By Abdulwarees Solanke
As I wrote this piece, my earbuds burst to send salty water cascading down my cheeks. The droplets of warm water tears soon wet my wears.
It is the story of a mother hen that laid no eggs. Her ovaries weren’t good enough to release eggs any sperm can fertilise to carry a full-term pregnancy.
Yet, this hen hatched many. Her proxy chicken has grown into big cocks with vibrant and piercing crows in the dead of night and at dawn break to ginger the dreary and tired to live to pursue their destiny.
Their talons too are strong and can penetrate hard earth with seeking its good. This mother hen is now frail in body, enfeebled by the fate of barrenness.
But is still high in hope, the hope of ultimate success in this world and the hereafter. Who is she? She is Sabila Adunni Oladipupo, a childless woman that shields and feeds the children of others.
She is from Ikija, Abeokuta, where the iconic Olumo Rock is rooted. Her family house, Ile Oloya is one of the popular family compounds strewn around Olumo but now fenced off the tourist centre.
Most of such compounds have been pulled down or are now deserted remaining mere relics around the Rock. Does anyone, who enjoys night-crawling in Abeokuta from the early 70s till the dawn of 2000, remember Rocklanders Hotel? That talk-of-town hotel perched with Ile Oloya.
Back to Sabila, in her heydays, this mother hen was the talk of the town in Ikija and even beyond. She was bold and beautiful. She was also good at business. To an extent, we considered her successful among her peers and envied by all. She had dress sense and given the kind of environment she hails, she towers among women.
But….as a woman Sabila was floored by many of her because of the flaw of her inability to conceive a child of her own. Sabila, popularly called Maami Eko in her family compound from my estimation is well above or around 90 now.
If IVF and other artificial conception methods were popular in the 40s and 50s when she was in her prime, perhaps she would have succeeded in having a child. However, her ill luck in carrying a pregnancy meant marital instability for her. It also meant use and dump syndrome in her life.
In search of fortune and fruit of the womb, Adunni travelled far and wide, even to places in the North, like Gombe where she took residence for many years.
Of cause, as Maami Eko, she had also lived and traded in Lagos in clothes, liquor and jewellery too. The search for the fruit of the womb eventually drained her resources, preventing her from carrying on with capital-intensive businesses where she could sit in a big shop as a cash madam.
She was indeed cash indeed to the extent that famous musicians celebrated her with moving lyrics. To carry on, she relocated to Ita Oshin to open a small roadside shop.
There’s no business that is unbefitting in Mama Ekos’ lexicon. She traded in vegetables at Ita Oshin Motor Garage. Later she went deeper into Ope Oluwa to sell akpu, bread and eko.
Another flaw of Mama Eko is that her palms are too open. She is generous to a fault.
There’s nothing she cannot give away freely. Her soup pot and wardrobe are without keys, ever open to the hungry and clothelessness and for anyone to take anything they need.
But she is a no-nonsense woman. She cant stand the oppression of the weak. With her strong voice and charismatic presence, she advocates for the voiceless around her in her hey days.
The greatest virtue in her misfortune is converting her barrenness to being a builder of family bridges and a baby dump for mindless mothers who could not groom their children.
Sabila was a refuge for women who were poor in parenting skills. She is the easy resort of orphans. She became the habitual and itinerant omugo for young women without dependable mothers and mothers-in-law. Now, Sabila The Mother hen is frail, feeble yet strong in faith.
Wondering how I came to know so much about this woman of virtues? Well, I’m a direct beneficiary of this Charity woman. She is actually my aunt, my mother’s only female sibling. She shared a lot in common with Maami including in name. While Maami is Adufe she is Adunni.
Returning to her strength of faith, this is demonstrated by her resistance to selling off the land willed to her in the Oke Ata area. She believed her children will build it for her.
Living With Sabila:
Among her nephews and nieces, Maami Eko has a special liking for my mother’s children. They were actually like things although different in temperament with Maami being the patient, peaceful type but lacking in taste or finesse whereas Maami was more social and vocal in her youth.
When my mother died in January 1995, Maami Eko became the perfect fit that filled her vacuum. Anytime we were in Abeokuta for Ileya, my paternal family house where we killed our Qurban was always her permanent base.
She takes pleasure and pride in strapping my infant or toddler children on her back or holding the hands of ones that have started taking their ķ
Is Sabila Really Barren?
With the number of babies that she has nurtured and supported to live among the children of her siblings, friends and co-wives or crying children she has comforted with her milkless breasts when their mothers are not in sight, Maami can be said to have redefined barrenness.
When I left the boarding house in 1980 in my form three while being a student of Egba Comprehensive High School, Asero Abeokuta, I found comfort in the open floor of Maami’s abode in Ile Oloya, my maternal house in Ikija.
The Living Dream of Sabila:
Now Sabila is frail and slowed by age, but her dream of having a house of hers is still alive.
Recently, I with my brother, Alhaji Sarafadeen Solanke of Ogun State Signage and Advertising Agency, Mr Taofiq Ladipo famously called Apola in Abeokuta and environs, Taoheed Ladipo (aka Omo Alubarika) and Mr Maruf Bidemi Ladipo, (a LASU graduate of accounting and staff of an environmental consultancy firm in Lagos, Azmarineber) decided to visit her to pledge that we will see to the fruition of her dream whether she’s alive or dead.
We pray for her life and wherewithal. Full of joy, she was speechless by our commitment. And when asked to pray for us as we prepared to return to our bases, she rocked as a mountain of prayers and miracles.
This is my story of Maami Eko, Sabila Adunni Ladipo I now, especially, give the honorific Adunni Ologopupo.
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