Celebration of life

My grandmother was born at a time when no one kept calendars or knew dates so it is hard to fix an age to her, but my father who is not her first or her second child is 64years old so it is safe to say she was well into her 80s. She ran a moderately successful tuwo joint at Total in Lafia until my father forced her into retirement before she was ready. I remember the loud, long arguments and how she used that to negotiate for a new house and a pretty generous salary from him. She was a good negotiator/savvy business woman.

In her days, she must have been quite a beauty because at a point in her life, she was married to my grandfather and another man AT THE SAME TIME (story for another day). My strongest memory of her is being scolded time and time again to take my salat more serious and never leave the house without a head scarf. This became sort of like a mantra with me because I was a very difficult child who struggled with salat and hated the head scarf and granny could not stand a difficult child even they were not related to her.

My aunt used to fondly tell us that whenever Hajiya Yanbiyu went back to Doula, everyone at the four ends of town would know before the hour was out. The way she described it was like neighbours peering over the fence and telling their counterparts and their kids to sit up because Yanbiyu. She was also very much known for her troublesome ways and for never keeping quiet.

I remember being confronted by bullies while on a rare Sallah holiday in Lafia. I was about 7 and looked like I was five so it was quite normal for kids to try and pick on me. When some kids stopped me and demanded I pay a token before I passed the street or received a knock, I started to stammer and cry. At that moment, one of the older kids recognized me as Yanbiyu’s granddaughter and he said so with fear in his voice. The moment that registered in their heads, they apologized, told me they were only kidding, begged me not to tell my granny and ran like the devil himself was chasing them. Needless to say, I told! and because she is who she is, we went round about 5 houses until the three boys were identified. She proceeded to discipline them and their mothers thanked her afterwards. She was one of those who really believed it takes a village to bring up a child. Apparently she was known for taking matters in her own hands even when it was other people’s kids.

During the last three or five years, it was unfortunate that Alzheimer’s took over her memories and reduced her quality of life. She had what we the grandkids fondly referred to as a reset button. If you step into my family house in Lafiya, she would be the first person you would meet. Sitting by the front door like a dragon/guardian everyone would stop by, introduce themselves first, greet her, have a chat, introduce ourselves again before proceeding into the house. Whenever one returns to say farewell to her, she wouldn’t even remember who it was. Sometimes we would try to confuse her further by introducing ourselves as some other person. It always amused me that seven or so years after I had graduated from university, she would still ask me how school was and if I had good grades. This famous reset button was effective every 8mins or so.

Now that she has passed, I pray that Allah (Subahanahu Wa Ta’Allah) has mercy on her soul, grants her respite, and admits her into Aljannah. I pray that her good deeds outlive her life time and that her afterlife is a lot better than this life. I also enjoin you to please pray for her by name (Hajiya Hussaina Mohammed) and the souls of all those who have passed before us. My condolences to her only surviving son, 19 grand kids and 14 great grandchildren.

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi Raji’un — Truly, to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return


  1. I remember Hajiya yanbiyu! Allah sarki. May her soul rest in peace!

  2. Allah gafarta mata. Grannies are great pillars providing unconditional support.

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