Zainab Ejumakele Abdullahi: A Caring Mother, Three Months After


Abdullahi Yunusa

This is perhaps the appropriate time to reflect on the life, times, struggles, victories and enviable legacies of my dearly beloved mother, soul mate and friend, Mrs. Zainab Ejumakele Abdullahi (nee Musa), who went the way of all mortals some 90 days ago. At least I have recovered enough to put my thoughts together on the many indelible footprints that she left on the sands of times in the five decades and four years that she was here.

While I’m yet to fully get over the shock of her demise, a feat that can never be achieved, I think I have reasonably overcome the initial shock that took hold of my entire being.

For very obvious reasons, I have always prayed, catered, cared and related more with my mother much more than I do to my father. I think my father should be blamed for that. Baba would always admonish us to handle Mama like an egg. Baba is always concerned about Mama’s welfare. He constantly boasts of his ability to take good care of himself without bothering any of us for any form of monetary assistance.

My dad taught us how to treat our mother with love, respect and care. As an Asthmatic sufferer, Baba always ensured that Mama wasn’t exposed to any trouble that could trigger her occasional crisis. Ironically, though our mother, but we all saw and treated her like our baby. Mama surrendered her freedom and liberty to us. She gave us the privilege to ‘control’ her. She hardly took any decision without first consulting us. Mama had enormous confidence in her children. She never doubted their sincerity and ability to offer her useful counsel on issues about life generally.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have had to call Mama on phone to abruptly stop her from going on with whatever plans she had. Expectedly, after the initial murmuring, Mama would simply say, “If I don’t listen to my children, who else would listen to”. I had sentimental attachment with my mum. Amidst our endless ‘quarrels’, we hardly stayed a day without reaching out to each other.

Mama never joked with the welfare and upkeep of her kids. Mama once paid an unscheduled visit to me way back on campus. Mama was the last person I ever expected to see in my school. On seeing her from afar, I nursed the idea of ‘scolding’ her for coming to see a grown up like me in school without prior notice. But Mama’s response melted me completely. “Attah mi, ejuweanumi le”, which simply means, “My father, I was only missing you”. That was my vintage, loving and phenomenal mother.

I remembered returning late from work one day to meet my mum seated by the gate to the first apartment I ever rented in life. I sought to know what she came to do. Mama simply said I came to rejoice with you for this rare feat! Ha! A single room, mattress, rug, cooking stove, two pots and curtains were all I had in the room, yet Mama saw it as something big and code-named it a rare feat? Mama didn’t only spend the night with me in my house, but ensured that we had something to eat.

Mama’s many attempts to visit me during my three-year stay in Minna, Niger State were unsuccessful as I repeatedly turned down all her requests. Then came a period I was down with malaria fever. Mama had already arranged her bag when my elder brother, Abdullahi O HarunaHaruspicece told her to forget as he had arranged to go see me. Mama was disappointed! She just wanted to be around her children all the time.

There was never a dull moment with Mama. Those who knew her can attest to the fact that she lived for everyone. Mama was usually the unofficial comedian or MC in any gathering. As a lover of music, Mama hardly heard any danceable bit before she hit the dance floor. She was full of life.

Mama sacrificed her everything, including her health just to guarantee the wellbeing of her children. I have watched her toiled very hard to assist my dad in his quest to see us through school. Imagine a woman who would prefer to go hungry than see us stayed away from school. Mama have had to take loans from the different associations she belonged to just to finance our education. Her happiness was to see that we never lacked the basics as undergraduates.

I still recall the period I was knocked down by a commercial bus driver in the ancient city of Zaria on my way back from school. It was way back in 1988. My brother, Abdullahi O HarunaHaruspice had taken ill and was taken to the hospital by Mama. It was my elder sister and I who made it to school on that fateful day. On approaching the Zebra Crossing point in front of my school, I freed my hand from my sister’s grip and ran across the busy road. In no time I saw myself in a pool of blood. Passers-by who knew us came to my rescue and rushed me to the hospital. In no time, Mama appeared from nowhere. Not minding my blood-drenched school uniforms, Mama carried me in her bosom, praying to God to keep me alive.

For the long period of six months that I was hospitalised, Mama stayed with me day and night. It was only Mama who could come close to me. I barred everyone from coming close. Mama knew how to win me over. She knew where my “mumubottons” were. The only time that Mama could rest was whenever I fell asleep.

The world never saw Mama’s era of painful labour. They all thought Mama’s harvests dropped from the skies. Regrettably, Mama left when it was time to reap from her years of painful labour. Kai! Mama could have stayed more with us. Mama had always joked about me buying a car and getting a driver for her. I never knew if she meant it, but I was damn serious about doing that.

Mama would always want me to drive her around each time I came visiting. The last and final ride I had with Mama was on the 5th of June, 2016, 21 clear days to her death. As usual, Mama maintained the “owner’s corner” as I drove her to the venue of her monthly community meeting in Nyanya, a surburb in Abuja. I never knew that was to be our last ride together in flesh and blood.

Please pardon me for boring you-readers- with such a long narration. Mama’s story cannot be compressed into a single piece. She was an enigma that left so much to be spoken and written about. Let me apply the breaks for now. May your soul find rest in Allah’s bosom, Ameen.