No. 4 Banana Street
By Gideon Chukwuemeka Ogbonna
The thing about the house on No. 4 Banana Street is that it was probably built using tips from Zikoko Blog’s Guide, How to be a Nigerian Landlord. The rooms in the building, which are just a little bigger than a prison cell in KiriKiri, have brown streaks of water mark on the ceiling. With daylight and ventilation hardly getting into the rooms, they are mostly dark and drab. And the peeling walls crusted with paint the color of Mallam Abdulrahaman heightens this darkness and drabness.
Mallam Abdulrahaman is a rotund-bellied, chocolate-skinned man with sweaty underarms and teeth stained the color of kolanut. He owns the house at No. 4 Banana Street, Tunga, Minna, which means, he is my landlord. And also my friend, or so I thought.
In Nigeria, it is normal to owe; even more normal to owe a rent. So on this month, the harsh economic weather infects me with the debtor flu. But I expect Mallam Abdul to give me some time, at least for the sake of the two bottles of Gulder I buy him on Sunday nights at Mama Kafayat’s joint. But —
“No! You have to pay up. You are not the only Nigerian. We all are affected by the economy,” he yells at me, leaving me transfixed.
It is Saturday. The Minna sun rises early as the alarm of cocks and crows wakes it to prepare for the vehemence of the day. One can hear the clanging of pots and utensils in the distance as neighbors wash them and the foamy water splatting on the concrete floor downstairs. There is a knock on my door. I open to see a box of clothes, pots, plates, a pair of shoes, sandals, and Mallam Abdul standing with his hands akimbo.
“Good morning Sah,” I stutter.
“Good morning,” he replies, moving his things inside my room.
“Sah, what is going on?”
“I’m moving in”
“This is my house, I can move in anytime I like”
“But landlord, I said I will pay soon. Just a little time,” I plead as he shoves me out of the room.
“That’s your business! I am the landlord of this house and also a prospective tenant to those who default in their rent,” he snaps, slamming the door.
Desperation courses through me as I source for money. The thought of starting a GoFundMe campaign even fleets through my mind. My friend, Wole, tells me that I have a considerate landlord. He narrates how his collected rent from another tenant without his knowledge, and even informed the new tenant that Wole has some properties for sale. However, by nightfall, fortune smiles at me and I dash quickly to my room, but Mallam Abdul left with the key.
I call him and he says I should come to his main house; the distance which could pass for an Olympics’ race walk track. I manage to get him the money, return to my room, and allow fatigue drift me to sleep.
Sunday night saunters in as darkness gradually engulfs the sun. Mama Kafayat’s joint is animated with activity with the mixed smell of alcohol, cigarettes, and pepper soup renting the air. I order two bottles of beer for everyone. I wait for the waitress to serve everyone before walking up to Mallam Abdul to take the two beers from his table. He looks up in confusion. Then I say —
“I am the buyer and also the prospective consumer to those who don’t value friendship.”
He smiles. I smile too.