It was one of those nights when Obinna Nnorom was glad to be finally home. It had been a hectic Monday when the demonic forces of traffic, if they existed, had decided to invoke a bumper to bumper traffic jam round the city of Lagos. All Obinna wanted was a bath and a good night sleep; these were uppermost in his mind as he entered his compound. And then he saw him: his landlord popularly known as Baba Landlord by all the tenants and they often avoided him like a plague.
Obinna passed without greeting, and was glad the compound was dark due to a power outage. He and his landlord had a cat-mouse relationship as they were constantly in conflict over minute issues. Obinna got in front of his door and searched his pockets for the keys but couldn’t find them; he realized he may have left them in his computer bag which was tucked away in a cabinet at the office. He began walking up and down the compound trying to think of what to do next. Baba Landlord noticed and wondered what was up.
“Neighbour, any problem?” asked the aged pot bellyed man.
“No………well yes…..I might have left my keys in the office.” The younger man replied.
“Is that why you should be walking up and down like a man whose wife is in labour? Come and sit down with me. There is no problem without solution.”
Obinna wanted to decline the invitation but he felt suddenly tired and really wanted to sit. As he sat down, the landlord offered him a drink. He refused but could not turn down a chilled bottle of water which the landlord ordered from the gateman’s kiosk.
The two men had never sat down together before, and it felt strange. It was even stranger that Baba Landlord was being nice. Obinna thought of a million reasons behind the kind gesture and settled with one: The landlord was about to throw him out of his flat!
“Obinna, why do we always fight?”
“Baba Landlord, why are you always wicked and unjust?”
There was a bit of silence between them and then the older man broke it: “It makes no sense for a man to carry grievances to the grave.” Obinna was just about to reply when his landlord continued: “I have 90 days to live.”
“Baba Landlord, how do you know?” asked Obinna puzzled.
“I have been diagnosed with cancer by my doctors abroad, it’s a bad one, I don’t want to get into the details but they say I’d be lucky to make it past 90 days. I’m only home to put my house in order.”
Obinna felt remorseful and wondered how it must feel to have only 90 days to live.
“Neighbour, all I want is peace! I have houses, I have cars, I have money, women, you name it. Yet in the face of death, I feel so poor, naked and full of regret.”
“Don’t talk like that.” Obinna said, reprimanding him.
“But it’s true. I have 6 wives and 35 children legitimate and illegitimate. I have been everywhere, done things with money people have always dreamed but suddenly in the face of death, all the things that seemed so important before are so meaningless.”
“Isn’t money important?”
“It is, Obinna but it’s the sacrifice that we often make in the pursuit of money that haunts us later. There are some things money cannot buy which are so important but we often forget: Love, peace, a smile, a strong, united family and a large heart to share whatsoever we’ve been given.”
Obinna was amazed that Baba Landlord could become a philosopher overnight; surely death in 90 days could change anybody.
“Baba Landlord, if it’s cancer, then there must be a solution. I mean a cure, some medical procedure to save your life…..I know you can afford expert medical care……….”
“…….I don’t want a cure, I’ve had about seventy years to live and I haven’t lived very well. In 90 days or less I’ll die and I have made peace with it. Obinna you are a young man, you must live better than I have. Find out what or who is truly most important in your life and never let go of it or them.” Replied Baba Landlord.
Obinna suddenly remembered his keys had dropped in the car while he was in traffic and he excused himself to fetch them.
It was a strange evening in which an enemy had become a friend in the face of death.
After he returned, Landlord and tenant bade each other farewell and the tenant was soon in his flat, sitting on a chair in absolute silence save for the hum of the refrigerator (for power had returned) thinking about his life. The shower and a good night sleep could wait.