Picture this scenario that played out on a certain day in Lagos. The vehicle was spacious, fully air-conditioned and very sparkling. Apparently the driver had gone to drop some expatriates at the local wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport and found his way to the 7/8 Junction at Ajao Estate to pick some Victoria Island and Lekki-bound well-dressed workers that morning – a normal private practice among drivers at least to feed himself for the day. Three men and two ladies got in gently, yours also truly followed suit. Two other people who looked like a-would-be couple based on their discussions also came in. The door of the car closed with an ear-soothing sound and the driver sped off. It was a beautiful morning ride in a comfortable car. The soft jazz music and cosy atmosphere of the vehicle relaxed the passengers very well. The bustling situation associated with commercial rides, bad road and busy-bee crowd did not affect the peace of both the driver and the passengers.

But one thing became very pronounced inside the beautiful ride as phones rang from different corners in the vehicle. The guy that sat next to me was the first to tell that very-convenient lie that goes thus: “I am in a meeting.” His phone rang and was not on speaker, so whatever the topic of the conversation was between him and the caller we did not know. But within seconds of their discussion, he politely told his caller: “Please, I will call you, I am in a meeting.” Approximately 10 minutes later, a beautiful rendition of the song, ‘This is my story, this is my song, praising my saviour, all that day long’ set as a ringtone set off in another corner. Before the owner could fish out the phone from where it was kept, the rendition continued to entertain the passengers in the vehicle. He quickly looked at his phone and said, ‘Please let me call you back, I am in a meeting’. When the third ‘I am in a meeting’ drama happened in the vehicle, a lady and I quickly exchanged glances, trying to decipher why these men were singing the same song of ‘I am in a meeting’. The one close to me noticed our mischievousness and began to explain out of guilt. “Yes, what do you want me to say; he has been disturbing me since; I asked him to wait awhile because I do not have what he is asking for immediately, yet his calls are persistent.”

Similarly, in offices, phones would ring and the next you hear is ‘I am in a meeting’ while he is not. A persistent job seeker gets to an office and requests to see a key staff, the secretary would simply disarm the applicant with the syndrome, “Oga is in a meeting,” when he is obviously not in any meeting.

Interestingly, this form of lying has become rampant in the society. It sounds so simple, sweet and perfect when in use. Who coined and served this hot cake as the way to get out of tricky situations they just do not want to handle. Who sowed this evil seed? This lie is told, it arrests the attention of the receiver because no responsible person would want to interrupt an ongoing meeting, and that’s why the lie has kept gaining ground in the lives of individuals on a daily basis. When men who are specialists in this area throw it as a bomb, they think it is normal and accepted by their victim. To them it works like magic for the time being; but know ye thee that a lie is and remains a lie!

Little wonder a pastor reprimanded his deacon who tried to hide with ‘I am in a meeting’. Service was just over and the building committee members were requested to wait and meet with the pastor. They were converging slowly when a phone rang and the deacon replied, ‘I am in a meeting’. The pastor shouted at him and said: “You are not in a meeting” rather ‘about to start a meeting’ because we are not ready yet. What you just said few seconds ago was a lie in the house of God.

A certain sharp big boy who felt he was smart tried to use the popular phrase, ‘I am in a meeting’ to hoodwink a mother and daughter but shot himself in the leg. He was seeing the woman and later discovered her young beautiful daughter and swooped upon the girl. And mother and daughter began to eat the same food unknowingly. Whenever the mother went to see her guy and heard he was in a meeting, she would not wait, but simply take a walk. Everyday is for the thief, but just one day is for the owner of the house. Not knowing her daughter had already taken position in the office waiting for her date, mummy arrived and was told the usual refrain, ‘Oga is in a meeting.’ So, she decided to wait for the unending meeting at the only entrance to the office for the first time. Even the male secretary was surprised that mummy chose to wait as if she suspected something fishy. The man was in the meeting until 9:00p.m, when Madam Mummy forced her way into the office and saw her naked daughter unimaginably doing her thing with her man. Shame, tears, embarrassment, regret fought for expression on the face of the faces of the trio. The once sweet secret game became a bitter pill for all the victims to swallow. The “convenient” lie that for long covered up the sin and evil perpetrated by the man as he thought he was having a fun ride switching mother-and-daughter subsisted until the day the cup of iniquity filled up and spilled over.

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Debtors are not left out in this syndrome. They would first cook up this story of ‘I’m in a meeting’ very ready and use it to disarm their creditors when they call. They would also deploy the ever-ready lie until such relationships go sour.

“I am in meeting” can work temporarily, but not in all situations. Well, in other scenarios, some people going through various challenges also use it as a piece to disarm their visitors. It is very possible that they might not be in the mood to discuss or interact with anyone; these men may just be out to mind their business, sit in front of their computers and face their works squarely. ‘I am in a meeting’ syndrome works at such times.

Another incident that happened in a 14-seater commercial vehicle headed for the popular CMS bus-stop in Lagos is worthy of recall. Four different people have lied of their movement that mid-day. One said, ‘I am on my way to Benin. Another claimed to be heading for Oshogbo, while the other two variously informed their callers that they were each going to Abuja and Lokoja. At this point driver of the bus screamed out: “You passengers have confused me; I do not know the direction to go now.” This was a vehicle that was just moving within the Lagos metropolis.

Girlfriends are not the only ones deceived by this evil act. Responsible relationships have been affected one way or the other by this nuisance. A church member came to check for his wife’s change of name published in the paper. Just then his pastor called him for something while he was with me. I was surprised when he said, ‘Sorry sir, I am in a meeting.’ I thought he would have said, ‘I would be with you soon’ because his discussion with me did not last for more than 30 seconds. Part of the discussion was sorted out on phone.

Dear Nigerian men, stop destroying relationships with “I am in a meeting” syndrome. A lie is a lie and is condemned by all religions and tradition. Own up your destination, accept your fault, and try to remedy where you are failing in your responsibilities at home, office and church. Live a simple, free and accountable lifestyle while maintaining dignity. Do what is universally acceptable, socially desirable and economically profitable. If you are in this habit, please repent. Life is too short.