It was a cold October evening. I walked home, slightly shivering in my threadbare school uniform. As I got to the front steps, I met the scariest sight I had ever seen. Mum was huddled by the door, crying profusely, surrounded by all our worldly possessions. I was shocked. What had happened? I had never seen mum cry before. Not ever! Not even when dad left and she was blank and unfocused for weeks. Not even when we lost Ma Jamil. I had heard her sniffling on some nights. But crying? This was a first. I ran up to her as she looked up and saw me.
“What are you doing home by this time?” Mum asked.
“They dismissed early so that we can prepare for cultural day. Why are you crying mum? Why are our things outside?” I asked.
“I am not crying. Come here.” Mum said drawing me into her arms. I started crying too.
“What happened mum?” I asked, just as our Landlord, Alhaji Nuhu walked into the compound and paused when he saw us. He walked up to us with a sneer on his face.
“Fenlai, you are still here ko? It’s not too late to change my mind. I can still let you stay here. Just say yes to me and I will take good care of you.” He said.
“Alhaji, don’t you have a conscience? Why are you this heartless? I still have 4months rent worth. How can you just throw us out and lock my door?” Mum said crying.
“Wallahi, I am not heartless, and it is my door. Your husband abandoned you for two years now. You cannot even feed your daughter well. Be reasonable and give me what I want or you can quietly leave my house.” The Landlord said.
“Even in front of a child, you are not ashamed. God will judge you, you wicked man. Give me back my remaining rent then.” Mum cried out, just as our Landlord suddenly slapped her hard on the face. I stood there, horrified.
“Don’t you dare insult me you fool. Before I come back, make sure you are gone. If not, I will get you arrested and tell the police you stole my money. Like I told you earlier, nobody will beleive you. I am Alhaji Nuhu. They will believe me. Better go before you sleep in the cell.” He said, walking away.
Mum held me tight for about ten seconds, then, held me at arm’s length.
“Its getting late. Let’s go back to the village.” She said.
“The village? What of school? What of the shop? Junior WAEC is next month.” I said, perplexed.
“Don’t worry. We will be fine baby. We will be fine. Learn from this day. The greatest security you could ever have is owning your own house.” Mum said sadly, getting up.
I felt pure terror, even though my young mind didn’t fully comprehend the gravity of the moment. A week later, I was sent to live with an aunt in Lagos.
Its been 12years now. I just made a down payment for my first house through a reputable real estate firm. It might take me years to complete it, but I’m happy. I promised myself never to let my kids pass through the emotional trauma I experienced that day in the hands of a landlord. Sadly, mum isn’t here to see this day but am sure she is proud of me wherever she is.
I always ask myself, “Why have a landlord when you can be a landlord.