By Vera Winns & Sonia Okere
Over five decades ago, the sound of distant bombings had become a constant background noise in the heart of South-Eastern states. The Nigerian Civil War was ravaging different communities.
Houses were burned, and many people were killed. However, on this particular day, when the first bomb landed on the soil of Ikot Ekpene, the residents started running in all directions, seeking refuge from the catastrophic attack.
Among them was a heavily pregnant woman, and while she was running, she felt sharp contractions around her waist. She quickly rushed to a safe place and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
Today, that girl who survived the Civil War is here to share her story.
My name is Rita Mbang, and I am the first child in a family of four. Although I grew up in a low-income family, we never lacked food because my parents were great farmers.
After the Civil War, I started school at Urban Central Primary School, Ikot Ekpene. Then, I proceeded to the Community Secondary School. I enjoyed my days in school. There was a female teacher who I so admired. I loved how she spoke, and wanted to become a learned and successful woman like her. However, after completing my West Africa Examination in 1986, I couldn’t further my education because there was no money.
I got married to Mr. Mbang as soon as I left high school. He was from Cross River State and was working as a police officer. After we got married, they transferred him to Lagos State, and that is how I found myself in Lagos.
Back in my village, I felt Lagos was a paradise. So, when I heard that we were relocating, I was so happy. The first place we lived was at Idimu Mobile Camp at Isheri-Idimu, but my husband was working at the Ojo Police Station.
His salary was very meagre. At first, I was a housewife, but when I saw that we were living from hand to mouth, I decided to look for a job. Unfortunately, I found none.
One day, while I was at the Ojo Police Station, I saw a vast area of land behind the building. When I inquired, they told me that it belonged to the government, and the wives of policemen were allowed to cultivate their crops there. So, that was how I started farming on the plot that was allocated to me.
The farming business
After I became a farmer, I fed my family with the farm’s produce and sold some of it in the market. In addition, I started working as a farm labourer to earn wages. I used to go to the farm as early as 5AM and stayed there until evening. I have done this business for 30 years now, and the results have been fantastic.
I gave birth to three beautiful daughters. When I married my husband, he was a constable, but later on, he became a senior officer. Mr. Mbang was a very good man and he loved his family so much. Sadly, he died in 2014 and left us heartbroken.
After his death, my in-laws took over the house he had built in the village. They abused and disinherited me for not having a son. The worst part was when they said I couldn’t take care of my daughters and that they would end up as prostitutes.
I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. A few months after we returned from my husband’s burial, we received a notice to vacate the barracks. On that day, I looked up at the sky and questioned if God was still there. I didn’t have enough money to rent an apartment. So, I started looking for help. Thankfully, God provided for us and we moved to a smaller apartment.
Sometimes, I wish my husband had built a house in Lagos, but I believe that one day, God will give my children a house.
Honestly, it has not been easy since I became a widow, but I thank God for everything He has done for us. Today, I have two graduates who are also happily married, while my last child is still seeking admission to the university.
Would you know that when it was time for my daughters to get married, their uncles boldly came to collect their bride price? If not for the respect I have for our tradition, I wouldn’t have informed anyone about the marriage.
Growing old is mandatory, and we become weaker once we hit a certain age. Nowadays, because of body pains, I can no longer work for long period of time. I hope to retire very soon and set up another business for myself.
In life, it is always difficult to find someone who would help you because everyone has different challenges that they are dealing with. So, if you are a widow or you are married to a man who isn’t earning enough money, don’t spend the rest of your life complaining about your condition.
Life is a fight for survival. Therefore, don’t sleep on the battlefield. Stand up and do something. It doesn’t matter if it is a small business or not. Just give it your best shot, and the results will amaze you.
To the lucky woman who married a rich husband, I would advise her to be wise. Money is finite. Instead of lavishing your husband’s wealth on liabilities, invest it in a business.
Also, build yourself up financially because no one knows what tomorrow holds. I wish everyone the best of luck.