I have lived in this house for about six years now, not too long.
Before I rented the flat; I had gone almost round Lagos and none of what my agent showed me was suitable; I wanted a place with a big compound, where my children could play; I had a five-year-old and a three-year-old. I also wanted one that I won’t have to deal with nosy neighbours.
So, when my agent after so many weeks of being frustrated at my refusal of all the places he took me to inspect, told me finally found a house he knew it was perfect.
It was. In this Lagos, I got a house that had a side part that had grass and sand my kids could play in; it had its own garage for two cars; and with just two tenants; the other neighbour had his own gate, too; we would never have to meet if we choose not to. It was perfect for me!
There was a caveat, though, the agent said the landlord would not rent to women or single mothers; he said he would arrange a trick meeting between me and the landlord, that I should go plead with him, assuring him I would pay his rent regularly and not default.
So, that day, the day the landlord was visiting the house to check if everything was going on fine; the agent had arranged that I would act like I was driving by, stop and enter and say I had heard it was up for rent.
Well, I met the landlord; he was just about entering his car to leave when I used my car to block the gate. His driver was shocked; but I signaled to him and quickly got out to meet the landlord himself. I was told he was a man in his late 60s at that time, but he looked years younger, he is the type that takes care of himself with fresh skin; he was wearing danshiki and jeans.
I went immediately on my knees and told him I heard the place was up for rent. The man came out of his car, looked at me and told me to get up; he said, yes, it was up for rent but he had an agent. He said, “Tell your husband to contact him.”
I said, “Daddy, I have no husband, I am the one taking care of my children because my husband died six months ago and my-in- laws kicked me out…I am a hard working woman with two young children to care for, please help me sir. I can pay because I am not only employed, I have two shops with staff…”
I began to cry…crocodile tears, o
He said, ‘Can you pay the rent, where do you work?”
I told him and I showed him my call card and my boutique card…boutiques in Lagos island and another on the mainland and I showed him my driver’s license and even my passport data page sef, just so he knows I was no fraud in the sense of being able to pay his rent.
He called the agent, the same one who ‘set up the meeting.’ That one too claimed he was in the area and he would be at the house in minutes…yi mu. It was all a set up.
My sob story is a lie, though; my husband isn’t dead; he just didn’t like being a husband and father, he left me and relocated abroad but I had to find a story because I wanted that house.
That’s how I got the house o.
You know many Lagos Landlords that don’t like giving houses to single women. But the landlord still made me promise him I won’t be bringing all manner of men into the house, he said the reason he didn’t want to give his house to single women was because it didn’t want his house turned to a brothel.
Anyway, here is the real gist, jare. So, you know, I have boutiques where I sell female clothing. I travel abroad, London, Turkey, Thailand, china…to buy stuff and I stopped working at the place I told the landlord, just last year because my business was suffering; I needed to be travelling to buy stuff and my work didn’t allow much of that. So I quit and focused on travelling and business.
Now, one day, while in London, I ran into my landlord in the tube; he had all kinds of grocery bags on a London train from Stratford. I gave him my seat and we began to talk…what are you doing here? Shopping for my store, sir, what are you doing here, sir, holiday…
He invited me to come see his home. You know when you are in London, nobody is doing oga for anybody?
And I was putting up in a bed and breakfast in Lewsham, I didn’t have anything to do, so I followed him.
I helped him carry some of his package home; it was all- yes sir, no sir, really sir…like the good girl I am.
After that, I met my landlord on three other different occasions when I travelled abroad to buy stuff; somehow we jam either on the tube, or shopping mall at Stratford, it’s easy to spot fellow Nigerians in places like that and on each occasion, had either dinner or lunch with him.
Now, my landlord is a widower; he spends six months abroad and six in Nigeria; he lives in three cities; London and Atlanta and Lagos, where he lives with a male relative; who is his driver, sometimes agent, steward, cook et al. I don’t know much about his children, he said he has three boys; all living abroad too. The daughter is the one in Atlanta
So, after the lockdown, landlord who couldn’t travel because of coronavirus, him being elderly and corona strongest in Europe too and America, had decided to cancel travels this year. As you also know this pandemic has affected business, the economy….So we were outside the house talking about Corona, business, travel…I just jokingly said, ‘Ha, daddy, this year’s rent would be delayed o. I cant travel, no business…, things are tough, o. Your rent may be late o’
The man jokingly replied, ‘…there are other ways to pay for rent apart from the usual…’
I said, ‘Daddy, you who has a house in London and America, you are not travelling, is it me struggling widow that will have money to travel? Where is the business?
The man answered that I could come and stay with him at his Magodo house; that only him and his steward live there; if I wanted, he could arrange it…
Omo since then, baba has been calling me, o, telling me to think about his proposal.
Of course I played along; truth be told, this year’s rent is one kind, o. All my savings have gone to living expenses during the lockdown and I have been paying half salaries to my staff; I will have to let them off because I can’t cope after this month; who knows what will happen with school fees when schools open…no business. People are not buying clothes o. only food. So baba’s offer is looking like a bright idea.
This man is almost 870, o; can he even get it up? Even if he can, my sister, if I remove my clothes for him, he would have a heart attack. See me na; even at 44, I still dey market.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)