We had this househelp when I was growing up. She used to be my
nanny until I outgrew the need for one. Since everyone around me
called her ‘maman dan’, i grew up calling her that too. She was a
southern kaduna Christian.
I was told that she’d been working in our household since I was a
toddler, that’s why there wasn’t any period in my life when I didn’t
know her. She was always there when i was growing up. She was
always there when I came back from school when my mum was
away at work. She was usually the first person to notice if i
suffered a fall and got injured and there were bruises or wounds on
my body. She was the first person I’d tell about the recent
happenings at school before my mum comes back from work.
No matter what I had to say, she was patient and she paid attention
with keen interest. She was practically family. Even though she
was basically just an employee, I considered her more family than
all my cousins or uncles and aunties, because she was always
there for us, me most especially.
This amazing woman practically helped raise me. She even taught
me basic traditional etiquette like not giving or receiving anything
from anyone using my left hand. Even when I was being a difficult
child, she never smacked me even when no one was around, but
she often scolded me. My childhood was a lot happier because this
woman was around.
I remember her crying the day I was going to leave home for
boarding school in 98. Then all of a sudden, when I was almost 13,
the Sharia crisis of 2000 happened in kaduna. I was away in
boarding school when the all the carnage and bloodshed took
place, it was really bloody. Relationships between Christians and
muslims deteriorated. There was a mass migration within the town
of kaduna. The Christians were gradually moving away from the
part of town where Muslims were majority and the Muslims were
doing the same too. Gradually, there became a Christian part of
town and a Muslim part of town. There are still a few places that
were religiously diverse till today, but the division is hard to miss.
In the aftermath of the crisis, some people started spreading
baseless rumors about how the southern kaduna people who were
predominantly Christian ‘allegedly’ intended to avenge their losses.
The rumors was that muslims households that employed them
should be careful because they could easily poison them as form
of revenge. In the wake of these rumors, my dad decided to fire
He told her that her services were no longer required
and that he never wanted to see her again. Her crimes: because
she was southern kaduna Christian. That was her crime. This is
what religion does to people. It creates imaginary enemies out of
good people. It didn’t matter to him that she practically helped raise his kids all those years he was constantly away.
It never mattered to him how she dedicated almost 12 years of her life working for him. 6 days a week, leaving her own kids to fend for themselves. No matter the paltry sum he paid her as wages, it still wasn’t enough to compensate her for what she did to us. And just like that, a strong pillar of my life was gone. We missed her as much as much as shemissed us.
She still kept in touch with my mum for a while even after she was
forced to leave us. The last time I saw or heard from her was when
my mom died. There was still a strong bond between us even then.
I’ve been thinking about this amazing woman of late and she’s one
of the few reasons why I intend to travel to kaduna before the year
I don’t know if she’s even alive or dead, neither do I know the exact area where she stays, but I believe that there are one or two people who might be able to help me locate her. Some stupid religious differences might have separated us then, but I owe a lot to this woman. I might never be able to repay her for what she did for me during my childhood but I believe me tracking her down will surely be the first step. I just hope she’s still alive.