It’s been a year now since our beloved mother, Hajiya Hauwa’u Oyarame Abdullahi Bello, Ozi Opokitipo Ozi Adiyaya, joined her ancestors. She passed on to eternal glory on January 19, 2019 at the age of 91 after a brief but difficult ailment that lasted four month.
For us her children, those were the most harrowing and traumatic months of our life, seeing our aged mother in pain but couldn’t help. May Allah grant her aljanatu Firdausi, amin.
Our mother was born into the noble family of late Alhaji Abdullahi Ozigi Ohiare, Ozi Avata, Ozi Opokitipo, Ozi Adiyaya and late Mama Aishatu Ohune Oziango, Ozi Ogu, Ozi Otaiki in 1928. Her parents came from renowned lineages in Ebiraland, and she was the first child of her parents.
As part of the social milieu in which she was born, her father wanted a male child as a first born to assist him with farm work but Allah in His wisdom blessed him with our mother. She grew under the care of her mother and tutelage of her father. Just like her mom, our mother was tall, well built, elegant, beautiful, witty and outspoken. Her father never for once regretted having her as the first child. She became his best friend and confidant. The only farm work she could not do perhaps was making ridges. All other things, especially harvesting, preservation, and sale of farm produce, she did so well. This she combined with household chores and assisting her mother with her cotton business.
My aunt in Kaduna, Mama Zuli, told me that our mother’s Ebira name Oyareme, was given to her out of her sense of duty and mental alertness, because she knows what to do at the right time without anyone’s prompting. Mama Zuli narrated to me an incidence that made their father shed tears of joy.
It was the year their paternal grand mother died. According to her, things were tight for their father that year and traditional burial rites of those days demanded so many rites of passage. One of such rites was the purchase of several yards of locally woven clothes to decorate the walls and floor of the deceased’s room. Our mother noticed that her father was worried and she silently went and bought the needed threads and weaved the clothes within 48 hours and brought them to her father.
Her father was overwhelmed with joy that tears rolled down his cheeks. He showered her with prayers. He prayed to Allah to always bail her out of any difficult circumstance in life. She loved her father so much because in most of her conversations, she always quoted him.
Mama Zuli considers herself as my mother’s first child. According to her, my mother’s first child died barely a week after he was born. Their mother felt bad at losing her first grandchild and so gave her out to our mother because she could not also bear seeing her obedient daughter pass through the pain of losing her baby. Our mother from then on suckled her baby sister and took care of her as her mother. She said most people believed that she was our mother’s first child because she and our mother’s late child were age mates.
Our mother served her parent till they both died in 1991. Even though she lived in a different neighborhood a bit far from her parent, she prepared their special Friday meals till they passed on.
Our mother had an elephantine memory. She knew virtually all the major compounds in Ebiraland. Nobody ever greeted her without her responding with the person’s clan’s greetings. Apart from traversing her father’s farm settlement at Upogo on foot, the involvement of her late cousin, Alhaji Gomina Oyibo in the politics of the sixties and seventies made her tour virtually every part of Ebiraland and knew most stakeholders on first name basis.
I recall vividly when students of the Department of History University of Ilorin would come to consult her on issues and events in Ebiraland and she would regale them with oral history perfectly.
She knew most of the folklore and major philisophical songs of prominent Ebira perfomers of yore. She dished them out while weaving Ebira clothes in those days. That’s why every advice she ever gave came with a wise saying and a relevant song.
She once told me two interesting stories. Some praise singers once came to their family house to sing for her father and people gathered to listen to them. After listening to their song, she told them that they didn’t know her father and their song did not do justice to his personality. There and then, she composed a new song and sang for her father and the crowd erupted in jubilation, including the praise singers.
The second one was about my father, late Alhaji Abdullahi Anako Bello of blessed memory. My father was the treasurer of the Ebira community in Akure for 40 years and a kobo was never missing. After the first 20 years, my father told the community at their annual meeting that he was resigning. The community pleaded with my father to continue because they dont know where to get another treasurer with his high level of honesty and prudence. My father grudgingly accepted to continue. As soon as he accepted, my mother rose to her feet, composed a song and sang in praise of his prudence and managerial ability and the crowd broke into jubilation and showered her with money.
One of my elder brothers used to tell me about my mother’s physical strength. He said she was admired at Iju, my father’s farm settlement of those days, especially during harvest time when women bring yams to market. According to him, she used to carry three people’s load to the market and she will still be the first to arrive the market. Her foot steps were said to be so familiar that people can identify her movement with the sound of her steps when she is approaching their stall.
Onyai was a disciplinarian. She never spared the rod to spoil the child. I was her last child and she never pampered me. I remembered an incident around 1980. My father had a policy of not enrolling any child into primary school except the child completes the recitation of the glorious Qur’an. Our elder brothers passed through that process. During our time, our mothers pleaded with him to allow us combine primary school with Islamiyya.
Alhaji reluctantly agreed with a caveat that it is an amana for them. I started primary school and became a truant at Islamiyya. Sometimes, I returned home around 4pm after parading orchards plucking mangoes, cashew nut and playing football. She warned me but I continued. She then set a trap for me where we played football.
One day, she just appeared from nowhere, grabbed and gave me the beating of my life. She dragged me while I was kicking and screaming straight to the Islamiyya and instructed the headmaster to deal with me after revealing to him where they can always find me if they don’t see me in Islamiyya. From then on, I never joked with Islamiyya again.
My father had four wives and to the best of my knowledge, they all lived peacefully with one another. In 2017, when my father’s senior wife and matriarch of our family, Hajiya Maryam Abdullahi Bello, died, I knew that my mom won’t live long again. We had earlier lost two of my father’s wives – Inya Rekiya and Inya Aminatu.
My mother and her senior were the remaining two in the family house and they were very close. She never really recovered from Hajiya Maryam’s death and in 2018, she lost her younger sister. It took a while before the news was broken to her. She used to lament the loss of her younger brother – Alhaji Yusuf Otaru Ozigi and now her sister. She was devasted.
When in October 2018 the condition of her leg deteriorated and I had to rush to Okene from Jigawa, she bore the pain with equanimity. She told me that she has run her race and she is prepared to meet her maker.
My mother belonged to that class of original Anebira, with all their characteristics – bold, beautiful, oratorical, lively and sympathetic to a good course.
In 2014, I performed hajj on her behalf because she was too weak to embark on that journey of a lifetime.
We lost a prayer warrior whose prayers kept us going. Insha Allah, we shall continue to reap from the harvest of her endless prayers even in her absence.
Nyatu Oyai as Bros MJ Shuaibu will always prefer me to say, but I grew to see my mom being called Onyi yaya, I say Nyatu Onyi yaya, Ozi Avata, Ozi Opokitipo, Ozi Adiyaya, may Allah grant you Aljanatu Firdausibijyai sayyidul wujud, sallahu alaihi wasalam.
Abdullahi Yahaya Bello sent in this tribute from Dutse, Jigawa State