break.

Two years later, I decided to plunge into my own business by starting an insurance agency. It was hard at first but I struggled and brought the business to where it is now, one of the largest Insurance Agency in the country, with branches in five major towns and regions in the country.

I have struggled to bring the business to where it is since I was unceremoniously thrown out of employment almost a decade earlier. It was now history, and I wondered what happened to Kunguni and Ruth, whom I was later informed by the grapevine that she ended being Mrs Kunguni.

As for me I am still single, since my plan was to build my firm to where it had now reached before I could think of marriage. I do not have to look far for legible lass to marry since there were so many of them hanging around waiting for me to give a sign.

But first, I have to get a new chief accountant. This was the most important thing for me at the moment.

I pick the phone to speak to the HR department.

‘’Good morning Sir,’’ says Ms Roselinda Kimenye, the HR manager.

‘’Rose, any progress on the hunt for a chief accountant?’’ I ask.

‘’We have three applicants. I think we should be able to pick one from there…’’ she says.

‘’Okay, pick the best, so long as we can afford him or her,’’ I tell her.

‘’Two of them are asking way higher than we can afford,’’ she says.

‘’And the third one?’’ I ask.

‘’We can afford him but…’’

‘’But what?’’

‘’You will not believe this…’’

‘’What?’’

‘’You might know the person?’’

‘’Do I? That is even better if we can afford him who is it?’’ I ask, hoping that Jason had decided to reapply for his old job But he would have come straight to me, I wonder.

‘’Erick Kigacho…’’ she says, but the name does not ring a bell.

‘’I dont think I know him,’’ I say.

‘’Well, you might not know him, but you have seen him several times.’’

‘’Have I? Where?’’

‘’Its the gate keeper. Our security man. He has been with us for the last three months, and has just heard that we are looking for a chief accountant,’’ she says and I can feel her smiling beyond the phone.

‘’Security man you mean our guard wants to be the chief accountant?’’ I do not believe it. Then I remember my years when I tarmacked and I would have done any job.

‘’Does he have the qualification?’’

‘’I think he is over qualified. In fact he is right here with me in the office. He had just brought his papers…’’

‘’Really?’’

‘’Yes, shall I send him to you?’’

‘’Yes, please send him to me I would like to see him. If he has the qualifications, we can give him the normal three months probation. We need someone right now…’’ I say and disconnect the call.

Then I remember the years I tarmacked looking for work despite my experience and qualification after I got sacked by Kunguni. If a guy with qualifications for a chief accountant can end up as a watchman, he needs a chance. He could have been a victim like I had been, I think, as I stand up to pour myself some water from the dispenser I then go to the window and stare outside pensively.

Shortly there is a knock on the door, I turn and go back to the desk. ‘’Come in,’’ I say.

Roselinda walks in, stands aside to let the gentleman behind her walk in, my prospective new chief accountant.

‘’Come right in,’’ Roselinda tells the somewhat nervous looking senior citizen, who still wears a guards uniform. I had seen him many times at the gate, sometimes saluting me, but had not been able to look at him closely, until now.

‘’Mr Kunguni!’’ I gasp, taking a sharp breath.

‘’Yes Mr Otieno, Sir,’’ the guard says, giving me a short glimpse, and shuffling his feet.

‘’You mean you two know each other?’’ asks Roselinda surprised.

Neither of us can answer. He was avoiding my gaze, but it is him alright. Age and apparent lifes hardship has taken toll on him. There are strains of gray hair on his temples, and a few wrinkles around his forehead.

‘’Mr Otieno, sir, this is Erick Kigacho, our security man, I hope you are not confusing him with someone else.’’ Rose said.

‘’No, its okay Rose, I know Mr Kigacho, by another name please leave us alone with him. Ill will call you when we are through.’’ I say, and ask her to leave Mr Kungunis file with me

There is a heavy silence after Roselinda leaves. Kunguni, or Kigacho and I look into each others eyes for a long time, and then he blinks, looks away, retrieves a handkerchief from his pocket and wipes his brow and eyes. Then he looks at me.

‘’Please forgive me, Mr Onyango…’’

‘’Theres nothing to forgive Mr Kunguni,’’ I respond.  At the back of my mind, I know the best revenge was to forgive him, and give him the job since I knew he was qualified. But there were so many questions flying all over my mind. And he answered them for me.

Ruth, who had given him three children died over six years ago during childbirth. The company which he forced me out of collapsed about four years after I left due to competition and bad management, and everyone was forced out.

Since then, he had tried many things but nothing was working, until six months earlier when he saw an opening for a guards position at my company. It was a day job and not so he applied, only later to realize I was the owner.

‘’I should have come to see you and apologize even before I got the watchman job, but I did not know how to approach you,’’ he tells me tearfully.

I cannot take it anymore, rage and compassion rise in me, but I find myself pick his file and scan the papers through. I do not have to, since I know him. He had been my boss before. There was a huge silence as I picked the phone and called Roselinda.

‘’Yes Sir?’’

‘’Please come to my office…’’

More silence reigns as we wait for her. There is a soft knock and she cames in.

‘’Yes Sir?’’ she say as she stands about a metre from the desk.

‘’I think Mr Kigacho qualifies. From now he is not the gate man. He is our chief accountant. Ask the security manager to get another person to man the gate.’’

‘’Yes sir,’’ she says with a smile mingled with wonder.

Kunguni aka Kigacho retrieves his hanky again, and wipes his tears.

Sweet revenge, I tell myself, as I let them leave the office.

©Patrick Ngugi – 220120

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