I FOUND IT IN A BOOK!
The choice of the name “WEC – Women Education Centre” for the building was my husband’s. “EDIFEG – Education Institute for the Female Gender” was my preference, but I let my husband’s will prevail. I owe him that much and so much more.
These days, I frequent the village of my birth more often, to supervise the goings-on at WEC. Though there is an administrator who oversees the activities there and there is my father who gives me a daily report on phone of what he can see at the centre while he sits on his arm-chair at the front of our house, yet, two weeks can hardly run by without my travelling to the village to see how WEC is doing.
When my father talks to me about the centre, he shouts into the phone, ‘Hazeema, did you hear what I said? Even Nimota, Mallam Yaya’s tenth wife has started coming to the centre. I saw her walk in there this morning, carrying a carton of books, plenty of books. Hazeema. .. Hazeema… can you hear me?’
When I visit, he still retells the old tales he had told me about the centre on phone. Since it came to his knowledge that I “read as much book” as Hazeem, he has seized every opportunity to ingratiate himself with me. His ingratiation with me increased when I told him of my plan to build an institute in the community where women who did not have access to education when they were younger can acquire basic education. He threw his weight around the project. He helped me in the acquisition of a property adjacent our house where the centre was built.
Hazeem is my twin brother and we are in the last position of my father’s ten children. Hazeem is the only son of my father. I remember how I did all the chores and he read all the books when we were young. He was going to become a doctor. Hazeem liked to drink raw milk from cow’s udder, though he was mostly away in school when we, the girls, milked the cows.
He proceeded to secondary school in Kano after his elementary education in our village and I continued hawking Fura and Kunnu alternately. My father kept on saying Hazeem would become a doctor. Neither I nor other daughters went to school, in fact, the population of the girls in the village elementary school then was not up to ten and most girls were married off as teenagers.
At night, I read Hazeem’s old books without father’s knowledge. Hazeem brought more books when he returned from the hostel on vacation. I read all of them, though I hardly understood what I read, and Hazeem told me that I would do well if I went to school, I wanted to go to school but I was a girl.
My opportunity came when Mallam Fathiu came to seek my hand in marriage for his son who he said was a senior operator at Dangote Cement in Obajana. He claimed that he didn’t want his son to marry a city girl.
After much hassles, I was married to Azeez who had promised to let me go to school without our parents’ knowledge. Azeez cannot be described as very wealthy but he is financially comfortable, so he hired home tutors for me. I continued learning at home, even when I was pregnant with my earlier two children. Whenever we travelled to the village for Sallah, we tried to keep it away from our parents that I was getting education. When I weaned Faizan, my third child, Azeez decided it was time I got some tertiary education. Myself? In a higher institution? I told myself that my loyalty to Azeez would remain unwavering. Five years later, I bagged a degree in Mathematics from EKSU by a part time programme.
I fought the urge to tell my father to close his mouth, as he left it open for the better part of the time I told him the tale of my transition into the circle of the elites. When I finished telling the tale, he said ‘You are deceiving an old man’, half affirmatively, half questioningly.
‘She can never deceive you while I stand here,’ Azeez who has been quiet all the while contributed.
‘Allahu Akbir!’, exclaimed Father, spreading his hand to the sky.
‘That’s not all, Father, today I also own a secondary school. You know what I mean? The type of school you sent Hazeem to in Kano years ago.’
My father looked at Azeez for confirmation and he nodded in the affirmative.
‘Father, just because I am a female, you tried hiding the key to my destiny, but I found it in the book.’
Today, Hazeem is a medical doctor, and I a proprietress, the founder and director of Women Education Centre (WEC). Father has since never said “sorry”. He has only continued to ingratiate with me and to give the necessary support for the smooth running of the centre, but I know that is his own way of asking for my forgiveness.
If you were to be Hazeema, would you forgive your father?
let’s hear from you. Drop your comments below and watch out for our next article. [OLADEJO Admin]