By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
He called himself the Ultimate Lagos Big Boy.
Some called him Owo Lagba, that is, Money Power, while some others preferred to call him Lagos Yuppie.
Niyi was the quintessential neighbourhood boy who made good in Eko, the city by the lagoon, to borrow the words of master poet Odia Ofeimun.
Niyi was barely twenty when he graduated from the university and started his working life in a new generation bank where he had done his compulsory one-year youth service.
His first house, after leaving his parents’ home in Ikeja, was a well-appointed duplex in Lekki Peninsula that took all of N2 million as rent yearly.
We shall not be delayed by the fleet of cars that graced Niyi’s garage; it suffices to say that his favourite rides were jeeps, and he enjoyed travelling fast, very fast.
Every day was a party, and all known beauties in Lagos and Nollywood had been to Niyi’s home to enjoy the likes of the orgies staged in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
The money was coming with dizzying speed and Niyi believed in spending thusly: “Money will be spent sooner or later; why not now?”
His boon companion Taiwo always kept pestering him to build his own house, but Niyi would not condescend to what he considered “the lowly art of molding cement blocks to build a house.”
“I will simply buy a house when I see the one I fancy, especially in a corner-piece,” Niyi said.
“I can undertake to do the block-molding for you,” Taiwo suggested.
“I detest the pedestrian idea of building a house block-by-block in this supersonic jet age,” Niyi said, laughing. “There was this man in my village that got the title of ‘One-Year-One-Block’ because of the slow pace of building his house. He did not complete the goddamned house before he kicked the bucket.”
“Your story is not funny,” Taiwo replied, sighing. “You can erect a decent building with the money you lavish on parties.”
“The money for a party is different from the money for constructing a house,” Niyi deposed, waving his hand. “Go to the fridge and take the cognac there and stop worrying yourself about building houses. Contractors build the house; I buy them anytime I want.”
Taiwo hissed and left Niyi’s home, while for the happy-go-lucky Niyi the party continued in deadly earnest.
Niyi was tending his flowers one morning when the local wag who sold audio CDs came blasting away.
“Quench that loud music!” Niyi hollered.
The local wag laughed loud and long before saying: “This musician called Oliver de Coque is a funny fellow. How can he be saying that a tenant should not be planting flowers? Well, maybe he is saying the truth, because when the flower-planting tenant is sent packing from the house by the landlord, can he uproot his flowers while packing out?”
Niyi was beside himself with rage and hurled a stone at the wag who dodged and laughed some more.
Not long after Niyi’s encounter with the wag, the then newly-appointed Central Bank Governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, came up with his novel idea of bank consolidation.
Niyi felt that the professor who was never known to have worked in a bank was talking gibberish.
In no time at all, heady days came along with bigger banks buying up the smaller banks in the bank consolidation drive.
And wham! Niyi lost his job as his bank got swallowed up in the overwhelming melee of consolidation.
When Taiwo called to commiserate with him, Niyi told his friend to shed no tears as he had concluded plans to get into the commodity trade.
Before Niyi could say “Commodity”, his rent fell due, and he could not pay.
All the friends he had partied with refused to come to his aid and he perforce had to write dud cheques to his landlord that bounced left, right and over-the-bar like felele balls.
Niyi almost fainted when one early morning some red-eyed court bailiffs broke into his house and flung his properties into the street.
The landlord had obtained an Oluwole court eviction mandate to throw Niyi out.
The formerly celebrated Ultimate Lagos Big Boy had to pack his properties into the houses of some friends and his relations.
He could not of course uproot the planted flowers, as Oliver De Coque sang in the song that the wag blasted in the streets.
Niyi slept catch-as-catch-can in several houses and seedy hotels in the days and weeks and months after the harsh eviction.
It was on borrowed funds that he was finally able to secure some accommodation in an uncompleted bungalow in the outskirts of Lagos, in the suburbs of Imole.
As they say, it is not with normal eyes that someone goes to embrace the Jehovah sharp-sharp new generation churches.
Niyi now distributes church tracts at bus stops, hoping for the day he would get his own angel alert from heaven.
A cold sachet of pure water for the Ultimate Lagos Big Boy!