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Friday, February 23, 2024

EDITH NGOZI OFANA

With income from a small fruit business, this Supermom gives life to her children!

It is 5 o’clock in the morning, and the streets of Agege, a Lagos suburb is already bustling.

Some of the residents are rushing to work, while others are going to the various bubbling markets. Amongst them is a beautiful woman named Edith. Although she slept for just three hours last night, Edith still had to wake up early to beat the traffic.

 Edith runs a fruit business and is hurrying to Arena market at Oshodi where she gets her supplies. She does that every morning except for Thursdays and Sundays. After buying fruits there at lower prices, she resells them at Cement Bus Stop in Dopemu.

Edith has been doing that for the past ten years.

Now, let us take a sneak peek into the life of this hard-working woman and into the many battles she has fought.

Edith’s first battle started 54 years ago when she was born. At that time, her parents resided in Anambra State, in Nigeria’s south east. Although her father is an indigene of Oko-Ogbele in Delta State, her mother hails from Anambra. While her mother was still pregnant, her husband emphasized that the baby should be a boy. In those days, there was no ultrasound device to detect the gender of the foetus, so the couple had to wait till the child was born. At the end of the nine-month journey, a beautiful baby girl was born.

The first time her mother set eyes on her, she was so happy and grateful to God for sending a princess to her. But her husband’s reaction was different. His hope for a son having been dashed, he was totally indifferent to the arrival of Edith.

Edith grew up without experiencing any form of fatherly love. He wasn’t just a bad father but also an abusive husband. He used to beat up his wife, torture her emotionally and their marriage was a mess. After living in Anambra for many years, he decided to relocate to Delta State, but when he asked Edith’s mum to go with him, she refused. She had tolerated his abuse for so long, and she felt that if she followed him, he might do something worse to her. So, that was how he left his wife and child and never asked after them again.

After Edith’s father left them, her mother struggled to take care of her. She was selling petty items to sustain her family. After a while, new suitors started asking for her hand in marriage because she was still very young and beautiful. So, she accepted one of them and got married again.

“I followed my mother to her new husband’s house because there was no one else to take care of me. At first, everything was going well. My step-father looked after me and paid for my education. However, everything changed when my mother started giving birth. She had seven children for him, and there wasn’t enough money to take care of them.

 “After completing my primary education, I couldn’t go to secondary school because my step-father said he would rather pay his children’s fees instead of mine. So I stayed at home and assisted my mom in selling things in the market. “

While growing up, Edith’s dream was to become a nurse. She told her mother about her desire to further her education. Unfortunately, her mother’s business wasn’t flourishing, so she sent Edith to another family to work as a maid. The family had also promised to send her to school.

“I stayed with them for two years, but guess what? I saw hell in that place. I worked as a cleaner, caregiver to their children, errand girl, and cook. I used to wake up as early as 4 a.m. to clean the house and prepare food for the family. After doing that, I would bathe and feed the children before taking them to school.

“You can call me Madam Cleaner because I was expected to wash every dirty item and clean the house. As a growing child, I was bound to make mistakes, but do you know that I was punished for even the slightest mistake? I was even punished for the mistakes that their children made.

“In that house, I was starved, beaten, flogged, and insulted. They made me feel like a slave. I was even accused of stealing. When I couldn’t bear the maltreatment any longer, I ran back to my mother. The only good thing they did for me was to pay my training fee. So, I learnt auxiliary nursing skills while living with them.”

After Edith returned to her mother and told her what had happened, she felt sorry for her. But a few months after her return, one of Edith’s paternal uncles requested to take her to Lagos State. He said an auxiliary nurse position was available in one of the hospitals. After receiving her mother’s consent, Edith was taken to Lagos to work in a hospital owned by an Indian. Her boss also offered her accommodation in his apartment.

“My Indian boss was my major issue while living in that house. He wanted me to sleep with him, but I refused. He was always gazing at me in a lustful manner. What annoyed me the most was that he would touch my sensitive parts whenever no one was around.”

“He didn’t give me any breathing space, and his attitude was a very big problem for me. At that time, I was still a virgin, and my mother had warned me against premarital sex. I just couldn’t imagine myself sleeping with another woman’s husband, and at the same time, I couldn’t caution him vehemently because I didn’t want to lose my job.”

While growing up, Edith was a very beautiful young girl. Everyone who saw her complimented her natural beauty. She was called names like Black Beauty, Ebony, mamiwata, Fine Girl, Black Queen, Asa nwa, Miss World, etc. However, her mother warned her not to take it all to heart; otherwise, she would fall into the trap of deceitful men. So, whenever the Indian man pestered her to sleep with him, she would remember her mother’s advice.

“My boss’s wife was very nice to me, and I couldn’t betray her for any reason. I wanted to tell her about her husband’s attitude, but I was scared of her reaction. I thought that she might decide to throw me out or fight with her husband. So, I kept quiet since I didn’t want any trouble.

I started avoiding my boss, but it was challenging because we lived together in the same house. I wanted to leave but had no money or accommodation in Lagos. So, I kept praying for God’s intervention. They say that everything that has a beginning also has an end. One day, I went to the market, and as soon as I got back, I saw my madam waiting for me outside. She was furious that I had stayed in the market for too long. So, she asked me to pack my belongings and leave her house, and that was how that chapter of my life closed.”

After losing her job, Edith was worried about the future. Of course, she couldn’t return to her mum and step-father because they were still struggling to feed their seven children. Her uncle took her to stay temporarily with his girlfriend. While she was there, they got information that one of her mother’s distant relatives was looking for a maid. So, she was sent to stay with another family.

The woman was a journalist, while the man was a senior officer in the air force. Her madam loved her so much. When she discovered that Edith was a school dropout, she employed a lesson teacher to teach her and also registered her to write WAEC. Edith was so happy, and she took her studies very seriously.

The male lesson teacher at some point deviated from teaching and started making sexual advances to Edith. But she ignored him. After the examination, she came out in flying colours.

 “People used to say that beauty attracts favour, but my case was different. My good looks only brought me trouble. When I started living with this family, everyone was friendly to me, especially the man of the house. They bought me new clothes, shoes and fed me properly. As time went by, the man changed dramatically. He started making sexual advances, and when I said no, he got furious. He changed his attitude towards me and became very rude and violent. He would complain about every single thing that I did.

The one that broke the camel’s back was when he tried to rape me. On that day, my madam had travelled to London, and I was sleeping in the room with their last child. Suddenly, I felt someone’s hand moving on my body, and when I opened my eyes, it was him. He grabbed me and tried to undress me forcefully. I fought with all my strength till I was able to escape from his grip. Then I dashed into the toilet and locked the door. I stayed there and cried till morning.”

Edith’s boss offered her a large sum and pleaded that everything should remain a secret. She collected the money and gave it to her uncle. She told him that the money belonged to someone. After that incident, she assumed that her boss would stop disturbing her, but she was wrong. He continued till his wife returned. Although Edith didn’t narrate the rape incident to her madam, she noticed her husband’s strange behaviour and became suspicious.

“One day, my madam locked me in a room and brought out a knife. She threatened to kill me if I didn’t tell her the truth. When she asked me if I was sleeping with her husband, I said no. Then I narrated everything that had been going on behind her back. She was so angry and broke their wedding pictures and other things in the house.

“She called their family members and told them that she was divorcing her husband. In the past, he had slept with her friends, neighbours, and maids, but she forgave him. So, this time, she vowed never to forgive him. The commotion was so much that it got to the point that their divorce story was published in the newspaper.”

At this point in Edith’s life, she started wondering why every good opportunity she had was messed up because of her looks. While she was still trying to solve the puzzle of her life, a young man came into the picture and stole her heart away. Edith met Mr Clement Ofana Liful at Ikeja Country Club. Her madam took her there on several occasions. It was love at first sight, and before the twinkle of an eye, she got pregnant for him. There is still another exciting twist to this story, and it is better to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

“After my madam divorced her husband, she started making plans to relocate to London with her children. Surprisingly, she wanted me to travel with them. That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that knocked on my door. She processed my international passport. I became pregnant while we were still processing the visa, and when I told my madam, she begged me to abort the child. Yes! She asked me to forget about my fiancé and prepare for a brighter future in London.

Would you believe that I said no? My first love blinded me, and sadly, I missed that opportunity. It has been over thirty years, and I have never seen such an opportunity again. So, each time I reminisce on everything that happened, I’m convinced that it was the devil’s handiwork.”

When one door closes, another one opens. After Edith accepted Mr Clement’s proposal, they travelled to Delta State to perform the marriage rites. At that time, her dad had passed on, so he met her uncles, and her dowry was paid. After the couple got married, they had their first child in 1990. Later on, she bore six more children.

“I never intended to have many children. It happened because the various family planning methods that I used failed. I tried the implant method, but it caused a severe abscess. I tried the injection method, and it made me bleed more than twice a month. After experiencing different complications, I decided to practice the natural method the best way I could.”

After Edith got married, she felt that the era of sexual harassment was over because every reasonable man is supposed to respect a married woman. Sadly, life only brought unreasonable men into her path. While working in private hospitals, most male doctors tried to lure her to bed. Due to their misconduct, she resigned from different places of work. Then it got to a point when her husband told her to stop working for people and start a business.

Over twenty years ago, Edith started a fruit business after giving birth to her third child. Her husband supported her with the initial capital and in managing the business. He was a very loving husband and a good father to his children. Sadly, three years ago, they lost him to the cold hands of death.

Since his demise, Edith has been the only one catering for her children with the profits earned from her business. Two of her children are married. So, right now, she is responsible for the other five. Her third child has graduated from university, the second to last has just completed her WAEC, while her last born is still in secondary school.

Edith, with children and grandchildren

“My life as a widow has not been easy, but I’m grateful to God for being there for me. I have no uncle or aunt that is willing to assist me. They don’t even care if I’m alive or not. So, that is why I work hard to put food on our table. As a businesswoman, sometimes I spend my business capital on family needs. When my husband was alive, he used to give me money to buy fruits. Thankfully, I have built a good relationship with some customers at Arena Market. They give me apples and watermelons on credit, and I pay them after selling the products.

“I go to the market as early as 5 a.m., and I often return by 7 a.m. After washing the fruits, I take them to Cement Bus Stop by 8 a.m., and that is where I sell them. I don’t sell on Sundays because I must worship God and rest my bones. Meanwhile, Thursdays are for general sanitation. “

Every business has a challenging aspect. Edith sells perishable items, and sometimes if customers don’t purchase the fruits on time, they get spoiled, and she has to bear the loss. The weather conditions also affect her sales turnover. Therefore, she makes fewer sales on rainy days.

“I want to advise all women never to be idle. Your children are gifts from God, and He expects you to give them the best you can offer. If you are among those women who depend solely on their husbands to meet all their financial needs, please repent today.

“Cast out every spirit of laziness and start doing something to earn money. It doesn’t matter if your husband is alive or not. No one knows what will happen tomorrow, but at least you should be prepared for the unexpected. “

Edith is a devout Christian, and she loves to pray fervently. Whenever she is not working, she spends her free time watching movies with her children. To outsiders, she is just another fruit seller by the roadside, but to her children, she remains the one and only SUPERMOM that rocks their world.

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