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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

PATIENCE ARHANMUNDE – A Supermom’s story of struggle and survival

Back in the 1960s, a man named Paul Iyaye, an indigene of Owan East LGA in Edo State, got married to a beautiful young woman. He loved her so dearly, but when she couldn’t conceive a child, his love for her vanished. After waiting for a couple of years, he married a new wife, who gave birth to a baby girl.

The first time Mr Paul Iyaye set his eyes on the fruit of his loins, his heart was filled with so much joy. He named her Patience because he had waited for her arrival. After Patience was born, her mother had other female children, and that made her husband unhappy. So he married a third wife, who would bear him a son.

“Although my father was a very kind man, he lacked the wisdom required to keep his home together. My mother gave birth to nine children, but instead of loving her, he was constantly abusing and maltreating her. He abandoned the responsibilities of raising the kids, and she had to bear them all by herself. Our home was literally a war zone because the three wives were always quarrelling and fighting. It got to a point when my mother decided to leave the marriage. So, she abandoned her children and moved on with her life.”

After Patience’s mother left, her father didn’t give a damn about the children she left behind. They struggled to feed and clothe themselves. As time went by, the first wife who was kind to them died suddenly, and life became very hard.

“I always cry each time I remember how my father’s last wife treated us. We were just young children and didn’t deserve all we went through. The same father who loved me so much when I was born suddenly became a stranger to me. He didn’t care if we ate or not. Instead, he diverted all his love and attention to his third wife and her children. There was a day that I harvested pepper from his farm, and he took it from me because it was his third wife that planted it. On another occasion, he collected the firewood I brought from the farm and gave it to his wife.

The woman was not a nice person at all. She hated us for no reason. There was a day I bought five chicks and planned to rear them. Would you believe she threw them away? Her wicked acts were unbearable. So I started praying for God’s protection every day. “

Being the eldest child, Patience started looking out for her siblings at a tender age. She worked on people’s farms and did other menial jobs just to provide bread for them. Those children lived like orphans in their father’s home. Meanwhile, their mother wasn’t aware of the hardship her children were going through, and there was no means of contacting her.

Patience had her primary education at Arokho Primary and Secondary School in Owan East, Edo State. She said her days in secondary school were memorable. After she completed class four, her father refused to pay the tuition fees for the next class. So, that was how she dropped out of school.

“While growing up, my dream was to become a nurse or a doctor. Initially, my father promised to send me to the university, but he didn’t keep his word. My stepmother poisoned his heart against us. She made him sponsor only her children in school.

She was very manipulative, and my father obeyed everything that she said. I used to work so hard on his farm, and at the end of the day, we were not allowed to eat the harvested crops. I’m someone who can’t tolerate oppression, so that’s why I was always fighting for our rights.”

After Patience dropped out of school, she continued to struggle for survival. Since there was no peace in her father’s house, she prayed for an opportunity to leave that place. Her prayers were answered when her uncle visited their home.

“There was a day my uncle, who was an army officer, visited us. Unfortunately, he arrived when there was a serious commotion in the house. Then, when he asked my father the reason for the fight, instead of stating how they were maltreating us, he just said, “If I’m found dead today, just know that it was Patience that killed me.”

When my uncle asked for my side of the story, I told him everything that was happening in the family. When I finished, he pitied me and my siblings. A few weeks after he left, he sent someone to pick me up. So that was how I came to Lagos and lived with his family until I met my husband.

Many years later, my father realized all the wrongs he had done and apologized to us. We forgave him because it was very obvious that his third wife manipulated him spiritually. He included us in his property will before he died, and his third wife is still causing havoc among his children.

In 1988, Patience got married to Mr. Patrick Arhanmunde, who is also from Edo State. Their marriage is blessed with five children, although they lost one of their sons.

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“My husband was a police officer when I married him. After we had our four kids, he lost his job due to a false allegation at his place of work. Back then, we were living at Alausa-Ikeja police barracks, and I was running a petty provision store business. Due to the allegation, my husband and four of his colleagues were arrested. They stayed in the police cell for a while before they were released. While the case was still on, I used the little money I had to pay the lawyers to speak in his favour.  My husband didn’t have a dime in his savings, so at the end of the day, I spent all the money I was using to run the business.

One week after I gave birth to my last child, we lost the accommodation at the barracks. We were at home when some police officers barged in and started throwing our belongings outside. At that time, my mother was around, and we begged those men to give us some time to pack our things. All our pleas fell on deaf ears. It was a rainy day, so I asked them where they wanted me to go with the baby, but they didn’t even pay attention to what I was saying. So we had to sleep in the corridors for a few days before my husband could rent a one-room apartment at Ayobo-Ipaja Lagos.

While we were rejoicing about the new apartment, we didn’t know that the roof was leaking. After the landlord collected the rent, he was supposed to fix the leakage with the money, but guess what? He disappeared. It was during the rainy season, so it rained almost every day.

So at night, we used to cover ourselves with nylon bags before we could sleep. My baby suffered a lot during that period. He had pneumonia due to excessive exposure to the cold weather. It was a very bad time, and we struggled to keep the baby alive. Thankfully, God intervened, and his life was saved.”

After Mr Patrick Arhanmunde was dismissed from the police force, his family went through hardship and starvation. On several occasions, he watched his children cry out due to hunger pangs. Meanwhile, Patience’s provision store business had crumbled, and they had no other source of livelihood.

“After being jobless for a while, my husband started a commercial bus business. Since the bus didn’t belong to him, the bulk of the money he earned was paid to the owner’s account. He worked very hard, but we couldn’t afford three square meals per day. I cried and prayed to God to send a helper to us. I tried applying for jobs but got none because I’m not a graduate.

So, I started selling sachet water. I used to carry my baby on my back while hawking around the streets. The business didn’t make me much money, but I could brag about earning 500 naira every day. It got to a point where I started questioning God for making my life so difficult. After experiencing hellish treatment in my father’s house, I wondered why I still found myself sailing on stormy waters.”

Patience’s first step toward a breakthrough started after her neighbour asked her if she knew how to cook a delicious meal. She said yes, and that was how she introduced her to selling food by the roadside.

“I started this canteen business with less than 10 cups of rice, and for more than two weeks, I didn’t have up to three customers. At the end of the day, I used to take the food back home. Although it was very frustrating, I made up my mind to continue. Besides, there was nothing else I could do at that time, and I was already tired of begging for financial help.

I have always known that a major secret to success is consistency. Therefore, I kept going to Iyana- Ipaja junction until one day I met a customer whom God used to advertise my business. He was a commercial bus driver, and after he ate my food; he told his colleagues that it was more delicious than the food of the other vendor. So that was how all the drivers came to taste it, too. When they confirmed it was delicious, they started patronizing me daily. Thankfully, that was the last time I went home with unsold food. Due to the increase in demand, I started cooking larger quantities of rice and sold them all before the end of the day.

I thank God for directing me to this line of business. I’m feeding my children and sponsoring their education with the profits I make. My husband hasn’t found a good job since he was fired from the police force. He used to work in a factory located far away from home and his salary was 30,000 naira. The money was not even enough to feed the family. So he was always borrowing money from people. However, when I started making profits in my business, I became the breadwinner and told him to quit the job. My long-term goal is to open a big restaurant and employ people to work for me.”

The major lesson to learn from Mrs. Patience’s story is that, irrespective of where you come from, you can still be useful to yourself and your family. Her husband and children are very proud of her because of all the sacrifices she has made for them. She said if she had the opportunity to meet an influential figure, she would choose to meet the wife of the governor of Edo State, Mrs. Betsy Bene Obaseki, and Mrs. Claudiana Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the wife of the Lagos State governor. Patience doesn’t work on Sundays. She relaxes at home and enjoys watching Nigerian movies with her children.

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If you are scared of the challenges of running a business, then you might never start one. Patience said that the food business consumes a lot of her time. She wakes up as early as 3 am to cook different delicacies, and she usually completes that routine between 6 and 6:30 am. After that, her children would carry the food to the location where she sells it. Then she goes there by 8:30 or 9 a.m. to attend to the customers.

“Honestly, if you don’t enjoy cooking, this business will be very stressful for you. When I was younger, I used to cook a pot of food within a few minutes. However, I am 52 years old now, and my body is getting weaker. I have been selling by the roadside for twenty years now, and it has not been easy.

Another challenge that I am experiencing is the recent increase in the price of food items. Nowadays, after going through the stress of cooking and selling, my profits are usually very poor. Still, some customers don’t care if you are making a profit or not. Instead, they would expect you to dish out a larger quantity of food to them for 200 naira. Honestly, the business is becoming very challenging, but I’m still praying that the prices will go down soon.”

Finally, I want to advise all women who are in difficult situations to keep their faith alive. Life is in phases, and no condition is permanent. I believe that heaven helps those who help themselves. So, what are you doing to help yourself? Start doing something, and God will honour your efforts and bless them.

During hard times, you might be tempted to run away from your husband and children. Don’t yield to it. If you are married to a good man, stay there and help him. Also, invest in your children, and I pray you’ll reap the fruits of your labour someday.”

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