Olórunsògo is the fading inscription written above the door entrance of the communal living quarters popularly called Face-Me-I-Face-You in local parlance, located at the end of Liadi Street. This derives its name from the layout of the facility: Depending on the magnanimity or rapacity of the landlord, this type of household may contain 8 to 14 rooms with a corridor that runs from the main entrance which leads to another door exiting into a backyard, with equal number of rooms facing one another on each side of the passage way. Occupants, irrespective of their number, share meagre essential facilities (if and where they are provided) à la kitchen (usually a shed with stone tripods for cooking), bathrooms and toilets (often one or two pit latrines), all located in the backyard.
Olórunsògo which literally means “God has done something glorious” obtains its name from the deceased owner, Alhaji Olorunsogo a small scale industrialist in wood planks business. He owned half a dozen of sawmills scattered around the city with scores of workers on his pay roll. A thrifty business man, Alhaji Olorunsogo wasn’t half sparing on the home front. With five wives living under the same roof, innumerable concubines catered for on Alhaji’s bills and twenty-three “official” children, Olorunsogo proved without doubt that he was a man of insatiable libido!
In spite of his numerous properties, the exit of Alhaji did not but cause a royal rumble in the apportioning of the Olorunsogo’s empire. After a hurried burial, extended family members (ranging from immediate step-siblings to fifth cousins) grabbed a chunk of Alhaji’s estates leaving his wives and two dozens children to share the leftovers. Matters were complicated by emergence of concubines and their wards that also came to lay claim on the residual largesse. The “might is right; eat or be eaten” phenomenon took over. Wives and their children alike sprang at one another’s necks and lives. Dauda, Alhaji’s third son from his second wife lost his sight in an alleged juju (voodoo) battle with one of his kin. This is still being investigated as the neighbourhood police is “working day and night” to unveil the evil-doer(s).
Owing to sheer strong-headedness and access to firsthand information, Morufu (Alhaji’s first son and second child from his second wife) was able to lay hold on the Olórunsògo papers; one of Alhaji’s few remaining real estates. Hence, he assumed the position of the new landlord and rent collector, a status that’s still being contested by Salewa (Alhaji’s first daughter and first child from his first wife), the heiress-apparent to the Olorunsogo throne.
Back to Olórunsògo.
The inhabitants of Olórunsògo could least be described as a collection of assorted characters and enigmas – a very interesting household indeed.
Starting from the longest staying tenant, Daddy Pastor (as he’s popularly called), the roll call can’t be more intriguing. Daddy Pastor as the name indicates, pastors a shanty church with a dozen members, down the street adjacent to where Olórunsògo is situated. A 53-year old father of eight, Daddy Pastor “received a vision” to be a minister of the gospel a couple of years ago. It’s often rumoured that this might not be unconnected to his failure as a welder when he’d hardly fend for his large family. To ascertain they fulfil the Old Testament tradition of paying tithes and to avoid any temptation of “eating” this portion of their income, at the end of every month Daddy Pastor makes it a point of duty to collect tithes, going from one church member’s house to another. He saves them the trouble of having to pay the tithes in church, before which many of them may re-consider payment.
Daddy Pastor’s wife automatically christened Mommy Pastor is a full-time housewife. Being married to the longest staying tenant she also by default qualifies to be the landlady-tenant. Therefore, she coordinates the women folk of Olórunsògo’s household on appropriate matters. Her position also gives her the right to occupy the veranda space in front of the house where she sells cooked beans and eegbo (over-cooked dry corn) served with fried fish stew to augment whatever her husband pays himself from the church coffers.
Daddy Pastor, his wife and eight children all occupy a “room-and-parlour” (two rooms with one used as a living room and the other, a bedroom).
Sisi Vero the 49-year old spinster appears next on the roll. Sisi means a lady in her teens or twenties. Why Veronica (shortened Vero) who’s almost striking her golden jubilee, insists to be called Sisi never ceases to amaze everyone. It was alleged that Sisi Vero once slapped an okada man (motorcyclist) vivaciously for addressing her as “Madam.” The two were taken to the police station and accused of “two fighting.” Sisi Vero, a woman (oops! a lady) that has had her fair share of failed relationships still believes she is young enough to marry a man of her dream (Would someone tell her to wake up before she does so in her grave?)! This informs her mode of dressing: From the colour-riot overdone make-up to the tight-fitting undersize dresses, buxom Sisi Vero tenaciously fights for space amongst contemporary and (in her own words) saucy girls.
Often times when she hosts a particular man for a long while, expectations are high as to her eventual “settling down.” Howbeit, more often than not when the man is no longer seen and Sisi Vero asked why, her scornful and hiss-ful response is one that’s always ambiguous and of the same leaning – it’s either the man doesn’t know what he wants or he’s married.
On many occasions, Sisi Vero disappears from home for days and at times weeks. No one really has an idea of what she does for a living.
Joe, the graduate and bachelor teacher lives next room to Sisi Vero. Joe moved into Olórunsògo after months of unfruitful job search. A graduate of Linguistics from one of the state-owned universities, Joe got wind of job opportunities acclaimed to outnumber job-seekers in Lagos. As a result, he moved in with a fellow town’s man who readily accepted to accommodate the new comer. However, after weeks of enjoying free food and accommodation with no prospect of securing a job, the wife of his benefactor deemed it fit to declare an end to the generosity bestowed Joe, with alacrity. Luckily for him, before he was sent packing, Joe got a job as a primary school teacher two streets away from Olórunsògo where he now resides. Oga Joe (as called by housemates) takes advantage of the beehive of children parented by Daddy Pastor and others in the neighbourhood by organising home lessons for a number of them. At times when payment is delayed, Joe barters food with Mommy Pastor for his home service.
Mr. Sunday, the electrician is a resource-tenant of Olórunsògo not because of what he gives but that which he saves the household. His expertise enables him to backdate the reading on their NEPA analogue metre, now and again. As a result, the household is able to evade payments of huge sums of electricity bills. On occasions when they are cut off from the mains supply by the authority, Mr. Sunday artfully reconnects Olórunsògo typically at night.
The conscientious electrician recently got married to Patience who everyone calls Iyawo (meaning “wife”). Mr. Sunday works for a small scale local contractor. Occasionally, when business is on the gloomy side, he plies his okada (motorcycle) within the environs in order to eke out a living. On the other hand, Iyawo seems too otiose to complement her husband efforts. All she is ever seen in is a filthy wrapper tied sloppily over her almost bare chest. All day long, she stays indoors watching home videos on Sunday’s 14-inch black-and-white TV. Patience laziness doesn’t permit her to cook. Hence, she patronises food hawkers or Mommy Pastor depending on what her appetite dictates. Poor Sunday!
Another couple that occupies the “room-and-parlour” on the opposite wing is the aged Papa Nkechi with his wife, Mama Nkechi and their grand daughter, Oname. Papa Nkechi is a railway corporation retiree train driver while his wife sells ugu (a delicacy vegetable) at the community market. Years of accumulated pensions have impoverished the old man and his family. A civil war veteran, he always reminisces with relish the role he took in the “no victor, no vanquish” pyrrhic war. He lost an index finger, the stump of which he’s eager to show anyone who cares to listen to his tales. Indeed, ol’ soldier never dies.
Their only child, Nkechi is married and lives with a vehicle spare parts business man who resides at the other end of town. At 15, Nkechi was impregnated by a “friendly” neighbour vulcaniser, an act he wasn’t willing to take responsibility for. Painfully, she had to drop out of school in order to supplement support for taking care of her baby, Oname. After years of emotional dejection, Nkechi regarded herself fortunate when Nnamdi requested for her hand in marriage, but only on one condition – he’s ready to cater for Oname but not under his roof. Not wanting to jeopardise this rare opportunity and fortune’s smile on her, she dumps Oname with Papa and Mama.
The last on the queer list is Bovi – the neighbourhood Casanova. Bovi came into Olórunsògo as a Youth Corper almost three years ago and he still claims to be on the one-year programme, for this reason he’s either referred to as Bovi or Corper. Many a time, the adventurous young man has been the object of accusation from mothers within the neighbourhood who claim Bovi has tactically deflowered their young daughters. Adolescent girls have been warned severally to keep off the amorous Corper but he always has a way around them as they’re seen either leaving or entering his den frequently.
The highpoint of Bovi’s escapades came when he was sought for by the police a couple of months ago but (un)fortunately he wasn’t indoors. When accosted by Daddy Pastor and Papa Nkechi as to ascertain the undisclosed reason behind the visit from the “men in black”, Bovi denied any wrong doing and assured them the “case” was resolved. Truly, no one knows Bovi’s source of livelihood. Besides, he’s often seen with questionable characters spending hours in the neighbourhood cybercafé. It’s rumoured that he’s a yahoo yahoo boy (advance fee fraudster).
Today, I decide to drive through the gully-ridden Liadi Street not out of lacking serious business doing but, sheer curiosity seeing a crowd of people gather in front of Olórunsògo. I am told Salewa and Morufu (Late Alhaji Olorunsogo’s children) are having a showdown there. The uncertainty that surrounds the new landlord/lady has excused the not-too willing occupants from paying their rents. Consequently, Salewa and Morufu converged at Olórunsògo to slog it out. Both came simultaneously to collect the overdue rents from the tenants, each claiming legal right to do so. In the process, I think ignominious words were exchanged as each challenged the other to a reloaded version of the clash of the titans. At the moment, I can see Salewa with a swollen eye and in tattered clothings attempting to hold the part covering her bosom. Sprawling on the floor is Morufu, with a head which has doubled in size oozing out blood, turbulently. By his side lies a metal pole – I guess this should be the pain-inflicting weapon used by Salewa. Despite his obvious awfully painful condition, Morufu held down by on-lookers and passers-by, still brawls at Salewa.
Wonders have decided to reside at Olórunsògo! Anytime you need a break from the norm, feel free to visit Olórunsògo. It’s at No. 18 Liadi Street.