Mama Tayo, a fat short woman, whose poverty condition had made her look older than her age, finished cooking and began to scoop the hot rice into a cooler with a big flat plate. Her stew was almost done and she quickly rushed to stir the stew to prevent it from burning. She was sweating profusely and she quickly bent down to wipe the runny sweat off her brow with the end of her wrapper to prevent it from dripping into her food. She straightened up and examined her counter now. Everything was in place. There were transparent buckets of cooked beans, spaghetti and a smaller bowl of plantain on the counter. Another brown bowl containing fried fish and meat was placed below the counter and she took one of the meat and threw it into her mouth. As she chewed it, she checked the clean dishes and cutleries and she was certain that she was ready for the day. As she finally took the pot of stew down from the traditional stand containing hot coals with two small rags, she lifted her head when she heard someone walk in.
Beaming that her first customer for the day had finally arrived, she approached him and cheerfully greeted: “Customer, good morning o.”
“Good morning, madam.” The man said as he took his seat on the long bench. “Abeg, food don done?” He asked.
“Yes o… Rice dey, beans dey, spag dey, egusi dey, efo dey, okro dey.” She said excitedly. “But I wan put water for fire make eba now.”
“Okay, abeg give me rice, beans, plantain, fish and kpomo for three hundred naira.” The man stated.
“Okay.” Mama Tayo joyfully returned to the other side of the counter to serve her customer. By the time, she was done serving him, another customer stepped in and as if he just discovered that he was in the wrong shop, he quickly withdrew. Mama Tayo quickly went after him to call him back as politely and sweetly as she could, but the man refused to be enticed, he just shook his head, took several steps forward and entered the next restaurant two shops away. Mama Tayo was so pained that she tried so hard not to show it.
She remained outside now and began to watch several customers trooping in and out of the other restaurant named Madam Susan’s Kitchen. The restaurant was not only bigger than hers, it was beautifully painted, had nice furnitures and waitresses in T-shirts and trousers that it was quick to attract customers unlike her own restaurant which looked dull, unattractive and badly in need of a renovation. Mama Tayo’s hatred for Madam Susan ran so deep that she always prayed to God that the rival restaurant should be gutted by fire but God had been so unkind not to answer her prayers.
Mama Tayo ground her teeth as she watched customers continue to troop in and out of her rival’s shop and most of these customers were well-to-do, that they came in all sorts of nice-looking cars, unlike hers which was always frequented by poor-looking or struggling men who were always trekking or arriving on motorbikes and hardly had enough money to patronized her. But why? Mama Tayo thought now. Why Madam Susan? Why must it be this yeye Benue woman? Not only was Madam Susan beautiful, she also dressed so well and one could perceive her perfume several shops away. Sometimes, Mama Tayo didn’t have to see Madam Susan arrive in person, all she had to do was perceive her expensive perfume then she would know that her arch enemy was already in the area.
Mama Tayo was very suspicious of Madam Susan. In fact, she suspected that the woman was into charms and black magic, if not, how would she have been able to buy two lands and build two duplexes just from a restaurant business? How come? That was not even all, Mama Tayo had also learnt that the woman even owned two Jeeps. She wore expensive materials and jewelries and Mama Tayo was really convinced that the woman must belong to an occult group! Mama Tayo knew that her own cooking was not bad because her husband had always praised her cooking skills before untimely death took him away, but yet, her customers were few.
Mama Tayo began to fume. She was anxious to know the secret behind her rival’s success. How was she able to attract rich men to her restaurant? How? Her own mini restaurant looked like a local bukka while Madam Susan’s was the true definition of a sophisticated restaurant. While Mama Tayo offered her customers water in jugs to wash their hands into bowls after eating and had to shake their hands dry as they leave, Madam Susan had several sinks located in strategic angles in her restaurant where her customers could wash their hands with sweet- smelling liquid soaps and later wipe their hands clean with a air-blowing machine.
Everything was just right with Madam Susan while everything was just wrong with her. Mama Tayo had thought of going to Madam Susan and asking her for the secret of her success and even begging her to show her the way but her pride wouldn’t let her. She was still thinking about Madam Susan when her customer emerged through her white curtains and pulled out his wallet.
“Ha customer!” She smiled warmly now. “You don finish?”
“Yes.” The man said and handed her five hundred naira then began to pick his teeth with a toothpick.
“Hope say the food sweet well-well and you belleful?” She asked as she fished into her waist apron pockets for two hundred naira change.
“Yes.” He nodded in an indifferent manner and collected his change.
As he left for the road, Mama Tayo quickly yelled after him: “Abeg, come again o…customer…” she chuckled.
The customer simply acknowledged her by lifting a hand without looking back. Mama Tayo smiled, and just then one of Madam Susan’s waitresses approached her now holding one thousand naira in her hand.
“Mama Tayo, good morning.” The girl greeted but Mama Tayo gave her a terse look.
“Ehn…good morning, na wetin you want?” She asked.
“Abeg, you fit change this one thousand naira for me?” Asked the girl, stretching the money towards her.
“Why? Upon all the customers wey una get this morning, una no get common change?” Mama Tayo frowned.
“Most of them na one-one thousand dem dey bring come.” The girl replied.
“Ehen…na how much una dey sell una plate of rice sef?” Mama Tayo curiously asked now.
The girl gave her a puzzled look then answered: “Fried rice or Jollof rice with salad na eight hundred naira, with chicken lap and plantain, 1500, na wetin happen?”
Mama Tayo’s jaw dropped open now and her eyes grew so round that they almost budged out of their sockets. “Eight hundred naira for ordinary rice and salad?! Na wetin una dey cook? Na golden rice una dey sell?!” She was shocked.
“Mama Tayo, abeg I no get time. Quickly help me change this thing, customer dey wait for me.” She anxiously said, glancing back towards the restaurant.
“I no get change.” Mama Tayo answered now, closing her mouth. The price of Madam Susan’s rice had even made her more furious and had succeeded in completely ruining her morning.
“Ahan…” The girl gave her a confused look. “No be so so change I dey see inside your apron so?”
Mama Tayo quickly pushed the opening of her apron pocket close. “I say I no get change, abi na by force? If I give you this change now, na wetin I go dey give my customers when dem come?”
The girl gave her a disgruntled look now and said: “Na God go help you.”
“Ehn, na God go help you too!” Mama Tayo retorted as the girl turned and walked away after eyeing her. When the girl was out of earshot, Mama Tayo suddenly exclaimed to herself in amazement. “Eight hundred naira for just rice and Salad?! And with chicken and plantain, one-five! One-five! Na im I dey sell rice, beans, plantain, fish and kpomo for three hundred naira? Now, tell me, how I wan take blow? How I wan take upgrade when na so so hungry lion dey come my shop? And my rice even dey plenty pass her own o and yet, people still dey rush am!” Then she lifted her hands up to the heavens with her elbows on her stomach as she asked God: “God, but why? Why? Na wetin I do you? I dey pay my tithe o? I dey pay offering too? I dey even sweep church and yet this yeye omo Benue woman just come out of no where come chance me anyhow. For my shop, na only ten customers I fit get in a day and the rest of my food go either spoil or my children dem go chop am finish. God, you no dey do me well o. I don dey do this business for six years now, yet I never upgrade! To see profit sef, na die! But this yeye witch just pack enter here two years ago and now, see her life! Just see her life! Shey she dey pray pass me?! She better pass me?! She dey dance for church pass me?! Abi na because she go university?! God, why you dey do me like this na?! I never suffer enough? Since my husband die, na this business I take dey take care of my five children? I dey use am feed them, put cloth for their back and even pay their school fees and yet no improvement for my life! Na like this you wan leave me? You want make I dey stagnant forever? You no want make I also enjoy the fruit of my labour? Me sef wan drive big car na. I wan buy land too… God abeg na, open way for me…abeg.”
Her eldest son, Tayo, nineteen, who was just returning from the football field with his friends saw her and said as he approached: “Mami, na so madness take dey start o. You dey outside dey talk to yourself like this, you know how people take dey look you?”
Mama Tayo dropped her hands now and shot her son a scornful look. “You dey craze? Na that one be your good morning? You just commot from house like that this morning. You no even tell person where you dey go.”
“Mami, na field I go. You no say I dey go play ball every Thursday morning na.” Tayo answered.
“You go play ball? No be your workplace you supposed go? I don enrol you to be apprentice for aluminum shop but you just no wan serious with your life at all!”
“Wo, Iya, forget that one.” Tayo dismissively said, slinging his damp shirt on his shoulder as he glanced into the shop. “Mami, shey food dey? Your boy dey hungry o.” He rubbed his stomach.
“Mami, good morning ma.” Tayo’s friends chorused, bending down to touch their toes as a sign of respect.
“Na chop una wan kon chop so, abi?” Mama Tayo asked with a frown, knuckles on her hips.
“Yes ma…” Some chorused while others nodded.
“I hope say una bring my money for the last food wey una chop on credit?” She gave them a serious look.
“Yes ma…we bring am…” They said and quickly began to gather the money by giving it to one of the boys. When they had gathered the money, the boy handed it over to Mama Tayo and she licked her fingers, straightened some of the rumpled notes and began to count.
When she was done counting, she gave them a questioning look. “Ehen? E never complete, e remain seventy naira.”
A fat boy scratched his head now and nervously answered as he shyly stepped forward: “Mami, na me, I go pay that one later…my money don finish for now.”
“Biodun, you know say na you dey chop pass, yet na you no dey gree complete your money. See how you don fat finish on top my food. Your mama cook reach me?” Mama Tayo asked and the other boys snickered. “Better bring my complete money when next you dey come.” Finally tucking the money into her apron pocket, she added now: “Just know say no meat for you this time, Biodun. Oya eyin boys, make una enter.” She beckoned to them with her hand and entered her shop and the boys began to hail her as they trooped in. They quickly occupied two long benches, facing each other and discussing the match they had played as they waited to be served.
When Mama Tayo was done serving them, she left the noisy shop for them and stepped out again to monitor the rich and plenteous customers trooping in and out of Madam Susan’s restaurant. Secretly, she tried to entice some of them to hers but they simply ignored her or shook their heads in refusal. Issh! Why were Madam Susan’s customers so loyal to her?! That woman must have charmed them all! Her own customers were almost useless and most of her regular customers mostly bought food in credit and when they had increased their debt, instead of offsetting them, they suddenly vanish into thin air, never return to her restaurant, and all Mama Tayo could do, was send endless curses after them.
As she was thinking, she heard someone hailing Madam Susan and she suddenly returned her attention, and with a look of disgust, she scrutinized her rival now. Madam Susan was chubby, tall, chocolate in complexion and was clad in a bright orange butterfly gown with a black handbag to match her heel shoes. Mama Tayo could perceive her perfume even from that distance and her hatred for the woman seemed to effortlessly increase as her envy grew. Swallowing her pride a bit, she approached the woman as she began to unlock her car.
“Madam Susan, well done o.” She greeted with a false smile that didn’t reach her eyes, keeping some distance between them. She didn’t want to go too far from her shop because she wanted to be able to hear if anyone was opening her pot. She didn’t trust Tayo, her son. That boy was good at stealing extra meat whenever her back was turned.
Madam Susan looked up from her door and beamed genuinely when she saw Mama Tayo. “Mama Tayo, good morning. How are you?” Her accent was lovely.
“I’m fine.” Mama Tayo answered. “This your car looks different from the one I saw you with last week.”
“Oh yes… This is actually not mine. It belongs to my husband who just returned from Ukraine three days ago.” Madam Susan simply replied. “Mine developed a fault and is currently at the mechanic’s shop.”
“I see…” Mama Tayo said with a tight smile. “It’s sha fine…” She insincerely complimented.
“Thank you.” Madam Susan replied.
“Ehen…I wanted to ask you o… I heard that your food is very expensive, is it true?” She asked with her knuckles on her hips.
“Well, I wouldn’t really call it expensive since all my customers can actually afford it…” Madam Susan replied then asked in curiosity now. “…or did any of them complain to you? Maybe I should look into the prices.”
“No o…not at all o… I was just wondering if as a good neighbour that you are, that you’d be willing to share the secret behind your success with me.” She asked with a smile.
“What do you mean?” Madam Susan seemed confused.
“I mean if you will tell me what you did that makes you sell this much and even at a higher price? Tell me, do you sprinkle spiritual water every morning before you open? Or did you bury something under your shop? Tell me, I swear…” Mama Tayo touched her tongue and pointed at the sky. “…I swear, I won’t tell anybody. I’m very good at keeping secrets!”
With shock written all over Madam Susan’s face, she suddenly exclaimed: “Jesus!… Is that what you think of me, Mama Tayo? That my business actually thrives because I’m into diabolical things? Well, Mama Tayo, I can’t say that I’m really disappointed, but so you know, the secret behind my success is God, determined savings and good planning, that’s all.”
“That’s all, kpere?” Mama Tayo skeptically asked.
“And you have these many customers and even sell your food at exorbitant prices?”
“Yes, it’s all God.”
Mama Tayo gave her a disgruntled look that showed that she didn’t believe. “Okay o, I’ve heard.” She simply said.
“Do take care.” Madam Susan said and got into her car.
As she drove away, Mama Tayo flinched her mouth at her. “Shioor! She thinks I’m a child that will believe such nonsense! This woman is very selfish o! She doesn’t want to tell me because she knows that I’ll blow more than her! Nonsense! God abi? Is it not the same God that I’ve been serving for the past thirty eight years? Abi her own God is different?! Shioor! She should not worry. Me too, I’ll find my way! I’ll find my way and I’ll shock people in this neighbourhood! By the time I start, they’ll know that Mama Tayo has arrived! Let them wait and see!” She said as she adjusted the shoulder of her blouse and just then, she heard the sound of her pot opening. Quickly turning, she rushed back to the shop as she yelled: “Ha! Tayo! Mo gbo! I heard it! Ole oshi! Thief! I knew you’d do it! Thief!”
Two months later, after constant complaining, one of Mama Tayo’s bosom friend, Bimpe whose business was also thriving, finally offered to help her out and she took her to a native doctor in a local village close-by since Mama Tayo was obviously tired of waiting on God and wanted an easy way out of her dilemma. After telling the Baba her problems, he did some incantations, told her to pay for two white fowls, a small tortoise, a black goat and other minor things that would be needed for the sacrifice. After bathing her in the blood of the slaughtered goat, the native doctor gave her a small calabash which had a red cloth decorated with cowries and a single feather tied around the neck of the calabash. Then he said in a loud voice as she knelt down before him holding the pot in both hands.
“Every month, whenever you are on your period, you must wash your private part into this pot and you must prepare all your food with it. After your customers finish eating, collect the water they washed their hands with and fill a bigger calabash which I’ll give to you. This will make sure that those customers will keep coming back and will continue to patronized you until they die. In fact, the more of your food they consume, the more of their destinies they exchange and you shall prosper.”
“Thank you, baba.” Mama Tayo said, beaming in hope. She couldn’t wait for all these to start coming to pass.
They concluded the rest of the sacrifice and she went on her way. Mama Tayo observed her monthly cycle the next week and she did as she was told. After preparing her food with it, customers began to flood her restaurant in numbers to the extent that she had to set chairs outside so that some of them could eat. Her restaurant was always full that people waited turns in their cars to eat after the other customers had finished and vacated their chairs. In fact, Mama Tayo began to employ waitresses to help her out since she couldn’t attend to all her demanding customers herself. Most of Madam Susan’s customers suddenly lost interest in her cooking and moved over to patronized Mama Tayo’s. Money began to flow so well that her life soon changed. Immediately, without wasting time, Mama Tayo connived with the landlord to evict the owners of the two shops next to hers so that she could expand her restaurant and have more room for her customers by paying twice the rents of the shops. Her booming business soon affected Madam Susan’s that she had to pack up and relocate somewhere else where they was less competition.
Mama Tayo was elated. She bought three cars, three lands and began to build her own duplexes. She bought another land and began fo build her own restaurant. Men trooped in daily and their frequent patronage was beginning to put a dent in their marriages since they no longer ate at home. If Mama Tayo’s restaurant didn’t open for a day, these men would almost go depressed or insane, so she made sure that she was always available to attend to her loyal customers who couldn’t do without her food. Mama Tayo’s life totally changed. She bought cloth materials from Dubai to sew her dresses and even had her perfumes, accessories and wigs imported from abroad. She was living the life she had always wanted and she just couldn’t be any grateful to her friend who had taken her to see the Baba who had turned her life around for good.
Things were going so well and she became very popular. Her children attended expensive private schools and her son, Tayo soon enrolled in one of the popular and expensive Universities in the country. Everybody wanted to relate with Mama Tayo because of her new-found wealth, including women who used to look down on her in church. In no time, she had made so many friends and was soon made the president of the women association in church and everyone grovelled before her. Even the pastor gave her preferential treatment because she was always donating for one thing or the other to help the church grow. She was even given a special seat to sit at the front and she was used as a reference example whenever a sermon about prosperity was being preached.
Well, everything was going just fine until Tayo mysteriously fell ill a year later and had to return home. He was taken to the hospital, but the doctors could not find out what was wrong with him. All efforts to help nurse her first son back to health, fell through and Tayo eventually died. After grieving her son, Mama Tayo continued her business and her wealth seemed to increase. Soon, the next year, her daughter Bidemi mysteriously fell ill and died too. Devastated, Mama Tayo rushed to the Native doctor for a solution and he told her blankly:
“We are the one eating them!”
“Ehn!” Mama Tayo asked in confusion. “What do you mean by you are the one eating them?”
“You think what we gave you is for free? Your children are the ultimate sacrifice and you’ll lose each one every year. I’d advise you go get pregnant now because you must offer a child to the gods yearly if you want to sustain your wealth or risk madness!” Said the Baba.
“Ha! Mo gbe!” Mama Tayo threw her hands in the air in despair. “What have I gotten myself into! Baba, but you didn’t tell me this! You didn’t tell me that my children’s life were on the line! If I had known, I’d have simply walked away! You didn’t tell me that the children I’m trying to get rich for are the same children that you’ll use as a price! Ha baba! You didn’t tell me!” She helplessly bemoaned.
“I thought your friend here already explained everything to you!” Baba pointed at her friend who was quietly sitting next to her as she wept.
“Ha! Bimpe! So you knew!” Mama Tayo cried out now in shock. “So, you knew why my children were dying all this time and you kept quiet!”
“Kini?” Bimpe shot her a cold look now. “Sebi I’m the one you jokingly insulted with barrenness two years ago! You had no idea that I also used my womb as a sacrifice to improve my oil business, abi?! All you can do is talk about your stubborn children all day! Tayo did this, Laide did that! Toyin said that! Bidemi took that! Lanre did this! Did you know how tiring it is to listen to you rant all day about your children?! Do you know how depressed my childlessness made me? But yet, you won’t just shut up about yours! Now, you’ll know what it feels to live without children like me! Now, you’ll know how much it hurts too! Ore oshi!” She hissed.
“Ha! Bimpe, I thought we were friends! Why would you do this to me?!” Mama Tayo lamented now. “Ika ni ye n, Bimpe! Ore buruku ni ye n! You are a wicked somebody, Bimpe! You have a very wicked heart!”
“Shioor! Cry all you want but pay back is a bitch! Good bye!” Bimpe said, unremorseful, as she carried her handbag, shot her friend a scornful look and left.
Mama Tayo turned to the Baba now and asked: “Baba, e dakun, please, is there nothing else I can do to reverse this? Name any amount, I’ll pay! I’ve the money! If you want ten thousand goats right now, I shall give it but please, e ma kpa mi lomo mo! (Stop killing my children!) E dakun!”
“Listen woman!” Said the Baba, sternly. “We don’t need your money, after all, we gave it to you! You have signed this pact already and there’s no turning back! All your children shall DIEEEE, take it like that!!!”
Mama Tayo removed her head gear and began to cry and lament. “Ha! Mo da ran! I’m finished! I’m completely finished! Itori owo! (Because of money). Temi ti ba je! (My own is ruined)! Temi ti ba je ooo.” She slid off her chair to the ground now as she cried. “Eledumare! Dariji mi! I’ve sinned! Joor, dariji mi! Ha! My greediness and impatience has brought me to ruin! Forgive me o God! Forgive me! Save me from this dilemma. Please God, save your daughter o! I don’t want the money again! I don’t want to be rich anymore! This is vanity! Money is not worth the life of my children! Please take it all away! Please!” She pleaded.
“Woman, do not make noise in this sacred place, get up and go home before I strike you with leprosy!” The Baba threatened. “Your wealth will only vanish when you have no more children to give! But for now, go and enjoy your wealth and keep grieving! Leave! Leave now!” She snapped in impatience and irritation.
Mama Tayo got up and sluggishly started to walk home with a hand placed on her head while the other held up her loose wrapper to prevent if from falling from around her waist. And as she walked through the bush path, she continued to weep in despair and la enr:
“So, it’s true! It’s true that the devil never gives anything for free! He ensnares you with temporary happiness only to take something greater from you! Ha! Bimpe! Ore buruku ni ye n! It will never be well with you for doing this to me! May you suffer for eternity! Ha! God have mercy! Have mercy on your daughter o Lord! I don’t want to lose any of my children anymore! Have mercy, Eledumare!”
Three years later, Mama Tayo mysteriously lost all her children to death and she became so uninterested in her business that she abandoned it and no longer did the needful sacrifices required of her. One night, there was a mysterious fire outbreak and her shops and every other property were total6lt destroyed by fire, including her duplexes and cars. Mama Tayo ran mad and ran into the streets, tearing off her clothes and singing her sins to whoever cared to listen. She lost everything because of her greed and impatience and was reduced to level zero because of her envy, desperation and greed. Till today, she still roams the market and streets, dressed in filthy rags, eating out of dumps and sleeping in trashy areas. Her best friend, Bimpe was knocked down by a car years later and died tragically on the spot.
Now, according to God’s angel, if Mama Tayo had waited just a week later before visiting the Baba, her blessing was already on the way but her impatience had made her lose it and the angel had simply returned it.
★Moral of the Story★
Be patient, everyone. Do not envy or compare yourself to anyone else because God Almighty has written your stories differently. Do not be in a competition with anyone because it will only be at your detriment. Be contented with what you have because there are people out there who are begging and dying to be in the position you are right now. Instead of complaining all the time, rather give thanks to God always and watch Him release and pour his limitless blessings upon you. If you’ve learnt anything from this story, please hit the like button and the share button. The amount of likes will encourage me to post the next moral story. Thank you.
© Angela Okoduwa