The two encounters between Joy Ifijeh and Governor Adams Oshiomhole; first on the street — where the governor asked her to ‘go and die’ after her goods were seized for blocking the road, and then at Government House, Benin — where she was compensated with a N2m grant and a job, has continued to generate mixed reactions among Nigerians. Ifijeh, in this interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, talks about her challenges and hopes
You look young, but you have a grandchild. How old are you?
I was born in 1973.
What do you do for a living?
I am a trader.
What was the total worth of your business?
I can’t say, because I buy goods from different markets and sell them to make money.
How did you feel the day the governor seized your wares: Did you curse him as you went home empty-handed?
No, I did not curse any one, but I was sad just like the day I lost my husband. That day, I cried to God, and wondered, where do I start from, where am I going to? I told my God to send my helper to me. I can’t keep on suffering till I die.
Did you feel bitter when the governor seized your wares?
Yes. I cried till daybreak. Marvellous put his hand on my head and said, “Mummy, it’s okay.” Then I replied him, saying, “Marvellous, let’s eat.” But he refused. “No, mummy, let us go to sleep,” he told me. I did not eat anything that day until daybreak.
How did you feel when the governor called you?
I lost strength that day, I won’t lie. I did not even get myself. I was surprised when government called me back. Now, I thank my God. I thank everyone in Government House, I thank Adams Oshiomhole, and I thank my God who used him to help me in this condition. I thank my brothers and sisters, and my cousins that helped me when my husband died.
When did you lose your husband?
I lost my husband in January 2010. He slumped in the office and died.
When did you get married?
We got married in 1990.
What was life like when your husband was alive?
Life was better then. From the time we married to 2005 when I gave birth to my last boy (Marvellous), things were better. But after then, I began to suffer; that was when he (husband) got married to another woman, a Yoruba woman, and things became difficult for me. My husband was from Iloje, in Owan West in Edo State. They had met in Ibadan when my husband was on transfer. My husband died in Lagos.
How many children did the other woman have for your husband?
She had five girls for him.
How many children did your marriage produce?
The marriage produced four children. My first daughter, Gloria, is 22 years old. The first boy, Bright, is 18 years old now. My second daughter, Elizabeth was born in 2002. My last boy, Marvellous is nine years old now.
Are your children currently schooling?
Yes. Bright has finished secondary school and is waiting to enter the university. My first daughter, Gloria, is married. Marvellous is now in primary three; Light of Life Primary School, in Ogida. My second daughter, Elizabeth, is in Favour Group of Schools; she’s in primary five. She stays with my sister.
How have you been coping with the upkeep of your children since your husband died?
We have been managing. I am the only one taking care of my children and paying house rent.
Has your husband’s family been of any assistance?
Yes, they have helped a little, but they are doing their best. On November 15, when I went to the village, one gave me plantain; another one gave me oranges and plantain also.
What happened to your husband’s gratuity?
They (Nigerian Police) has not given it to me. In fact, I went to Lagos twice, with my two sons. We went to the Ikeja office where we were asked to fill in some details about the date of employment and some other things. But till now, we have not heard anything from them.
Tell us about the experience you had with that truck pusher you said absconded with your goods?
This happened when I went to buy goods from the market in the village. I bought a full bag of pepper, a full bag of santana (starch), garri and yam. It cost me N25,000 in total. I gave it to a wheelbarrow man on Mission Road and I did not see him again. He just disappeared. I cried that day until the next day when I went to the market again to buy goods, before Oshiomhole saw me.
You were offered employment by the state government. Have you taken it up and where is your office?
I was offered employment to work with the War Against Indiscipline office.
Now that you have received various sums of money, what do you intend to do with them?
I don’t know yet, because I am still surprised and shocked. I feel so much joy. Now, I have to sit down and think about what I want to do with the money.
How did you feel when you heard you were all over the Internet and in the news media nationwide?
I was surprised, they even said the Peoples Democratic Party sent me N250,000, but I didn’t take the money from them.
Have you forgiven the governor?
Yes, a long time ago. I forgave him on that day he seized my wares. But I wondered where I would start from again, and I called unto God to help me.
Some people are still not happy with the governor, what will you tell them?
It is not his fault, because he used money to build that slab, but I didn’t put my goods on the slab.
What will you tell your friends who still trade on the street?
I told all of them to stop putting their goods on the road and on slabs.
Since the incident, you have become a popular person. How do you feel about it?
It is God’s wish; it is God’s work.