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When I was posted by my company to Kaduna, the first thing that came to my mind was to reach out to Clement who lived there. Clement and I were both classmates in secondary school. He went to the university and graduated years before I gained admission. I called him and he was glad to hear from me.
“Eddy, abeg show for KD fast. You go enjoy this place pass that dirty smelling Lagos wey you dey.” He told me in a very jubilant manner. “When we go dey expect you?”
I told him I was coming in a few days and he was glad to hear that. I sold off most of the things I had in Lagos and off I went to Kaduna two weeks later. Now, Clement had no idea what I was worth when I came to Kaduna because I never showed him that I had anything. He had no idea that I had over thirteen million naira in my bank account and because I was not the kind of person who was crazy about flamboyant lifestyles, I did not let them know anything about my financial status. Clement lived in a house he inherited from the father. He was married with two children. I told him I was going to spend a few days with them when I arrived.
“Why few days Eddy?” he mumbled as he led me into my room. “This is large enough a house to accommodate you and us. At least save your salary for a few months before you think of renting a house.”
His wife, Patricia was quite accommodating too. She was a nursing mother with two kids; the first a boy of four, while the second was a baby girl of about eight months old. I loved the reception I got from her the first day. It was quite warm and pleasant. She prepared very delicious jollof rice which we all ate that night with considerable appetite.
I was to resume work a week later. So the next day, I decided to take a walk round the neighbourhood as my friend had gone to work. His wife was preparing to go to the market when I strolled out of the house. Her son had gone to school.
“Let me take a walk around the environment and feed my eyes.” I told her. “Okay then,” she winked at me. “You might not meet me. Just put your hand in the bucket outside and remove the key.”
It was while I was walking out of the house that I noticed that the house beside theirs was for sale. I saw a phone number on a sign post and decided to call the agent.
“That house na three million naira last.” The agent told me.
“Is there anyone in the house so I could have a look at it?” I asked.
The agent told me that a young man with his wife lived in the house.
“He will pack out if dem buy am,” the agent told me.
I went to check the house out and I really liked it. My girlfriend, Fedora was definitely going to like it too. She was in Ife for the NYSC scheme. The man who was living in the house and his wife were just tenants at will. I was made to understand that he was the painter that painted the house. But for the benevolence of the landlord, they would have been thrown out long ago. So I was told. However, they were a very nice couple. I felt at home with them as they took me round the compound.
“Thank you very much,” I thanked the painter as he and I exchanged handshakes where we both parted along the road.
That evening when I returned after my walk around town, I met my friend and his wife wearing long faces. Suddenly, they became rather aloof.
It was at the dinner table later that night that I found out what had happened.
“My wife said she saw you talking with our neighbour this morning,”
Clement said breaking the close to ten minutes old silence that had ensued between us both.I was going to tell him why I had gone to see their neighbour but no sooner had I opened my mouth than he quickly challenged repulsively.
“Eddy, you are new here and should ask questions before you associate with some people. We are not in good terms with those people..”
My mouth opened wide in bewilderment.
“Why? Clement, what happened to you? You used to associate with everybody..”
“That was then Eddy. I am a grown man now and I now know what is good for me.”
Listening to him that night made me sick. I wanted to tell him about my decision to buy the house but declined when he told me that only one amongst the eight houses around him was in good relationship with them. According to him, all the other neighbours were rude and did not usually greet his wife.
I told him that as his neighbours he must try to make peace with them.
“Please try and eschew hatred and strife. Make peace with your neighbours because the only time you are in control of is now. What happens the next minute isn’t yours to handle. If we have no control over the future, why then should we fight with people around us who could be useful to us tomorrow?”
He shook his head as I spoke;
“Eddy, these neighbours are not the kind of neigbours you have in Lagos. These ones are irredeemable. Just avoid them as long as you live here.”
The more I tried to rationalize why he had said that, the more difficult it was for me. In the end, I decided to let the sleeping dog lie. Three days later, I paid for the house and began to renovate it without my friend knowing about it. I wanted it to come as a surprise. The agent got me an engineer and an interior decorator. These two did a nice job as all I had to do was to pay them to make the house very comfortable and beautiful for me.Before the house was ready for me to move in, my company gave me a new car. When I brought it home, I was surprised at my friend’s reaction that night.
“I work for a useless company.” He said indignantly. This is my ninth year with them and they are waiting for me to remind them that I am due for promotion and given a car.”
I told him that one day it would come as a big surprise to him. However, that night I began to think of buying him a small car. He was my friend and needed to be as happy as I was. The next day, I called the agent to help me look for a fairly used car.
“E get one of my cousin wey want to sell im own but he travel for him sister wedding. Na clean car. You go like am.” The man replied.
I was glad to hear that the car was a Toyota Corolla. I knew my friend was going to be surprised when I would give him the keys. That evening when I returned from work, I decided to open up to them that I was the new owner of the house next to them but was shocked to my bone marrow at the level of envy they openly displayed.
“Why did you not tell me that you wanted to buy a house?” my friend flared up crossly. “Did you know how many years I have spent in this town? Anyway, congratulations.”
I really could not fathom why Clement would behave in that manner towards me. It made me sick. This was not the Clement I used to know. Why would he let envy eat him up that way? That night as I packed my things all by myself and left to my building, He and his wife could not help me move a pin or even come to see what the house looked like. I still did not feel bad about what they did. I just felt that when I surprised him with the car, he was going to change.
Two days later, I bought the car and gave it to a mechanic to service it. I was going to give my friend the car the next day but I was surprised when I returned that evening and noticed that firewood, huge ones had been gathered at the spot where I used to pack my car. It was part of their land. My house had a small gate. I must widen it before I could drive in. And since it was where I had already been parking my car, I found a spot near the firewood and parked there.
I went to knock on their door to know what happened but the wife refused to open when she pulled the curtain and saw my face. She could not even respond to my greetings. I felt terrible.
The next day when I returned from work and went to the mechanic, he told me that the radiator of the car was faulty and needed to be fixed. I really wanted to quickly hand it over to my friend to put smiles on his face. I gave him the money for repairs.
“Oga, abeg make sure say the car ready tomorrow abeg,”
“E go ready sir,” the mechanic assured.
But at home, I got another shocker. My friend and his wife had dug a pit at the exact spot where I had managed to park the previous day. Upon inquiry from people around, I was told that the pit was a soak away.
I was shocked because they had a big soak-away in the compound. Why the sudden need for another? That night, I found somewhere to park the car and after that I stopped bothering myself about them. I did not go to the mechanic again even though he called to tell me that the car was ready.
Two weeks later, I was having a bath when I looked through the window and saw my friend’s son playing on top of the firewood gathered in front of the soak-away which was now half filled with dirty smelling water. Suddenly, I saw the wood slack and the young lad went crashing into it.
With the speed of light, I ran out madly with only a towel around my waist.
I did not know when I dived into the pit and dragged out the drowning young fellow. A neighbour who was a nurse immediately began to attend to the boy when I brought him out of the water. He was convulsing. My friend’s wife was crying like a baby in my car as I sped to the hospital minutes later. The nurse still followed us with her first aid box to the hospital.
It took divine intervention with three weeks at the hospital to revive the child. That pit has now been covered. My friend and his wife have gone round asking neighbours for forgiveness. I am still thinking whether to still give him the car.
I have learnt a lot these few months. We are nothing without people. This is why we must not think we are just okay with ourselves and need nobody. We are all important. Sometimes they people you think you don’t need might be the ones to rescue you when you are in danger.
It is for this reason that we must value our peaceful coexistence irrespective of our tribe, creed or religion. if people hold no grudge against you or do not mean you for evil, don’t fight them because you will be fighting God Himself and you can never emerge victorious when you fight the God of the innocent.
THE NEIGHBOURS LAAF
(a true story)
I hope this inspires someone (Abel Wealth)