People always say Lagos landlords are bad and I agree but just as there are some decent Nigerians we still have decent landlords out there.
My landlord was one of them.
I met my landlord when I was at the lowest ebb of my life.
I had been thrown out of our three bedroom flat by the military. My husband was posted out of Lagos and because he was already posted out, another family was assigned to our flat. Even though my husband hadn’t been properly accommodated at his new post – he was still squatting with another family at his new location in the north – so he thought since the military hadn’t given him new accommodation, they wouldn’t kick us us from the place he was posted from.
He was wrong.
Another family had been allocated our flat and we were forcibly evicted- pots, pans, cooker, mattress, cupboard, clothes, settee, tv, fans and all my five children, out in the open, out on the street!
This was the military my husband had served for more than twenty years at that time. I was in tears, my children were crying at the way our property was flung out in the open by military men who had been detailed to move in the new family.
How could they do this to us?
But who would I cry to? I totally couldn’t reach my husband at that time. It was a sad sight, I was fighting them off, screaming at them, telling them they had no right to do this to us. We were also military but they were like robots, given one order and ensuring they carried it out to the letter.
My former neighbours came to my rescue; they helped us pack the few things they could store in their own homes but the bulk of our property; couch, TV, AC et al, stayed out in the open for days and the natural elements had their feast on these.
As for my children and I, we went to live with my sister and her husband in their tiny two bedroom flat at Ebute Metta.
Staying with my sister’s family was hell; oh no my sister wasn’t complaining. It was just the living condition.
The house was so tight. My sister had four children plus her husband, then I came with five of mine, plus a few items we could salvage. It was a house we just couldn’t relax in. There were too many people in one place at once and when they took light, we might as well have been sleeping in an oven!
I couldn’t immediately get across to my husband, I came back from work one evening and tried again and I eventually got through. I was in bitter tears as I recounted what had happened. I was still talking on the phone outside my sister’s house when I noticed a man just walking slowly down the road. I must have been talking loudly because it was obvious the man was following my conversation and had stopped to listen. Like I said to you, I was pouring out my heart to my husband, telling him how we were so unfairly treated by his senior officers. The man was waiting for me to finish my conversation on the phone. I was of course suspicious but later, I dropped my phone and stared directly at him.
‘Sorry to disturb you, madam, but I couldn’t help over hearing what you were saying on the phone.’
I just kept staring at him, asking myself, so what?
He then said something that made me change my mind about humanity, he said:
‘I can accommodate you and your children, until you get decent place to stay. I have a house just two streets away, stay there as long as you want. Call your husband and tell him.’
I was thinking, could this be a ritualist? Why does he want to help us, here in Lagos? Impossible! Would this turn into a gift that would come and bite me in tge arse?
But you see in my situation, I couldn’t afford to dwell on anything negative.
I was desperate and all I saw was a godsend. I just couldn’t believe my ears. He stood waiting for me to respond. I just rushed back into the house to call my sister and told her.
My sister came and we discovered that indeed he was a landlord with several houses on my sister’s street and two streets away.
He offered us a boys’ quarters, two bedroom boys quarters. I called my husband the following day to tell him the good news. He was skeptical but after he spoke to my brother–in-law, who assured him the landlord was a decent human being, having gone to check things out, we moved in three days later.
We have lived in the house for more than 20 years, now. Yes, we moved from the boys’ quarters to one of the three bedroom flats in front when a tenant moved out.
My landlord did not collect rent for the first one year. He was just concerned that we settled back to family life. My children resumed school and I continued with my work on the island. Everyone that has left the landlord’s house have always moved into their own home, nobody leaves to be a tenant elsewhere again, that’s how good my landlord was.
He passed on a few years back. I remember him today because, I am moving into my own house as well. My kids are grown and I am a landlord myself; oh, I will follow my landlord’s path, I will be good to my tenants, I promise.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)