By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Odogwu came on transfer to Lagos from Enugu, and put up in the apartment of his writer friend Muritala Sule in Surulere.
His plan was to get his own accommodation in a matter of weeks.
Exactly a month after settling into Muritala’s three-bedroom pad, he was woken up very early in the morning by a loud bang on the door.
His initial fear was that armed robbers were at the door, and he was still cowering when Muritala screamed in a very shrill voice: “Who is that?”
“Open up!” replied a gruff voice. “We be bailiffs.”
“Bailiffs?” Muritala muttered incredulously as Odogwu joined him at the door.
Before Muritala could utter another word, the door came crashing down and six roughnecks entered the apartment.
They flashed some court papers at Muritala.
To cut a long story short, Muritala’s landlord had procured a judgment to evict him from the apartment “in a jenge way”, as some Lagosians would say.
Aghast, Muritala hollered that he had not been taken to court at all, that he had never seen any court summons from the landlord or anybody for that matter.
It was to no avail as the toughs just threw out his property from the building “with reckless abandon”, as the theatre guys say.
Odogwu was thus rendered homeless.
He went to the home of a man from his hometown, but could not eventually broach the issue of accommodation after seeing that the man lived in a room with his wife and four children plus three other relatives.
With the night coming very fast, Odogwu had to pay for a seedy and rundown hotel in the suburbs of Iganmu.
He planned to operate from there for a handful of days before finding any fellow who may be kind enough to sublet a room to him.
He ended up staying all of three months in the ramshackle hotel that doubled as a busy brothel.
He was always in arrears in paying for the room, but through all kinds of lies and subterfuge he managed to hang on.
In the first couple of days, he confided in anybody who cared to listen of his accommodation woes.
They all sympathized with him, but always stopped short of taking him in.
He heeded the advice of registering with an estate agent who promised to find the requisite accommodation in a handful of days.
He had to part with five thousand naira (N5,000) as the mandatory fee for the agent.
He was taken to all kinds of seedy houses which he could not accept even on the pain of death.
One particular landlord stated outright that he only lets out his house to a particular ethnic group.
Another landlord said that he must always be in his bed at eight PM every evening as that is when the gate to the building is locked.
Being a journalist, Odogwu almost always returned home nearer midnight or after rather than eight in the evening!
When he thought he was finally making headway with a particular building in the outskirts of Iyana-Ipaja, the landlady who happened to be an Alhaja stated that she only wanted mullah tenants!
Odogwu was fast turning to a mental wreck; he could hardly keep up with paying the daily rent for the hotel room, and his salary in the newspaper was now coming in arrears, if ever.
One dark night, he took his bag and fled from the hotel, and passed the night in a beer parlour in Orile-Iganmu.
It was there he met Washinga who was the head of the motor-park touts. Washinga took pity on Odogwu, and took him to his shack on the stilts of the Orile lagoon.
People defecated from the shack into the lagoon but Odogwu could not complain. All he needed was a roof over his head, and he had found one!
At the office, he was loath to tell his fellow journalists where he lived.
Any money he had was never kept in the shack because he could not trust Washinga and his fellow roustabouts.
Odogwu just needed the place as a base for his unending quest for a home of his own anywhere in Lagos.
He went back to the estate agent only for the shifty fellow to ask him to pay a new fee as the money he first paid had lapsed.
Odogwu nearly came to fisticuffs with the agent who kept shouting that he was tired of doing business with down-and-out poor men in Lagos!
Frustrated beyond words, Odogwu had to explore some novel methods of getting accommodation as suggested by some boon companions.
He started attending some Pentecostal fellowships, and a pastor succeeded in pairing him up with a church sister.
Odogwu was literally reduced to a houseboy who did all the household chores until he ran away.
It was when he was at the end of his tether that he ran into Muritala Sule who was now living with his widowed mother in the Mushin area.
After narrating his woes, Odogwu was taken in by Muritala and introduced to the personable mother.
When last seen, Odogwu was in the office of an estate agent, talking to himself like David Rubadiri’s “madman chasing nothing.”
-Uzor Maxim Uzoat, poet, journalist, writes from Lagos