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Searching for the real Nigerian woman of old


Money is never the be-all and end-all for her, although very vital but she believed in integrity and a good name.

I was in Jos, Plateau State for seven months, away from Port Harcourt in 2010 and stayed in a very beautiful estate that could pass for a vacation lodge in a foreign country.

The owner of the small house, a retired civil servant, very polished man who lived a stone throw away wanted to convert the apartment to a guest house and told the wife of his plans and without arguments, the woman hastened to their church’s vicar to report her husband.


She couldn’t understand why he didn’t establish a lodge for loose living according to her in his youthful years but waited until he got hoar-hairs before he decided to do so to soil the good name they slaved for years to build.

Is anything wrong with running a guest house? I don’t think so but she didn’t nag him to death or make merchandize of his faults before her pastor and people. She appealed to his sense of machismo.

The woman of old believed in industry, she may not have years of formal education but she learned a trade and instructed all of her children to do so to secure their future.

All of her children woke up very early in the day to plan the days undertakings. She understands that beauty and being smart aren’t enough to make women successful, they must have better judgment and experience at whatever they do.

Sometimes I ask, is intelligence sui generis only to the woman of old. They really understand the principle of wheel and deal, finding the middle ground and accommodation to reach goals.

Nobody guts it out like the woman of old. Even though she is courteous enough to allow her son’s friends visit the house and discuss with her daughters when he is in town, she doesn’t put up with them stealing chats with her daughters in his absence.

That’s not the forte of the Nigerian woman of old.

On no account will young people come over when they have uncompleted responsibilities back at their own homes, she challenged them to go back home.

She went to school and confronted bullies pestering her children.

I hark back to the days when ladies wouldn’t be allowed to fry (euphemism for to perm) their hairs by the women of old, but plated their hairs with threads and looked beautifully Nigerian and to the days when women who chewed gums were considered loose especially if they made the annoying tooting sounds while chewing.

These days little girls chew gums whilst speaking to elders. I think of the days when little girls were taught how to sit properly, covering legs properly and how to walk well without dragging their feet, those days when girls knew the dress for all occasions, formal and informal.

Nowadays, while some mothers dress up sensibly, their children in tow wear clothes almost of the same kind to the birthday suit outdoors. Small children sashay flaunting their state of undress.


In this era, mothers ask their children in the city why they haven’t come back home to build estates (without asking what their children do for a living), they compare their children with those children in same village who have bought four-wheel-drive vehicles (without asking what those other children do), they put so much pressure on their girl-children to marry, not minding to whom and whether these children are mentally ready for marriage and most of all if the girls have been well-trained to take care of the home, cook meals aside from rice and stew (that’s what most women can cook these days, pounded yam meals are eaten outside the house) and have the character for marriage.

I see many ladies with fierce temper using the king’s profanity swiftly. Children were important and it didn’t matter what level of formation they were in. They never put a name to any stage of pregnancy as an excuse to abort children.

Children were gifts from God and looking after them dignifies the giver of life. In our day, many a woman has procured abortions without which she wouldn’t have been accepted into the women’s estate. Many a mother encourages children to have Paramours not husbands.

Some moons back a friend’s father went bankrupt and the mother paid most bills which she passed off for the father to do. She told the children that the money came from your father and when she sent money back to her parents during festive seasons when the husband couldn’t afford to do so at the time, she affirmed that it came from my husband.

What manner of man wouldn’t love a woman like that for eternity especially as men love their wives to be their cheerleaders?

When I was Head Teacher Primary in Port Harcourt many women without asking told me that the school fees for their charges came from them and various with capacity for feeding children only without capacity to pay other bills (not that I support such) say I run the home. Joining issues with men seems to be a new virtue to behold (womanliness) forming a mini-universe against men.

This woman’s husband did not accept some of his friends but she did not go to town haranguing him for his choice of associates.  


One day when he planned going out to-the-tiles to bend-his-elbow with his consorts, she told him that she had prepared a tasty pepper soup and chilled his brand of alcoholic drink and needed him to refresh himself before he ventured out. These happened on more than one occasion.

No need for second telling, the man stopped seeing those lots. No venting of spleens, invectives, use of bad language.

The woman of old knows how powerful women are and that relationships are built on friendship and respect, not on food and libertinage. The last two after all can be procured.

She accepts that marriage compliments, not defines the lives of women and they aren’t fit only for the kitchen and the other room. The woman of old prepares and serves her husband’s meals at set times, no excuses.

In our day they make excuses and when the men find their ways into the hearts of other women, they blame it on spiritual forces instead of accepting responsibility.

At times I wonder what could compel women to sacrifice themselves in a bombing campaign. What did their new generation mothers teach them?

From time to time I wonder why there are too many men in the political scene and smaller number of women and even though just about all men in such scene eviscerate the resources of state, their wives say nothing?

We see bad mannered clerics preaching hate messages but their wives say naught. Others have turned the Lord’s Temple to dens of robbers and thieves but their wives enjoy being called mummies. They say nothing.


I find it hard to figure out why boys are fit to go to school and little girls fit only to hawk wares and be girl-brides?

I felt sad seeing this little girl who couldn’t be up to my eight years old son Ojo-Ajogwu Shammah or to my 10 years old daughter Unekwu-Ojo Darina days gone by selling water in Abuja. Where is government to protect her from mothers with love for shifting burden?

How come in a country with huge population as ours there isn’t someone in the north with the standing of Laila Dogonyaro any longer? Who is there to mention in other regions?

Why there aren’t women programmes in Nigeria to the type like Better Life for Rural Women in content, scope and publicity even though that program did well to women mostly in the city staggers my imagination?

Why should wives of political persons settle to dress by the book for occasions concerning women and not of the issues to be discussed?

How come women see other women as Queen Bees and refuse to collaborate with them towards a common goal. Could that be the reason, Sarah Jubril got only one vote in a country with more women than men?

Women have stopped talking their children out of bad behaviors and where the uses of words fail, have also stopped using the age-old whip out of love to teach children lessons. Boys walk with shirts unbuttoned and wear ear-rings now. 

Can we ever reclaim the Nigerian women of old?

Abah wrote from Abuja.


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