“If I hold you there”, “badger” (pronounced ‘baga’), “pikin wey no dey hear im mama word”, “talk o, make we see as we go take help” – just few of the sayings Aunty never went a day without using. Fondly called Nigho by some, Kato by aunty Nkiru, Mrs. Olivet or Aunty Patricia (by Adaora and I when we just wanted to hear “If I hold you”), and mommy or big mommy by hundreds of others because she truly was a mother to many, sometimes to people she (literally) picked off the streets.
Aunty never had a ‘no’ for anyone, friend or family alike. Her motto especially concerning material things was, “ of what good is this thing in my hand if I can’t use it to help someone?”
Her pots were communal, her heart as large as her massive smiles, and her hand always outstretched to give. Like palm oil, aunty brought everyone together. She was all for peace and togetherness, and would deny herself just to see that her people were comfortable.
She would get angry sometimes o, but give her 30 minutes and she would ask, “you don chop?” I remember once when I was out really late without telling her, and when I drove into the compound she said no one should open the door for me. I sat in the car, and just like clockwork, in 27 minutes the doors were opened for me and the first thing she said to me when I opened her door (after giving me the evil eye of course) was “I hope say you don chop”.
Aunty loved God passionately; she loved her family and mine too. It was never just words, it was actions too; she was my rock, my confidante, my sister, my mother, my friend.
She had gifts I will never understand – she would meet a (potential) boyfriend and go, “over my dead body for this one”, “this person isn’t serious”, or, “my spirit doesn’t accept this person” and then she’d stand back for me to either obey her or come back when I’d been burned by them. She knew all my friends, and became friends with as many of them who came close.
She disregarded the pain she felt to attend my graduation last year, and several times would mask whatever discomfort she felt so I wouldn’t worry. May and June this year are months I’ll relive as long as I live, because they were testimony to an extraordinary, selfless, larger-than life woman; my precious, precious aunty.
She fought cancer; by God she fought it. For over eighteen months aunty fought valiantly, smiling through her tears and pain, and trying to lighten every one’s mood. The nurses loved her, the cleaners, everyone.
When she wasn’t fighting we would gist, talk from early in the morning till we dozed off, I would endureNollywood movies, and she’d tell me the most hilarious stories. On one of those good days, I made her up, brushed her hair, and we had a mini photo shoot. Later that day when the pains started, she refused to cry, saying she wasn’t going to ruin her makeup, and then started scolding me for crying.
She was extraordinary, and I miss her to bits. Everything screams her name – clothes we bought together, I still see her walk into my room to ‘visit me’ like she would always do, she’s in my dreams, she’s everywhere.
Aunty’s left us too soon, a million years too soon, but she’s alive in my heart forever.