They came like a weak man—too early. 4 am and they were there, shovel in hand, exhuming the graves of their parents. Mr. Gbenga, my 9-month landlord, had sold his property with my rent still current. And so that morning, after a two-week-long fracas with his family, they reconciled and arrived to excavate the festering remains of their parents for relocation so that Udoka, the new landlord, could have a corpse-free property.
My shock was in two parts, one cultural (because all my life, I have never seen the relocation of a dead’s bones), the other personal and financial. I had been away from Lagos for two weeks, held up in the East as I followed professional and business errands when the hapless landlord woke me up with a Whatsapp voice note. My travel had come after I paid 50k to him for electric power arrears accumulated during the lockdown and yestermonths.
“Kindly find another place my dear; the house has already been sold”, the two minute VN concluded.
“Already”, he said, as if we have been having an existing conversation where he brought me into his sales ambition. “Kindly”—an attempt at sounding official, proper, and responsible, as if it wasn’t the same man who, recently away in Dubai, texted me to send him money to eat. “Just any amount”, he wrote.
“I hear you travel to East and I wanted to tell you when you come back. Even, I am coming to take away that burial on Monday, you hear? Find another place, please, my dear.”
His voice shrilled, freezing all my emotion and ambition that morning. Through a clashing and splashing grammar, he informed me of all his plans and of the raging war between him and the siblings who had earlier informed my guys, in my absence, that rent onward should not be paid to Gbenga, rather into the account of their eldest sister. On the same day, they bathed the walls of the house and its fence with the caveat: “This House Is Not For Sale; Beware of 419.”
But Gbenga, in his disorienting VN, revealed his smartness.
“Don’t mind those people, house that I have finished selling since before they write that rubbish on those walls. See ehn, when our mother died, all of them abandoned that property, it was me, Gbenga, that used my money to build and develop that place, now that I want to sell it, they want me to come and share money with them. So, my dear, kindly find another place, you hear?”
For a man who called me someday in June, asking I pay forward, 100k from my rent that would be due by September/October, I sat and listened in awe, imagining what I would have told my chi had I fallen for his gimmick. I was still affected as my errand in the East, influenced by the new information and development, took a dispirited turn. I was lucky nonetheless: I had already finished the third draft of the story I went to cover in Enugu for Nigeria Abroad, except for a few final touches.
But the saga continued, taking a weirder dimension yesterday evening. Interrupting my delivery errand, a letter came bearing a forewarning insisting upon our hastened relocation, announcing the new landlord’s ambition to demolish. Yet a big fight exists: two tenants just moved in the last week of July, making more complex the question of who will pay the compensation/reparations?
Udoka and Gbenga, the landlords who have gone mad again, are pointing at each other, our necks caught in between, turning round and round like a tired oscillating ceiling fan, looking for our money.
”It is your old landlord who will pay, I have no business with you”, Udoka says; ”that is not our agreement”, Gbenga stutters.
This experience was the reason I read almost every comment when Tosin Adeoti made the post about the error in the thinking of young Nigerian men in the wealth-building stage who perish capital in building a house. I saw reasons with him, even deeming his viewpoint sacrosanct and undebatable, but that was as much as I saw reasons with the opposing debaters.
Tosin may have carried the day with the vital line “wealth-building stage”, but experiences like mine, with its ability to stir your plans 180 degrees and leave you totally disoriented, can justify those who, having enough capital but no immediate investment plan, decides to bury money and roof it because, “kindly find another place, my dear.”
Credit: Goodluck Chiemele