The inn keeper endures the madness of the occasional tenants

A week in the lifeis a weekly series from Zikoko that explores the labor struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.


Today’s topic “A Week in the Life” is the keeper of an inn near a university which houses 45 independent rooms. He talks about the chaos of his job, dealing with difficult tenants, and his dream of one day japa.

I usually wake up around 6:30-7am, but sometimes it can be earlier. My family and I live in one of the rooms in the same building where I work, and I work seven days a week, so I can’t separate work from life.

Tenants usually wake me up for one thing or another. Sometimes the water may have stopped overnight and a tenant calls me first thing in the morning because he has to wash up and go to work. So I have to get up, put on the generator and pump some water. Or maybe someone’s shower got blocked and I need to call a plumber ASAP. There are 45 self-contained rooms in this building, so no finishing issues. But thank goodness this morning is no problem so I can sleep until 8 am

My daughter is at her grandmother’s for the holidays, but as soon as I get out of bed, my second-born—who is only a few months old—starts crying. My wife gets up and carries the baby.

As hostel manager, my responsibility is to ensure that the grounds are clean and well maintained. Since each tenant pays an annual service fee up front, I also have to make sure they are comfortable. If there is an outlet that has suddenly stopped working, I call an electrician. If anyone has any issues with their light bulb or sink, please don’t hesitate to call me.

I spend my days in the compound doing almost the same things 24/7, and it can get boring, but how do I do that? Today I am happy sha. A former tenant came in the afternoon and we chatted for hours until dark. It had been a long time since I had seen it, so the basics were more than enough.

TUESDAY

My job is easy these days, but it wasn’t always like this. When I was hired in this building last year, I saw pepper. At the end of 2020, I was hired to take care of this building. It was a new building taking on first-time tenants, and management did a lot of — I don’t even know if I should call them mistakes or just negligence.

The problem is that first they built this hostel as if they were building it abroad: three columns of apartments facing each other, but now they have sealed the small corridors in between with a roof in plastic. And they didn’t stop there. They wanted to make the building shine, so instead of leaving room for a little breeze to flow in front of the building, they went all over the place with glass blocks which ran from the ceiling to the ground floor, covering every inch of space. Without any air conditioning system.

Although the hostel building looks fancy from the outside, the way they built it was impractical. The independent rooms are small and have only one window each. But the builders put solar panels and an inverter in the building, and that’s what they used to market the rooms. The 45 rooms were taken in two weeks. But soon, the problem started coming.

When the tenants paid their one-year leases and rental charges in December 2020, the harmattan hid the ventilation problem in the building. Also, it was the dry season, so there was enough sun to power the solar inverters. Everyone had fun.

Until the heat comes in February. NEPA stopped bringing light and inverters started shutting down frequently. Hot air was trapped in the building with nowhere to go. Tenants complained, but building management said nothing. After a while, the tenants took their vex on me. I tried to explain to them that none of this was my fault, but since I was the only representative of the building management on site, I did not collect all the complaints and insults. It was the most difficult period of my life because I lived in the same building as the tenants and suffered from the same problems. I asked the manager to buy a backup generator but she ignored me.

Then one day, after NEPA refused to bring light for two days, the inverter shut down in the middle of the night, around 2 am. The water also stopped because there was no light to pump. No one could sleep. Almost all the tenants came down to protest. They threw insults at me and emptied the bins in front of my door. There was nothing I could do but hope and pray that the morning would come quickly.

When day finally broke, I called the manager and showed her what was going on in the compound. I was ready to quit at that point. Fortunately, she sent some money for a backup generator. I don’t know why Nigerian business owners like to wait for everything to fall apart before taking action.

In March, the heat became unbearable. The building owner fired the manager and hired someone more proactive. The new manager finally brings in masons to break the huge blocks of decorative glass and install windows in their place. Finally, we could breathe fresh air again.

WEDNESDAY

Human beings can be funny, but I understand that we can’t all be the same. That’s why I try my best to be patient with people. Before tenants move into the building, they sign an agreement form which contains the rules and regulations. But I don’t know if they don’t read it well. After you move in, you’ll start seeing tenants doing it anyway. and if I didn’t have patience, I would fight everyone every day.

Like this guy who lives on the top floor. There is a shed outside the gate with two dedicated barrels for waste disposal. But this boy came down and scattered his trash everywhere. I asked him why he was behaving like that, and he just said, “No offense,” and ran upstairs. I’m not even going to let anything steal my peace of mind today. I’ll calm down and clean up the place.

By the time I walk back into the compound, I realize I’m not even mad anymore.

THURSDAY

Even with the occasional madness, I love this job. It doesn’t stress me out at all. But I wish it was better paid. I am raising a family of four and am the breadwinner. I have two daughters: a toddler and a newborn and I don’t even know how we are doing. It can only be God.

I usually tell my young friends to think about settling down, but it’s hard. The friend who visited me on Tuesday, who has more money than me, said he wasn’t thinking of getting married until he was about 35 because he wanted to earn money first. money. And I can’t even blame him because this country kind of is.

Before this concierge job, I was a doorman in a hotel. The salary was chicken change, but I used to be tipped so much I could go months without touching my salary. And my former oga was so impressed with my work that when my current madam wanted to start renting this building, he recommended me to be the caretaker.

I don’t get tips anymore, but at least I don’t care about the rent anymore. I also have more time to spend with my family, so nothing spoils it.

My current madam lives in the United States, and she normally says she likes the way I take care of her building. And sometimes, like today, I wonder if she will just invite me and my family to japa abroad since she is so impressed. But my wife thinks I’m a prankster. Either way, I will continue to do my best and hope for the best. One day I will see a better opportunity that will change my life.


Hi, I’m Ama Udofa and I write the A Week in the Life series every Tuesday at 9am. If you want to be in the series or know someone interesting who fits the profile, fill in this form.

Linda G. Ibarra