Growing up in my father’s three bedroom flat, I didn’t get the chance to have a one-on-one experience of ‘landlordship’. But I heard so many malicious stories about landlords and their tenants ranging from enforcement of unnecessary laws on tenants, random increments in house rent, the use of abusive and derogatory words on tenants and so on and so forth, which painted a very bad image of landlords in my head; even little children spoke ill of them.
This made me develop a certain phobia for landlords, a suppressed resentment. Like a popular saying goes, “at a point in one’s life, he or she must have a landlord”, I knew my own time of facing my biggest fear was near when I got admission to school at Nnamdi Azikiwe University and my father insisted that I should find a house close to school, his reasons being that living in a school hostel would get me sick and unfocused in school.
I tried everything in my power to convince him to see reasons with me on why I preferred school hostels to rented apartments but he made me know that his decisions were final. Having no other options, I had to go on house hunting for two weeks before finally finding one room apartment where we paid the sum of eighty thousand naira installment fee valid for the period of two years before we could move in.
My landlord visited me a week after I moved into his house to formally welcome me into his “small heaven” as he chose to call his fifteen rooms face-me-I-face-you compound. In the process of welcoming him and serving him something to drink, he noticed nervousness in me due to the fact that my limbs were trembling coupled with wobbly legs and a shaky voice. He didn’t hesitate to ask me with a smile if his looks or clothes were making me scared and uneasy.
I summoned courage to tell him in strong rebuke all the stories I’ve heard of landlords from my childhood till date, to prove to him that I was aware of his gimmicks behind the feigned smile. He laughed like his jaw would dislocate and then signaled me to sit down.
He said, ‘Child, you have gotten it all wrong because most people backup their stories with exaggerations just to justify their actions and make them look like victims of modern day slavery, sometimes they push landlords to the edge by being ignorant and arrogant towards the landlord and his property which they rented. Not all landlords are wicked, all you need to do is to treat a landlord as a friend and he would respect you as his tenant’.
With those words, my landlord killed that fear and stereotype in me. He made my staying in his house worthwhile and memorable.
AUTHOR :- Emecheta Christian