By Temitope Usman
Many would one day tell the story of the lady who drove her hometown mad, literally.
This story would probably be told over a cup of coffee under the night sky where two lovers or friends reminisce about the past, during family dinner with lighted candles while children pay close attention as if their lives depends on each word, during a picnic, in the bathhouse, and even in the darkest part of one’s room. The tale would be told in mockery, amazement, disbelief or scorn, depending on whose lips from which the words emerge.
Ostensibly, a narrator would sit on a rocking chair, stare at their audience with great enthusiasm, launch into an account of Hauwa Abubakar’s life. “Hauwa was full of herself despite her poor background which consisted of a usually drunk father, sickly mother, and four other siblings,” they would begin. The said audience would be perched on their seat, ears on full alert to catch even the faintest of words as they stare at their latest source of entertainment, the narrator.
She worked hard to provide for her family as she was the sole breadwinner but by God, that woman doesn’t know a good thing when she sees one. Of all the men around, she chose a poor, unfortunate man who lived in a one room apartment located in one of the dirtiest slums. Hauwa was so full of herself that she refused help from the people who offered it, claiming that her family needed no handouts from anyone. Thus, one after another, her loved ones dropped dead from sickness and lack of care. The death of her loved ones drove her mad that she became someone everybody avoided like a plague for every time they did walk up to her and tried to advise her, she lashed out in anger and attacked them.
For many years, Hauwa turned down every man who showed interest in her, claiming she could survive on her own. Even the charms and riches of Abdullahi Bashir, one of the richest men in the community, didn’t sway her. She merely shrugged his efforts off like it was nothing but a young child crying for something he could never have.
One day, Hauwa surprisingly disappeared into thin air like a wisp of smoke. Many people claimed that she ran mad and disappeared into a forest, never to be heard from again. Others claimed she committed suicide by hanging herself and was secretly buried by her neighbours and elders of the community. Whatever happened to Hauwa remained unknown to many people but different assumptions were made and up till this day, Hauwa Abubakar is remembered as the only woman who turned down Abdullahi Bashir and the only woman in the community who watched every one of her loved ones bid the world farewell.
Silence would envelop the audience for a short while as the narrator’s words sink into their mind, stirring up a feeling of pity, empathy or disdain for Hauwa.
If by chance, you hear this version of the story, then have it at the back of your mind that this isn’t the true story of Hauwa.
A die-hard fan would probably tell you that Hauwa was a courageous woman who stood tall in the face of her pain and suffering. A gossip might claim that she was a fool with no eye for good things. An elderly would tell you that Hauwa was a poor child who lost her way and was blinded by love and arrogance. Whichever version of this story you hear first, do not be so quick to dismiss it as it isn’t entirely false but also not entirely true either.
Now, you might probably be wondering what really happened to Hauwa.
Let me tell you the true story of Hauwa from a perspective devoid of false assumption and misconception.
Hauwa Abubakar was the first of five children. Her father, Abdul Kareem Abubakar, was a famous drunk known by many. He could barely stay sober for an entire day. He spent most of his time in bars and pubs drinking like the whole world could move on without him and he couldn’t care less. Hauwa’s mother, Aminat, was a very empathetic woman who suddenly fell ill with cancer when her last child was just 3 years old. She was a very hardworking woman who strived for the welfare of her kids but due to her illness, the poor lady was forced to stay away from her small business of frying akara and yam.
With a usually drunk father and a sick mother, sixteen-year-old Hauwa, who initially helped her mother with frying akara, took over the business and began to look for other means to earn extra money. From washing clothes to earn meagre income, to cleaning other people’s homes, hawking sachet water, she involved herself in many odd jobs to feed her siblings and parents. Eventually, Aminat gave up the ghost after two years of pain that couldn’t be subdued due to lack of finance. Shortly after the death of his wife, Abdul Kareem succumbed to the inevitable consequence of excessive alcohol consumption to join her in the grave.
Hauwa’s responsibilities piled as high as Mount Everest and the only person who offered her help was her childhood friend and lover, Jamil Abdul Razak. Yes, Jamil did live in a small apartment located in a dirty slum and he survived on his small furniture making business, his heart held kindness and love. For Hauwa, this man who offered her more than half of what he had was enough for her, thus she willingly married him and bore him two kids.
All the calamities which befell Hauwa’s family didn’t go unnoticed by the members of the community, yet neither did anyone offer assistance nor ask how they survived. When Hauwa’u had to go from house to house asking for jobs, many people turned her away without so much as a pitiful glance. When she had to wake up by 5am every day to prepare her siblings for school and start the trouble of making fire for her akara business, no one offered a helping hand. When she hawked sachet water in the community, they all turned a blind eye towards her suffering. Nevertheless, they took it upon themselves to criticize her when she married Jamil. “Fool!” they called her. “You couldn’t find a better man.” They hurled these words to her face but it didn’t deter Hauwa from loving her husband endlessly.
Hauwa’s happiness was soon short-lived when Jamil died of typhoid fever 4 years after being married to her. As if Jamil’s death was the beginning of another bad phase in Hauwa’s life, every year after his death robbed her of someone she loved. When a wave of measles hit the community, a lot of people, including her two kids and three siblings, who were never vaccinated yielded to the deadly disease, leaving Hauwa devastated. Many claimed that Hauwa was protected by her late parents while many believed she was a witch who fed off her family to stay young and beautiful. Khadijah, her only sibling who survived the measles outbreak, got pregnant for a man who absconded with his parents’ money after he discovered the news and died while giving birth to the child.
Like a bad dream that could turn one’s world upside down, Hauwa was left with nothing but the pain that came with losing everyone she cared about and the persistent advances of Abdullahi Bashir. Bashir had taken an interest in Hauwa before she married Jamil. He offered to help her and her family in exchange for her hand in marriage but she turned him down due to his pomposity and pretentious nature. After Jamil’s death, he jumped at every opportunity to make Hauwa change her mind and even implored the help of her neighbours but anyone who approached her regarding Bashir was met with her anger.
Hauwa became fed up of everyone around her so one day, she packed her bags and left the place she called home her whole life.
The life that she lived after that wasn’t as turbulent as the one she had lived before. She spent her time working with people to address public issues and tackle human needs.
This is the true story of Hauwa.
You could be wondering if this story is true or if you should believe every word of it. Before you make any judgement, remember that no one could tell you the story of Hauwa Abubakar better than Hauwa.