One of the things that gives men, especially Nigerian men a lot of anxiety is owning a building of their own. An average Nigerian man’s believe is that he enters the club of real men when he has built his own personal house for himself and his family.
In fact, having a personal building is often used to gauge how successful you are amongst your peers as a man. Some men would even avoid some of their friends or alumni groups once he knows a lot of his friends and classmates are now living in their own homes. Actually, this is not only limited to Nigeria. Even abroad, buying a home is a sign that you are doing well even if you have to keep paying for the house for the next 30 to 35 years.
My question then is, what is it about having your own house that gives men a lot of anxiety in our society? From the part of Nigeria where I come from, even when you already have a modest home in the city where you live, your parents will start harassing you and make you realise you are yet to build a house in the village. They will mention names of their friends whose son just celebrated his house warming in the village. Even if you already have a home in the city, until you have one in the village, you are not yet a man.
My father has a home in the village since the 70s, but before he retired, he built another in the state capital where he presently lives. We were chatting over the phone recently and he said he has not visited the village in 2 years. At 87, travelling is now a serious burden. The house in the village is under lock and key. Yet, I am also expected to build a house in the village…so that I can feel like a man? The kind of rat race we put ourselves through in life is why some men die prematurely.
I was discussing with a friend living in the UK not too long ago. He said he has changed his mind about having a house in Nigeria. I asked why? He said; “look Kay, I live here in the UK, all my kids were born here. I go to Nigeria once a year or at most twice, why should I go and build a house in Lagos and lock it up. That’s a waste of investment.” He said at the end, who is going to inherit the house?
He gave example of his late elder brother who had a house in Lagos and built another massive palatial building in the village in Ekiti. Their Mum for a while lived in that building in the village until she recently died. He asked me, now that mansion is under lock and key. His brother’s kids are scattered abroad living their own life and one of them is a popular music video Producer/Director well sought after and friends of the likes of D’Banj, Wizkid, Davido and the PSquare brothers…which amongst them is going to live in the village in Ekiti?
I know an Uncle too, he’s an Architect. He built a mansion for himself in one of the highbrow estates in Lagos in the 90s. I remember attending the house warming ceremony of that house because it was also his 40th birthday at that time. Myself and my cousin were looking like zombies seeing the opulence and magnificence of that house. Uncle is in his late 60s now. He had all his kids abroad when he was studying in the 80s…sometimes ago, I think in 2015, he told me he was breaking the house up, converting some parts to 2 and 3 bedroom apartments for rent and a small part for himself and his wife…I was shocked. I almost fought him, asking how he can do such a cruel thing to the house I still admire and praying to build such.
He laughed…he said, aburo mo yara mi ni brain ni. I asked how? He said he was in the US and was having a chat with his first son and he referred to his house in Lagos as his son’s house…and the son said; “common Dad, dont call that house my house. It is your house and please before you die find something to do with it because I am not gonna be spending my money to maintain the monument you put out there.” Uncle said he felt like someone poured cold ice water on him.
Getting back to Nigeria, he got to work, redesigned the house, broke it all up and created like 5 small flats out of it and rented it all out. He and his wife now occupies a smaller part of the building. It’s just the two of them. All the children are all grown up and gone off to marry, living their own lives. Finally, he said, Kay I just want to enjoy my money till I die. Awon omo yen le muyan ronu…
I asked my friend, okay if you dont have a personal home in Nigeria now, does it mean when you retire you are going to stay in the UK? He said, when its time to retire and go back home, he would sell his house in the UK, buy a service apartment in Lagos and go and live there.
He said he would put it in his will that his kids should sell it off and share the money or they can keep it if they feel they want to be coming to Nigeria. He said what he would not do is build a house now and put it under lock and key or where relatives would be living and you will keep spending money to renovate because they would keep damaging it.
Really, is having a personal home a measure of success for a man? Should we not rather be looking at investment opportunities in commercial property ownership rather than cultural expectation for a man to own his personal house even when he is not going to live in it?
Its indeed a food for thought…
Kay Lord is the MD/CEO at Ceasars Communications Limited.
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