Covid-19 had threatened to deport us back to the village and leave the city to the able Nairobi taxpayers who live to spend. We were surviving on the edges while fanning the hopes that the following day shall be better. Perhaps job offers may come along. None was forthcoming.
I proposed to Josaya that we channel our energies and minds into starting a business. Josaya always had and a mind for business, though he would not hesitate to swindle or rip off anyone, even a friend. I was alive to that reality. I could handle him.
I floated the idea of selling self-made hand sanitizers. We had discovered that most sanitizers were basically alcohol; cheap liquor with a few other unknown substances. He readily agreed but was loudly quiet about the starting capital.
As the pioneer of the idea, it fell on me to be the financier too. Josaya appointed himself as the planner and business strategist. We proposed a rough budget of about thirty-five thousand shillings. Much of it was to purchase alcohol, then packaging containers and the print label.
I trawled nearly all mobile loan apps in search of funds. A majority of them had already blacklisted me before and had resorted to threatening me with daily Bible verse messages on the issue of morals. Psalms 37:21, was particularly misused, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.”
Few others had subjected me to a referendum of questions. They cross-examined me as if I was being grilled for treason. However, I managed to squeeze a paltry three thousand shillings from two new upstarting loan apps.
Josaya had a worse credit history. It was useless to attempt borrowing. In-fact, his phone would mysteriously hang each time he tried to log into a loan app. I gathered much of the capital from a few friends who promised viciously to castrate me should I fail to pay back within a month.
Sale of sanitizers was booming business at the time. I was confident of the fast fat returns. As I was gathering finances, Josaya was gathering his team of labourers to help in packaging and mixing of the alcohol with water as we agreed would be our model of preparation.
Josaya had assured me that he had a solid background in coordinating and supervising the business; that I should just expend my efforts and worry in getting the finances then courting customers.
I diligently performed my bit. I got the money, the plastic packages and purchased the alcohol too. Josaya, on the other hand, assembled his team of assistants, trusted co-generals, as he referred to them. In retrospect, I tend to think I should have dug deeper to understand the meaning of general in that context.
I should have properly vetted them. They had assembled at Josaya’s place ready to embark on the task as soon as I shipped the tools of trade to them. Josaya’s place was not particularly bigger than mine, but it did not have many things. He was in the habit of selling off his things when hit with financial pressures. His house then was more convenient to work in. I was in business.
It was on a Wednesday early morning, I shipped the business consignment to Josaya’s place then left to finalize on other matters. I also went to tighten up a deal with one client I had managed to convince that I would deliver 20 bottles of sanitizers by 4: 00 pm that very day. I kept checking up with Josaya, and he assured me all was rolling well.
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At 2:00 P.M, I tried to reach Josaya to signal him that I was stopping by in a few minutes with a boda boda to pick up 30 bottles. I was sure they had managed a higher number. Josaya was not picking calls. They must be immersed in the work, I happily thought to myself. It was a 10-minute ride to Josaya’s place.
Upon my arrival, I was slapped into silence by what I saw. The “general” and his co-generals were dead drunk. Only two bottles of sanitizers were ready. The rest of the alcohol meant to produce sanitizers was missing. It had been wholly poured into the stomachs of the generals, my business partners.
Josaya lay on the floor, drunkenly singing Jubilee’s 2017 campaign theme song, “Tano tena….” He could barely recognize me. I could not even find the energy to get angry as I hopelessly watched the co-generals revel in merriment after literally drinking my business stock.