He was a quiet man, and could be termed a recluse because noone seemed to tell exactly how he looked or even know what his name was.
All people knew was that he was the most comfortable and arguably the richest man within the community.
So they christened him Mr X.
His house was a landmark for everyone around, magnificently built with modern day architectural design.
It was simply a Mansion, built with the taste of an obviously well travelled personality.
Hardly was there any visitor to the area that wouldnt comment or take a second look at it when passing by some even took pictures while standing around it.
Simply put, the house was the talk of town a model for those who dared to aspire to build such types of houses .
However, like I said, he was also a huge snub an arrogant one at that .
It was obvious that since he had all he needed, there seemed to be no reason to communicate with the members of the community no matter how close they got to him or his car to put it rightly.
On rare occasions that people saw him, it was when he’d wind his tinted car window’ glasses for whatever reason, but will not respond to anyoneys greetings even children.
It was the driver that would nervously raise his hands to quickly acknowledge while looking straight.
He had a family, his wife had borne him two boys and two girls at least, those ones were seen either when they chose to get into the car while going out from the gate or alight from the car at the gate when they returned from work or school respectively.
The children, being typical kids tried having conversations with other kids but apparently the wife had caught the bug of “oath of secrecy ” from her husband.
She’d snap at them or bark orders at them to get into the house.
When such treatment persisted, noone cared about them anymore they were left alone.
It soon became a common joke in the area that perhaps the land housing the Bigman was jinxed with extremism as the last occupiers of that space were extremists in interacting with people. Others ran from having relationship with them even parents placed embargo on their kids not to cross to the areas. They’d joke that perhaps the law of Kama had caught with them.
Prior to Mr X’s mansion, there was a “civilian barrack”
Which was a four storey building housing every human character one could imagine .
It got it’s Nick name as result of the diversity of the the occupants. It seemed like every Nigerian tribe was reoresented.
That barrack was a natural drama theater for the neighbourhood,
Residents had comic relieves from the various episodes of fights that daily emanated from it.
Fights were always in family clusters
It’s either a father and another father are fighting plus their mothers as supporting actresses taking sides with the children doing the “Waka pass”, with pestles, spatulas, frying pans, being thrown as weapons of mass destruction in the case of the the women or it would be plastic chairs bottles or knives the men will be using to threaten each other or in worse cases use on one another or even single ladies fighting for the attention of the most “eligible” bachelors.
Such fights left braided hair strands plucked from heads or marks on opponents’ bodies.
The house was evenly built by an obviously crafty “Baba Landlord” whom only a few knew him or something about him
The tenants that have lived ‘donkey years ” had often times arrogated upon themselves the title of ” oga caretaker”
Such “semi- landlords” hardly paid for light bills, water bills or electricity as they dubiously used their position to collect an inflated allotted amount while claiming to “add” their own after the wards but that never happened as the amount covered theirs as well as gave them extra change
This action sometimes back fired as their co tenant’s whose cumulative years can arguably be equal to theirs, often fought back.
They often organise an “Aluta cum coup” which succeeds but of course doesn’t last long.
Baba Landlord did not always bother about the fracas as he gets reports from his unsolicited ” ministers of communication” the “BBC” with blood and “Ray Power” who paid him visits towards the end of the month to update him .
Such “revelations” were often rewarded with ” extended payment period” for unpaid house rents depending on the juiciness of the ” ofofo”( gossip).
Nevertheless, if Baba landlord felt enough was enough, he had his Carpenters ready to give any tenant that persistently defaulted, the special “quit notice” treatment.
With their rickety ladder, they would climb the roof and render anybody technically homeless with just the removal of the roofing sheets.
The tenant’s response was either to pay or move to the next uncompleted building in the neighbourhood making room for another tenant that’d come in to pay two years rent plus commision.
This was the circus until Baba changed gear.
The area began developing and more educated and civilized citizens started trooping in.
Retired civil servants especially former perm secs and commissioners who wanted a quiet suburb to retire to, bought lands and built beautiful houses mostly duplexes and bungalows but the civilian barracks remained a mis nomer, an eye sore and dent to the fast rising “GRA”.
A few of them voiced their concerns about that but had no power to change while others tried to reorientate the residents in order to inculcate some social intelligence in to them.
The efforts were tantamount to fetching water with a basket, as some of them received insults inspite of their ages.
With such reaction the residents’ association “surrendered to the will of God” for a change .
So it was with joy and a huge relieve when two years later, on a weekend in dec, earlier in the morning the residents, woke up to the sound of hues, cries, and curses.
Bulldozers, security operatives and scavengers with tipper lorries were all over the area cordoning the” Civilian Barracks”.
News was that Baba Landlord had secretly sold the house to someone and that someone had given the tenants just one month to leave
When the news was conveyed to them in November, a few did respond by packing out immediately while majority did not belief.
They said it was a scam because they felt Baba landlord would have called to inform them.
Well, reality had dawned on them, they had to hurriedly park their belongings or lose them
A number of the tenants had gone to their villages for the Christmas festivities so some that were lucky to still be in a good relationship with others, had their properties parked for them but for the rest, noone bothered to call them.
The police “promised to keep” them for them.
It was a mixed feeling,
Even some kind hearted resident leaders wanted to intervene but they could not find who to talk to.
The new Landlord refused to show his face.
“That was how this barrack no remain”
It was within six months that Mr X took in erecting that magnificent building.
The house warming was for selected people not one of the residents was invited, a clear signal that the owner wasn’t going to be accommodating.
He had four security dogs, six security personnels, cooks gardeners and house keepers all in that beautiful house apart from his driver and two others.
There was no way to see his children playfully loitering instead, domestic servants were the ones doing the movements.
In the early years when.he moved into the area, the neighbors thought that at least even if he wanted his privacy, periods of festivities like Christmas and Easter were going to be exceptions, alas they were not to be.
His children celebrated their birthdays with friends brought from outside.
Those who fitted them.
The wife was seen with only her obviously bourgeoisie friends who never resembled “them”
With time ,none around cared about what happened to them people took their behavior and attitude in their stride.
However, an elder within the community development committee one meeting day felt otherwise, he wanted to let Me X to know why that character was bad.
Others discouraged him but he was convinced and he had a valid point.
Mr X never contributed to the security or environmental levies, why would that not be a thing to bother about?
After much discussion, Baba was left to go and try.
Baba was a retired civil servant of repute, a permanent secretary to be precise, that had served the nation meritoriously for 35 years,
So the next day which was a weekend, he got set to face this young man whom in his conclusion needed to be told truth about life.
With a resolve of that of a soldier about to face the warfront Baba took off.
Baba dressed in his best Danshiki Ankara up and down, now bent due to old age, strolled with dignity to the entrance gate of Mr X’s mansion.
It was just a five minute walk from his bungalow so he wasn’t sweating .
He’d barely stood in front of the house when he heard the Stern voice of the security man from his post “good morning baba, what do you want?
Baba was startled but quickly comported himself. He was about speaking when the security man came up to him towering above him with a menacing look and arrogantly continued”good morning Baba, I say what do you want”
Baba, now calm, responded while choosing his words Youngman, is that the way to speak to an Elder? Don’t you feel that that was rude of you?
“You are wasting my time, I need you to answer me or I throw you out, he was now shouting, this drew the attention of Mr X who was obviously around taking a stroll in his compound.
Mr X spoke up, “what’s that Gvenga who are you talking too?” He queried.
The security man responded coming to an attention, Sir, it’s this old man who has refused to answer my question .
Send him away , he said angrily, all these beggers he muttered under his breath
But the security heard him and quickly responded “no Sir, he answered stutering in fear. He continued..
He seems not like them, I think he wants to see you.
Me? Mr X replied irritantly WHY ?
I don’t know Sir the security responded.
Hmmmm, let him in then
All the while, Baba was standing shaking his head in utter dismay at the show of disrespect.
Ah! He uttered loudly “aye yi ti baje ( this world is spoilt)”
He didn’t wait to receive orders to act instead, he just walked pass the Securityman heading towards the direction of the voice still shaking his head looking downwards.
Then he raised his head to look at the man coming towards him
Baba had seen him and recognised him instantly, he was shocked and abruptly stood still.
It was when Mr X who had walked with arrogance with his head down only to raise it and fixing his gaze on Baba, he too stood transfixed
. Baba then literarily screamed iwooooooh ni ( you are the one)?
Instantly he turned and headed towards the entrance where he’d just came through but before he could take two steps, Mr X had ran and grapped his hand
“Baba mi mo pe eyi ni Sir “(Baba, I didn’t realize that you were the one)”
ah Baba ema lo( ?, please don’t go).
At that moment, Baba was visibly shaking and could not find his voice, his eyes were red with tears.
When he found his voice he spat out ,
Iwoooohhh, Davidiiiii( you! David)? I Iwoooo……….. he kept repeating.
Mr X who was sprawled on the floor of his compound , oblivious of his wife, children as well as house maids and security who had garthered as a result of Baba’s exclamation,and were staring and wondering what could have been the matter, was only weeping loudly,
Ah! e dariji mi Sir( ah have mercy on me Sir
E ma binu, Sir.( Don’t be angry Sir)
The wife ran to pick him up but he rebuked her with a voice like a thunder
Fi mi sile jare! ( leave me alone)!!!
She knew better not to persist instead, she faced the staff
“what the hell are you all standing and staring at eh?”
“Will you go to your duty posts?
With a fiat, each scampered into his or her place of duty but not without murmuring trailing them.
Baba had began sobbing loudly..
All he could mutter was Davidi Iwoooooh!!.
Mr X too was still crying like a baby muttering inaudible words……..
To be continued next week
Regina Uren writes from Lagos