Khalifa Musa Muhammad
On May 9, 2022, death snatched away my maternal grandmother. Her name was Aisha but we called her Iyana. Iyana’s place is where I liked going to for holiday the most. I can remember when we were in Lagos.
I fancied when we would go and see her. She had this spring bed that I enjoyed sitting on. Before I even settle down, she would start the usual grandmother/grandchild banter, calling me “Mai Gida”.
Mine was special because I was actually named after her husband, my maternal grandfather.
When she relocated to Kano, it was still the same story: I relished visiting her. Iyana catered, pampered and loved us. Why won’t I like her place?
Immediately you show up, she will order the slaughtering of chickens. Bread was the usual food for breakfast in her house. I like bread and close to her house in Kano there was a bakery. We used to look up to going to the bakery. We would form lines and gleefully watch how the dough is filled in the pan and then inserted in the mud-made oven where the heating occurs.
Also, the first zoo I visited was that of Kano. On every visit, she would assign our uncle or an older cousin to accompany us to the zoo and of course she paid for the trip. It was nice seeing the animals and how they lived. We experienced the richness of biodiversity and appreciated nature, thanks to her.
Hajiya Iyana did not like staying idle without plying any trade. She was a tailor and in Lagos she had a shop. Iyana was a businesswoman. So, upon relocating, she decided to engage in something. Guess what she picked up doing? Kerosene business but eventually she was forced to stop it.
Iyana would buy the kerosene and break them into smaller and cheaper portions like: five naira and ten naira. Well, our naira had value then so kerosene of five naira was a great deal seriously. At some point, we would tease her that she was not making any profit from the business. She would still insist that she was making something out of it.
Iyana was ingenious. As a grown up, I now admire how she was able to come up with the idea of selling kerosene. Now that my community engagements have exposed me to people who live in penury, I commend her for going into the business and making things easier for people. At that time, kerosene was the major domestic fuel used for cooking, lighting and even burning.
Once the power supply gets interrupted, you would see people trooping in with their local lanterns to get the much-desired kerosene. I used to like selling it but I disliked selling for those with the lanterns. I detested touching the lanterns because it had a glass that if not properly handled would break. Forgive my dislike for the lantern but my mom had dealt with me for mishandling it once or twice.
My conclusion is that she ran that business as a charity. Firstly, a lot of sales were on credit and people did not pay back. Secondly, everyone knew where she kept the money: that small white rubber bucket. Iyana was blessed with quite a number of grandchildren so some of my cousins would make away with the proceeds of her sale.
Another thing I enjoyed partaking of was her frequent mosque visits on Friday. She prays Juma’at at Masallacin Murtala in Kano.
We would leave home early around 11am and trek to the mosque, pray Juma’at and then asr. Within the period of Juma’at and asr, she would give my cousins and I money to help ourselves with all sorts that people brought to the Mosque.
However, with age, she stopped trekking. Our uncle would take her and bring her back. But her timing changed; she would leave home as early as 7:30am to assist in cleaning of the mosque.
When she was told that she goes very early. Iyana snapped back, “I am the luckiest amongst all of us that do the cleaning because it is only me that comes with a private vehicle. Some of them use commercial and others even trek”. That was Iyana for you.
Nothing stopped her from going to the mosque for Friday prayers. The last Friday prior to her demise, at a very frail state, she was saying nobody would stop her from attending Friday Prayers.
I was alarmed and uneasy when I heard of her burning desire to still go to the Mosque in that condition. Immediately after prayers, she asked to be taken to the hospital.
Her illness weakened us all. She had always been vibrant and full of vigour. During holiday in her house, she would cook different meals for her beloved grandchildren. She took care of us and pampered us. Just for lunch, Iyana would cook about three different meals and have us choose what we like. For dinner, she would cook tuwo with different soups, giving credence to the saying that variety is indeed the spice of life.
We enjoyed that spice in her house. Iyana would prepare chicken, beef and fish, and then ask you to make your choice. Not that she had excess, it was just love. Indeed, we witnessed pure love from her.
As soon as we arrive for holiday, she would buy toothbrush and sponge for everyone, irrespective of the number.
I remember years ago when I had just graduated and was job hunting. I paid Iyana a visit. We exchanged pleasantries, talked for a while and said goodbye. She was in the sitting room when I left. As I passed through her door, I heard her voice “Maigida na” I turned back, and she said “won’t you start going to Abuja to see how this job hunting will work out”? I was so emotional when she said it.
Here she is deeply concerned about her grandchild who is job hunting. Thank goodness shortly afterwards I got a job. I became a lecturer and started impacting positively on something she encouraged all of us to do: study. She never rested on her oars on matters regarding our education. To put it in Nigerian parlance, Iyana carried our matter on her head.
Her children keep saying she was a strict mother but she was very free and friendly with us. In short, I enjoyed more liberty in her house. She was an avid radio listener. Sadly, her radios will no longer be on. I remember one of our older cousins once made a report titled “Kano Women and Love for Radio”.
Without asking, I knew Iyana was his inspiration.
My immediate younger sister had been with Iyana hours before her death. Immediately she left the hospital, she called me and asked me to pray for Iyana, considering how weak and frail Iyana had become. My sister started sobbing and said “pray for Iyana”.
It is painful when you see someone that is very strong become weak. You tend to think: death, which we are waiting for, is close by. Even in this frail state, she prayed for my sister. Sadly, this time around Iyana’s words were less and she talked gently.
In my opinion, people do not just depart, they live in the souls they leave behind. Whenever we reminisce about the moments we shared, they inspire and influence us. In essence, my take is that the dead impacts on us.
Iyana is gone but we would never forget her. Which of her legacies would I like to pick? Showing love to all and always having the desire to help when you can. Iyana gave us a tree when all we needed was a stick. I love you my dear grandmother.
Your “Babban Maigida” will miss you. Iyana is survived by six children, many grandchildren (six of whom were named after her) and great-grandchildren.
Khalifa Musa Muhammad is a lecturer at the Air Force Institute of Technology Kaduna