Meet grandma who es­tab­lished first ‘Mammy Mar­ket’

Mrs. Mammy Mar­ian Ochefu is wife of the late Mil­i­tary Gov­er­nor of de­funct East-Cen­tral State, Col. An­thony Aboki Ochefu. In this in­ter­view, the lady, who is be­lieved to have first es­tab­lished a ‘Mammy Mar­ket’ within a mil­i­tary bar­racks in Nige­ria, re­calls

Weekly Trust - - Weekend - Hope Abah, Makurdi Mrs. Mammy Mar­ian Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Ochefu: Satur­day, Jan­uary 28, 2017

Daily Trust: How did you get the name ‘Mammy’? Ac­cord­ing to the story told by my fa­ther who was a stew­ard to a white man, my mother was in labour while they were on work tran­sit to Ankpa from Otukpo so his master granted him per­mis­sion to go and take care of his wife. When my mother fi­nally put to bed, my fa­ther, in line with Idoma tra­di­tion, im­me­di­ately named me Ene’m, mean­ing my mother. When he later broke the good news to his master, the white man asked him the sex of his baby and he said Ene’m, so his master asked: “Is that your mummy? And my fa­ther said yes. That was how they ended up call­ing me Mammy.

DT: What is your ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion?

I stopped in Pri­mary four and then got mar­ried at the age of 14. I went to Holy Child in Adoka com­mu­nity of Otukpo lo­cal gov­ern­ment area.

DT: Can you re­call the story be­hind Mammy Mar­ket?

Af­ter I got mar­ried, I de­cided to do some­thing in or­der to earn a lit­tle money to take care of my­self so I started brew­ing enyi (lo­cal non­al­co­holic bev­er­age sim­i­lar to ‘Ku­nun Zaki’) busi­ness. The young sol­diers then, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, pa­tro­n­ised my busi­ness in Kaduna. I started at my ve­randa in Abakpa bar­racks, Enugu State, be­fore we moved to Kaduna. Af­ter a while, some top rank­ing sol­diers com­plained that the drink at­tracted flies to the sur­round­ing. So they asked me to stop mak­ing it.

Af­ter about a week, my cus­tomers be­gan to ask why I dis­con­tin­ued so I told them. Later they took me to one cor­ner of the 2 bat­tal­ion bar­racks and erected a make-shift stall for me. That was be­tween 1958 and 1959. When we moved from Kaduna to Ibadan I con­tin­ued the busi­ness, and they also made me an­other make-shift stall there. From Ibadan, we moved to Zaria and they still built me the stall, then we re­turned to Kaduna, to the first shop, be­fore we moved to La­gos.

At the time we went to La­gos, I had be­come so pop­u­lar that peo­ple would just say they were go­ing to mammy mar­ket to drink. I opened a big shop in La­gos. It was at that point that I of­fi­cially in­cor­po­rated the name as Mammy Mar­ket and got my li­cense. That is the story of mammy mar­ket in army for­ma­tions na­tion­wide.

DT: Can you re­mem­ber some of the young sol­diers that pa­tro­n­ised you then?

It is a long time now but I can still re­mem­ber my pop­u­lar cus­tomers like Matthew Adamu, Adama, Col. Idoko, Pa­trick Idoko, Paul Dick­son, and so on. Some of my cus­tomers then are dead now. Like I said ear­lier, Buhari pa­tro­n­ised me too.

DT: Were you the only woman mak­ing enyi for sale in the bar­racks then?

Yes. But when­ever I was go­ing on trans­fer with my hus­band, I would al­ways in­vite one of the Idoma women to take over the busi­ness while the name re­mained mine.

DT: What hap­pened to the busi­ness when you later be­came a gov­er­nor’s wife?

That was in Enugu but I still kept my Mammy Mar­ket shop. Even in La­gos, I still kept the shop for bu­rukutu and pro­vi­sions. But one of my sons has taken over the com­pany.

DT: Has the Army au­thor­ity ac­corded you recognition as the one who started Mammy Mar­ket?

No. I don’t want any­thing from them ex­cept that they should just rec­og­nize me. How­ever, I hardly go to the bar­racks.

DT: Did your hus­band sup­port the enyi busi­ness from the on­set?

Yes, he did. At that time, the only thing sol­diers’ wives did was to take food to their hus­bands at their work places in the morn­ing, af­ter­noon and in the evening if he is on guard. Then, the schools were far and the wives would take the chil­dren to school and bring them back. Be­tween 1958 and 1960, I used a small bi­cy­cle which I bought for less than one pound to ease my move­ment and I was so proud of it. I made the money from sell­ing enyi. I used to con­vey my chil­dren to and from school with the bi­cy­cle.

DT: What well did you know Buhari then?

Buhari was a nice man when we were in the bar­racks to­gether. He was a 2nd Lieu­tenant then just like my hus­band and the en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cer of the bar­racks. If he comes to su­per­vise san­i­ta­tion in one’s area and found it dirty, he would ed­u­cate the of­fender and cor­rect him or her po­litely. Since af­ter leav­ing the bar­racks, we (Buhari and I) have met at the air­ports on one or two oc­ca­sions, and usu­ally we would ex­change greet­ings as well as re­call some funny events from the past.

DT: You worked so hard to give your chil­dren the best, are you sat­is­fied with what they have be­come to­day?

Oh yes. My first child is a med­i­cal doc­tor, my first daughter has a masters de­gree in ed­u­ca­tion, the third is a pro­fes­sor and Vice Chan­cel­lor of a univer­sity. The fourth is an en­gi­neer, the fifth a lawyer, the sixth an en­gi­neer and my last baby is also an en­gi­neer.

DT: What would you say is the se­cret of your good and healthy looks at 75?

I take good care of my­self and also eat right.

DT: What kind of per­son was your hus­band?

He was a very nice man. From the time we got mar­ried till he died, he never raised a hand at me. When­ever we had mis­un­der­stand­ings, he would just look at me and keep quiet. He un­der­stood me so well. He was a kind man. He was also a car­ing fa­ther to our chil­dren.

DT: What do you miss so much about him?

We used to watch films to­gether. Each time I watch films now, I just rem­i­nisce that we should have grown old to­gether. I felt he shouldn’t have left at the time he did but God un­der­stands and I dare not ques­tion His au­thor­ity. He took me round the world - In­dia, Canada, USA, Malaysia, name it. We went to­gether on hol­i­days. So, I miss him a lot.

DT: Are you in­sin­u­at­ing that mil­i­tary rule is bet­ter?

I don’t know. Only God will help us. To­day, we are com­plain­ing that Buhari is not do­ing well. I want Nige­ri­ans to know that it is not easy to re­pair what had been bad for years. For in­stance, it would only take me a few hours to de­mol­ish this house but weeks if not months to bring it back to shape. That is what is hap­pen­ing in Nige­ria.

Nige­ria has al­ready col­lapsed but Buhari is try­ing to re­build it. You can imag­ine one per­son with bil­lions of naira stashed in his ac­count yet an­other can hardly af­ford N100 to feed. Can you imag­ine some states owe work­ers up to six months salaries? Teach­ers are not be­ing paid yet they ex­pect them to teach well. Is that pos­si­ble? My ad­vice is that gov­ern­ment should look into these mat­ters se­ri­ously.

Mrs. Mammy Mar­ian Ochefu Photo: Hope Abah

Mrs. Ochefu, dur­ing the days she pi­o­neered the ‘Mammy Mar­ket’

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