The removal men lifted a table I recognised as the one from the Effiong Eight opening credits. The same table Maria placed those flowers on without my approval, leading to that massive row with the director and cameraman. Maria had left Bass TV for Colgwé Productions where she put her initiative to good use, and the press paid closer attention to her talent after Coleman hailed her as “the new Lola Fani-Kayode”. What a joke—why did the industry need two LFK’s? Maria now worked for Penfold while I languished under Chief Bassey’s extreme supervision without the option to resign. Why hadn’t I given the matter any proper thought before signing those papers? After turning down Shirley’s orders to escort her to another ghastly all-night celebration, she meant business when she promised to deal with me, and now my punishment had begun. Effiong Eight hadn’t received a TRI nomination, but did Chief Bassey have to pull the plug on my show?
I’d suffered like a maniac to get my creation on the air, writing and re-writing my own script, stubbornly refusing assistance from professional writers. I’d grown weary of people dismissing me as the son-in-law of a media mogul who also happened to own Bass Communications, and my reluctance to submit the script for revision did not impress Chief Bassey. Countless TV sitcoms across the country landed on the scrapheap due to low ratings or no sponsors, but Effiong Eight would never reach that category. Sooner or later Chief Bassey, Shirley, and others would decide whether they liked their humble pie with a sprinkling of humility or an extra helping of apologies. Or both. The day Bass commissioned my show marked a joyous moment tinged with melancholia. Why did I get the impression Chief Bassey had given me a chance to fail?
Effiong Eight had proved popular with viewers across the country, but failed to compete with the sponsors, ratings, and accolades Dream Boyz boasted. The glory days of Nigerian Hairways had long disappeared. End of an era.
I closed the blinds, and leaned over my desk to snort a long line. Did Shirley have something to do with her father’s rash decision? A spoilt child-woman with no career destroying mine? Why couldn’t I spend time with my own son after those hours trapped inside the studio? God forbid Isaac grew up believing money grew on trees—I had to lead by example, and he had to learn hard graft led the way to success. Not that success had moved in my direction recently. I opened the letter lying on my desk and read the contents for the ninth or tenth time that afternoon:
Following a decision to take our marketing in a new direction, and after much consideration, DZ Breweries have decided not to renew your contract. We would like to express our gratitude for your valuable three-year service as the voice of Dazzle Malt, and wish you good luck in your future endeavours…
Dazzle Malt…getting rid of me? I’d signed a three-year contract with them, and my tongue-in-cheek voice overs were said to have helped boost their sales. What other direction could they possibly have in mind? I hadn’t voiced any Nollywood trailer in nearly a year, and feared my side career had come to a sudden end. Who masterminded this blacklist, the Basseys or the bloody press? Damn those bloggers, especially that Indigo Lily whore—to hell with her. How people without an atom of creativity managed to earn a living posting poorly sourced, appallingly-written, and often recycled material remained anyone’s guess. I’d cried with laughter when Shirley made Indigo Lily’s Ten Worst Dressed Nigerians list though, and still rubbed it in her face every time the two of us locked horns. Now my turn had come, my own face on the pages of gossip mags, one headline proclaiming “THE FACE OF JEALOUSY…TRI PUTTING A LID ON IT!” How creative, although no-one who had witnessed my childish behaviour at the TRI nominations could blame them. Sources had described me as the boss from hell with a long list of overworked employees who quit their positions, but labelling me a gold-digger when I never wanted to marry Shirley in the first place? Did they know what I faced in a mansion where not even a mere clothes hanger belonged to me? I earned enough to support my family, but nothing qualified as grand enough for Her Majesty’s castle. For every single item I bought Isaac, Shirley and Chief Bassey would surpass my efforts with some ridiculously overpriced replica. Not content with destroying the bond I shared with Isaac, they’d gone a step further and ruined my future as a top producer—no doubt the remaining production team members who for months had borne the brunt of their boss’s temper clinked glasses in jubilation while I languished in desperation and regret.
I muttered a curse and a prayer in the same breath. If there was ever a moment I needed another miracle…
© Okoro Dedeh, Tami, 2019 All rights reserved
End of Part II