Home ownership and the pressure to live up

There is always some unspoken expectations that one is meant to live up to. Grow up, get college education, marry, have children and own a home – not necessarily in this particular order.

In some part of the world, there is a system in place to assist working citizens get on a property ladder through loans if one has a job to guarantee debt repayment. This system sometimes assumes that all adults have common sense and would only take on appropriate debts they could afford.

In Nigeria, this is a whole different story. There is no established mortgage loan except for those who work for the government and a few well-run private companies. So if a Nigerian has a home, there is a very good chance it is owned outright as you get to build the house from scratch.

This could be exciting opportunity to design one’s own home to taste. However, it also means that to own a home is an exceptional privilege as Nigeria goes, in most cases life savings have gone into it.

A friend, shortly after started working, joined a micro finance group whereby a set monthly deductions is taking from her salary. The idea was that when it gets to her turn to collect the sum, it will be substantial enough to take on a significant project.

Hannah is a teacher, work full-time with three children and renting 2 rooms (not to be confused with 2 bedroom). She is a content person and happy with her family. She wanted to use the huge chunk of money to buy a land and build a foundation on it – this is what she feels she is expected to do, husband works at a nearby Teaching Hospital as a lab assistant and has been spending quite a lot of his income to get higher qualification, he would not be able to contribute.

“I’d use this money to start up a business as a means to generate extra income, and the business will serve as an investment to add on to – this is likely to make more financial sense than embarking on a project that one is well aware it’s not going to get off the ground.” I said.

“Why do you bother about what people say anyway?” I asked Hannah. Hannah worries that she would end up like her own parents who are in their 70s and still renting. Her parents made a choice to spend their money on educating their children. They may still be renting but they had no burden from any of the children and happy with minimal old age stress.

If it’s any consolation, without those many years of renting of about half a dozen houses while I was little,  how would I ever get to meet so many interesting co-tenants? They, without a doubt make my stories a lot more colourful.

Not so bad.



Categories: Africa, Family, Nigeria

Tags: , , ,

5 replies

  1. FK, thanks for the replies.
    About my family, they experienced the civil war. Iboland does not have the major cities of the West like Lagos or Ibadan, or the North like Kano and Kaduna. They therefore have to leave their ‘homelands’ and go elswhere to make a living, at the back of their minds is to always have a safe haven in the event of ‘trouble’ (like crisis or ethnic/religious riots, or elections) to scurry for safety and take refuge. Though they like to pretend and cover it up with the excuse of “maintaining one’s roots”. That is why they have two homes. I think it is a waste myself, as they hardly spend any time in the village (Christmas and Easter, if they feel like).

    I think if you belong to one of the smaller ethnic nationalities of Nigeria, two homes would be the norm, as you will have to leave your homeland to settle elsewhere to work. If you are a native of Lagos or Kano, or some such city, you are ‘lucky’ enough to make do with one.

    As for a Nigerian nanny state, I’m not in favour of it, because as it is state and federal institutions are already severely abused, the allocation of oil blocks, the privitisation of state parastatals. The money from these sell-offs are meant to benefit the populace, it doesn’t and despite it being reported, nothing is being done about it.The state subsidy that is meant to benefit the public who use oil, most of it goes to those who re-import the oil.

    You saw how America was rocked with and plunged into a severe economic downturn due the ‘mortgage crisis’ preceeding a general recession. They only managed to get out of that due to everyone having to ‘tighten their belts’ and tough economic reforms being put in place. Nigeria is notorious for wasting money on all levels from governments (building cities), to families (building second homes). So if some sort of national body was created to assist families to get homes, it would be abused to such an extent, when the whistle is blown, Nigeria will be like Greece, where all the economic mismanagement is now coming to haunt them. For Nigeria this will be catastrophic, until we can demonstrate we have the structures in place to check such gigantic abuse and stamp it out, it would be better to forget about it.

    Nigeria is a rampantly and unashamed capitalist gone mad society. This is why I liked the late Awolowo, his policies were leaning towards the socialist end of things, to provide a basic standard of living for people. I tend to favour a model whereby essential staff (like teachers, medics, firemen etc) are provided with accomodation or subsidised housing as part of the package, to compensate for the relatively low wages.

    Women tend to be very practical and pragmatic, as the example you provided has shown, but to ‘spare the blushes’ of their husband. They allow him to make the financial decisions, even though they are in many cases not the best for family. They are smart enough to have something tucked away, and have their own plans to save the day, when the husband’s plans amount to ‘zilch’ (nothing).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I can see how the Igbos have lost trust in one Nigeria and the habit of keeping two homes, well Nigeria has to do a lot more to convince many of its citizens.

      Yes, we do need a form of system that is totally unbiased to help in some way of advice so the little resources that people have can be put into best use.

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  2. I read this, Hannah is in a hard situation. The fact that her husband is chanelling all his efforts into qualifications, this may massage his ego and pride, but even if he did pass his exams first time. He still has to perform better than his colleagues who may also have the qualification he is after, then he has to wait for his appraisal. With office politics there is no guarantee that he will receive a pay increase due to being more qualified and taking on extra reponsibilties, meanwhile he has 3 kids growing who aren’t waiting for him to bring in extra money. Even if he does get the increment, it probably won’t be as much as he’s hoping for.
    I think your idea about starting a business is better than waiting for your turn to draw money from the pool of funds. By the time that occurs, the price of land may have already gone up. At least with a business you can actively look for ways of increasing your income.
    Their situation is an eye-opener for me because they both have ‘respectable’ jobs, but are still living in a precarious manner. One would have thought with all that education between them they could have secured something more ‘solid’.
    I don’t know if it is my father’s generation or Igbo insecurity, but all 7 of his brothers and sisters maintain 2 homes. One in the hometown (it’s really a village) and one in the city they live in (my Dad lived in Lagos), but all 7 of his brothers and sisters worked outside Igboland (some in Lagos, others in Port Harcourt). I don’t know if this is the general case with Nigerians. ( I remember you mentioning that folks in your village have a house in the city too, is that typical of villagers in the West? They must be doing well, because in my hometown only the professionals could do that)
    It is somewhat unfair that some people have more than one, where whole families can’t even afford a flat to themselves.
    In Germany, renting is the norm, few people own homes. In the UK, most people own homes, but it is becoming alot more difficult to buy your own home, as the locals are being priced out of the market by wealthy foreigners (from the Far East, China, Russia and the Middle East). The council flats you talked about are in short supply as single parents or poor foreigners with families they can’t support throw themselves at the mercy of local Councils to house them. Therefore the average working class Briton, has to rent in London, and the rents are nearly as much as mortagages if not more, some are even losing hope at the prospect of ever owning their own home. This is causing tension and resentment. Hence the rise of UKIP (United Kindgon Independence Party), who have as a main point, to drastically curb migration to the UK.
    So tension and stress are everywhere. Though at least in the UK, there is constant electricity and drinking water, which makes life alot more bearable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you jco for the read.

      Maintaining two ‘homes’ is typical for farmers in the west, both home in most cases is not up to one as toilet facility, borehole, electricity likely to be missing from both homes. I think this is wasteful as standard of living could be a lot better if focus is on maintaining one home.

      Then again, one of the main reasons people have two homes was so they could enjoy the urban infrastructure such as electricity, school, and good road in town.

      Having a home is seen as being successful, that is great if one could afford it. The pressure at home is unreal and people get into tricky situations because of misplaced priorities.

      Like

    • See the examples you gave of your family, the same happens in the west that it boggles mind how people don’t foresee the result of their misplaced priorities.

      Using the UK as an example, you know how govt and media would comb every issues so as to help citizens? For example a few years ago when there was zero down payment on properties and many people who clearly shouldn’t have jump into the ‘opportunity’ did, well, the house got repossessed when they can’t meet up with the repayment schedule due to many reasons – here you see govt pouring advise to those who have ears with the hope that many will yield to advice.

      Now, in Nigeria we don’t have that, and absolutely no scheme to help get anyone out of ditch. But what I have seen was people getting out of their way to embark on project they can not afford.

      For example an uncle lived in a church, he is a senior pastor so had a free Mission House with his family of six. But he feels he should have a home of his own for retirement, no problem, so he poured all of his savings to this project, finished it about 12 years ago but remained locked up because it’s just walls and roof. He is 54.

      His wife at the same time embark on a building project, pouring all of her savings into this too, she has a provision stall at the market, she has been doing the business for about 20yrs, just after high school. She is doing this so to show something for her hard work – great.

      So five years ago, the uncle realised he needed something more to supplement his salary for the kids’ education – he wanted to buy some land in Ondo for plantain and cocoa, he ran from post to pillar – neither could liquidate their empty projects as that would mean huge loss. Family chipped in, he got the farm.

      Every term he moans about school fees – but only now realising that he should not have wasted his savings on a property that would not generate additional cash flows for the family immediate needs.

      Uncle’s story is one of many.

      You see people in the UK talk about nanny state, whoa, Nigeria seriously needed that! Someone to do all the analysis and present it to the public so as to help them make informed decision.

      Like

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