August 18, 2019
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In a rundown street in the center of Maraba, a short drive from Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory Abuja, I sat down in a make shift shop waiting for my friend Peter turned guide who would lead me to the family I was going to meet. I saw him turn the corner of the street and approach me at the makeshift shop.

I rose to shake his hands and ask about his family. I noticed he was rather withdrawn, a bit uncomfortable. Nevertheless he told me the family I want to meet stay a few blocks down the road and we made to approach the building.

“It’s a sensitive business this interview you want to do” he elucidated as we made our way, starring at me intently, still clearly unsure of my intentions.

Extreme poverty, the topic I was there to research is a very complex and delicate affair, given that it touches the very core of the sufferers existence and over 86.9 million Nigerians are classified poor.

Peter my friend is a social worker, and he has devoted his life to the cause of these extreme poor persons. People who more or less cannot afford $1.50 a day.

Onwards we go and before long we arrive at a makeshift mud house with a collapsed side wall, the roofs crying for a change, the drainage was open and I had to cover my nose in order to keep from vomiting as I sighted human faces on surface level. I was uncomfortable; I struggled to make the necessary adjustment lest I make a mess of the whole event.

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As we me made to make the salutations, an elderly looking woman with a wrapper barely covering her nakedness comes calling- not because it was fashionable, but because the wrapper had seen better days and gotten torn in several places.

“Welcome” she saluted and made to clear the mess on a nondescript bench so that we could sit. Instinctively we made to help her do the clearing and sat ourselves down. For me it was an alien world, one we see in epic Nollywood movies. Except that in this case it was real and I had to make the necessary adjustment. This woman has a story and it is my job to help her tell it.

Peter introduced me and began to make small talk. The type an experienced social worker would make to wet the ground and to establish some level of trust.

Before long Peter told her who I was and what I have come to do. She heaved a sigh, the type that will tell you this unlucky woman has battled the elements for quite a long time. I knew there was a story and I need not prod her at all.

She told us she was Mrs Edet, how once she knew the happiness every young woman longed for. How she migrated from Calabar with her now deceased husband to Abuja in search of better opportunities. Once she had a dotting husband who was a good father to her two boys and girl. How he traded successfully in crayfish. Time was when, she told Peter and I, she had everything.

One rainy night, her dotting husband Mr. Edet missed supper, an unusual event. As if it was not enough, he didn’t even come home. She barely slept that night as she was beside herself with worry as to the situation of her caring Husband, Her breadwinner.

Word came early the following morning. Friends of her husband wearing mournful looks came visiting just Before dawn. The word was about her husband, he was dead. A stray bullet hit him as he made his way home after the previous day’s work.

And then things changed. She had to make preparations to bury her husband, plan for how she would fend for her children and make the best of life. At first, she told us, she was stoic. She learnt the nitty-gritty of her husband’s business from his friends and she was up and doing. She was buoyant. Her family was in safe hands.

Lightening does not strike twice in the same place is a very common axiom, but lightning twice struck at Mrs Edets’ family. Her first son Philip suddenly started convulsing one morning and she rushed him to the local hospital where they tried the regular treatments but her son kept convulsing. And thus began her journey to penury, her journey to abject poverty.

A mothers’ native love for the fruit of her womb will not allow Mrs Edet let go of her son; She kept faith. Perhaps she told herself there is just another expert Doctor who could cure her beloved first son Philip from his concurrent convulsion. And thus began trips from Hospital to Hospital; her business suffered, her children suffered, she herself suffered. Unsuccessful medical treatments, even radical ones can be very expensive, yet Mrs Edet labored to keep her son alive.


Philip would latter die in her motherly arms one evening. And once again Mrs Edet will have to pick up the pieces of her life, but this time she couldn’t, she was battle weary, life had dealt her a terrible hand. Perhaps there are still more terrors in store for her she mused, and thus begun her sliding into depression, one she still battles till this day.

Her two children lacking the needed parental upbringing that was needed at very important moments of their life took to the streets and the rest of the terrors of life were certainly unleashed on this helpless woman.

“What was her crime “she asked us?

“Where did she miss it?” she continued

We could barely keep from crying. Life dealt full circle with Mrs Edet. Frank her other son was shot by the police as he led a gang of robbers to attack a local bank, Eno her daughter is pimp by day and prostitute by night.

What has kept her alive is the food aid and medical aid that she gets from the NGO that Peter works with. But then the NGO send aids only when are they able to get finance from their donors. Peter would later confide in me that often times, he has had to keep the woman going with funds from his meager pocket.

And here is the story, the sordid tale of one Woman who has had to face life, the very elements we would not wish on our enemies. Poor Mrs Edet. Pitiable Mrs Edet.

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