By Abdulwarees Solanke
As I write this piece morning, my eyes became misty. It is the story of a motherhen that laid no eggs. Yet, this hen hatched many. Her proxy chicken have grown into big cocktails with strong talons.
This mother hen is now feeble but is high in hope, the hope of ultimate success in this world and the hereafter. Who is she? She is Sabila Adunni Oladipupo
She is from Ikija, Abeokuta, where the iconic Olumo Rock is rooted. Her family house, Ile Oloya is one of 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 hey days, Sabila was the talk of town in Ikija and even beyond. She was bold and beautiful. She was also good in business. To an extent, she is considered a success among her peers but 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 inability to conceive a child of her own.
Sabila, popularly called *Maami Eko* in her family compound from my estimation be well above or around 90 now. If IVF and other artificial conception methods were popular in the 40s and 50s when she was at her prime, perhaps she would have succeeded in having a child. 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, Maami travelled far and wide, to places in the North, Gombe for instance where she took residence for many years. Of course as Maami Eko, she had also lived and traded in Lagos in clothe, liquor and in jewellery too. The search for fruit of the womb eventually drained her resources in carrying on with capital intensive businesses where she could sit in big shop as cash madam. She was indeed a cash madam 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 Eko’s 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. There’s nothing she cannot give away freely. Her soup pot and wardrobe are always open for anyone to take anything they need. But she is a no-nonsense woman. She advocates for others with her strong voice and charismatic presence anywhere she finds herself. Her greatest virtue is converting her barrenness to being a builder of family bridges and a dumping ground for others who could not groom their children. She 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 mother-in-laws. Now, Sabila, the Mother Hen is frail, feeble yet strong in faith.
Wondering how I know so much about this woman? Well, I’m a direct beneficiary of this Charity of a 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 sell off the land willed to her in Oke Ata area. She believed ‘her children’ will build it for her.
Living With Sabila
Among her nephews and nieces, Maami Eko has special liking for my mother’s children. They were actually alike 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 mum died in January 1995, Maami Eko became the perfect fit of my mother.
Anytime we were in Abeokuta for Ileya, my paternal family house was always her permanent base taking pleasure and pride in strapping my infant or toddler children on her back or holding the hands of ones that have started taking their steps.
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 the dream of having a house of her own is not shattered.
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 to her that we will see to the fruition of her dream whether she’s alive or dead .
We pray for life and the wherewithal. Full of joy, she was speechless by our commitment. And when asked to pray for us as we prepared to disperse and 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 specially give the honorific Adunni Ologopupo
Abdulwarees Solanke, Deputy Director and Head of Strategic Planning and Corporate Development Department, Voice of Nigeria is a fellow of Chartered Institute of Public Diplomacy and Management