I wrote this for Nigeria Dialogue in February, 2012. You can see it here.
I used to think that Lagos was no man’s land until my encounter with Lagos landlords.
I’m presently searching for a house for my sister and I to stay in. It has been an arduous journey, I tell you. I enlisted the services of two agents, that is, after dropping the mandatory N2000 since I’m not looking for something big. I expected Fashola’s one year rent rule to work for my good but alas, I am shocked to find that most landlords have set out to crush my expectations into itsy bitsy unrecognizable pieces. I hear all sorts of excuses from them like,
‘Madam, no be by force. If you want that kind house, go meet Fashola, make he give you government house’
‘No be Fashola build this house’
I explain these things to my lawyer friend and he tells me that there’s no check and balance to the system so the landlords will get away with it. It is frustrating to say the least.
So far, none stands out more than this annoying and derogatory remark I have received 3 times now…
I’m at work at the office and I get a call from the agent asking me to come inspect a house. I escape from work hoping to be back in an hour, I explain to the agent that I have just one hour oh… so he must meet me in exactly 10 minutes since I’ll just take a bike. We arrange a meeting place, usually one of the many fast food places around but when I get there, he’s nowhere to be found. I call him and he says oh, he’s still in Ikeja but he’ll be with me soon. I decide to wait patiently; after all, I have an hour. 30 minutes and 4 calls later and he’s still not with me. He eventually joins me after 45 minutes but he tells me the house is being handled by another agent so he has to call the agent to come meet us. At this point, I am extremely vexed but trying to maintain my cool and think this episode through rationally. That other agent asks that we come to his office first before we go see the house. To this day, I do not understand the logic behind this train of thought. If you want me to sign your agreement and give you a fee, why don’t you bring the papers with you as we go inspect the place? Why must I sign it in your office? Why waste my precious time?
Anyways, with some common sense (and a whole lot of pleading), I am able to convince him to meet us at the house instead. Don’t forget that I have to pay the transport fares of both agents to and from the house to be inspected. Money just dey waste. We finally arrive at the house after a rigorous journey through Lagos traffic (I told this man that I don’t want a house that is inside inside oh!) and we get to meet the landlord.
I try to be on my best behavior (I am always on my best behavior anyway), I put up a little humble smile on my face and I say all the right things.
The man looks me up and down and without hesitation belts out, ‘Mi o fe omo Igbo. I want Yoruba’.
*moment of silence*