“Ene! Sheriff is throwing our things out. He came this morning to ask for the balance of last year’s rent but daddy did not have any money on him…please do something.”
I was on my way to the gym that Friday morning when the distressed voice of my youngest brother told me of the embarrassing situation my family was going through at home in Kano. My legs started to give way when I heard my mother’s weeping voice in the background, “Sherriff, we have been tenants in this house for over fifteen years. You can’t just throw us out at 6am without first giving us a notice. Please! I have children.”
I did not hear any response from the landlord so I assumed he must have clamped his mouth shut in the infamous manner he was accustomed to. I knew things had been tough on my parents; my father is a lawyer and my mother, a school teacher. Although, they did not earn “cool cash”, we had enough to consider ourselves comfortably off. I wondered why my father had not challenged him. Could it be that they were actually behind on rent?
My mother switched to Hausa when words failed her in English, “Sheriff, dan Allah ka ji tausayin yara na. Ka san abubuwa fa sun yi wuya a Nijeriya yanzu.”
(“Sheriff! In the name of God, please have pity on my children. You know how difficult things have been in this country”).
“Click,” the line was disconnected. I quickly dialed my father’s number and this time, my mother answered the phone and burst into tears.
“Ene, look what Sheriff has done to us. Our things are in the garage and he is not even listening to the pleas of the neighbours. What are we going to do now eh?
“Where is daddy?” I asked her.
“He’s here,” she replied me in between sobs as she handed over the phone to my father.
“Ene!” My father’s defeated voice brought me back from the land of distant thoughts. “I am sorry that I put you all in this embarrassing situation. It will get better but yes, we are behind on rent and we need about a hundred and five thousand (105,000) naira to settle the bills. I am sorry.”
My legs couldn’t carry me anymore…I am a freelance writer and I knew I had earned enough that month to cover at least ninety percent of the money Sheriff was requesting but the month was yet to be over. I called my boss and I told him I needed an advance on my salary. By Saturday, they had about three hundred thousand in their account, courtesy of an old friend. However, Sheriff had locked up all the doors and left with the key. It took them three days and a lot of begging while sleeping in the neighbour’s house before he finally turned up.
Yesterday, my mother called me and she said she wanted to buy land. I thought about the hundreds of people who were out on the streets simply because a landlord kicked them out. I remembered how hard I cried under the neem tree that day but most importantly, I made a promise to myself, that I was going to SACK MY LANDLORD before I even employed any to begin with. There are three basic necessities a man needs: food, clothing and SHELTER. Don’t wait until you get thrown out to serve your landlord a pink slip…remember, “Prevention is always cheaper and better than finding a cure.”