49 Orode Street | Episode 1 |Housewarming
- June 2, 2017
Orode Street was a beehive of activity, with people at their provision stalls, calling out to passersby to patronize them. Trays of fresh agege bread, roasted groundnuts and hardboiled eggs cooked until their shells cracked beckoned to customers.
“Moin -moin and akamu don land oh!” the moin – moin seller chanted, much to the people’s amusement. Sisi eased into the passenger seat, threw her head back and laughed.
Hawkers flitted about, with trays loaded with kolanuts, matches, alabukun and candles perfectly balanced on their heads.
Sisi sighed as the tired jalopy eased onto the infamous Orode street. She watched half naked children dancing at the borehole, careful not to stray too far from their watchful mothers who sat doing heaps of laundry.
In the distance, she heard the muezzin’s call to prayer. It was midday.
”Madam, na which number for this street you dey go?” said the driver.
“Number 49,” Sisi replied.
The driver nodded and drove on until they got to a quaint house with ‘No 49’ scribbled in white paint on the front gate.
Sisi clambered out of the vehicle and started towards the gate. The pedestrian gate fell backwards as she pushed it, crashing into the ground. Strike one.
There were six self- contained units housed under one rusty corrugated iron roof .
“Who is here? Is anybody at home?”
Sisi crept into the compound and drew in her breath. What was that awful stench? The drains held greenish water, and frogs sang as they waded in the murky mess. Strike two.
Sisi said a silent prayer in her heart. She had trusted Sunny, her close friend to find suitable but affordable lodgings, as she was a stranger to the city of Lagos. The pictures he had shown her did not paint a clear picture of the house, but she trusted his judgment and her slim wallet to make the decision.
True, she had visited the place earlier to make an inspection before paying for it, but she had been desperate and under a lot of pressure to find a place to lay her head. Sisi barely looked at the place.
Now, she saw the house for what it really was- a few steps shy of a dump.
It was only this place that fit her price range, so she would have to don the cloak of humility and slug it out.
The landlord was a small bespectacled man in a wife beater and print trousers.
“They say you are a youth corper, Ajuwaya abi?”
“I do not rent my house to unmarried women, but Sunny said you look responsible. I hope you are.” He peered at her through his thick lenses.
Sisi did not respond. She had heard it was difficult for single women to find accommodation without their fair share of rejection and humiliation, as landlords were unwilling to rent for fear of having irresponsible promiscuous lady tenants. When her friends told her stories, she half dismissed them as illogical and ridiculous.
It was real. This discrimination really did exist. She confirmed this much in the little encounter with Oga Landlord.
Oga Landlord led her through a dimly lit corridor to the room that would be hers for the next year.
The mosquito netting was torn, and the wooden door whined as he led the way into the self-contained flat. The kitchen window was broken and the wardrobe had no door. The electrical mains had naked wires poking through and Sisi feared for her life.
It didn’t take long for Sisi to realize that this was not the room she had seen the last time she visited.
“Oga Landlord, this room is not the same one I saw the other day.” Sisi said, scowling.
“This one is the only one available now. They are all the same.” Oga Landlord’s reply was curt and devoid of apologies.
“ They are not the same. I want my money back.” Sisi drew in her breath.
“Money is not refundable, my daughter. This room is okay. I can open that room and show you, all na the same.”
The look Sisi gave him could cut through glass.
Sisi regarded the entire room, with the broken tiles, outdated 90’s ceiling boards and the torn mosquito netting. This would have to do. Where would she go?
“This room even has a bigger wardrobe. I will call carpenter and electrician for you, tomorrow. They will do this place fine fine.”
Sisi knew he was only saying this to calm her down. She knew she would have to undertake the repairs herself. He had nothing to lose; he had her rent in his bank account.
“You’re welcome, my daughter. We are like family in this compound. When your neighbours return from office, you will see them.”
She wished he would stop calling her “my daughter.”It made her uncomfortable, but she said nothing.
Sisi knew she would have to spend a lot of money to make this place habitable. Landlords in these parts never did anything to maintain their houses. It was a shape up or ship out arrangement. She did not factor this in her budget, and she could already feel the dent in her barely there allowance.
“Ehen, my daughter, before I forget, you have not paid your caution fee and agent’s fee!”
TO BE CONTINUED…