A businesswoman , Mistura Badaru, talks about her life with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS
Where were you born ?
I was born in Lagos Island, Ashogbon Street precisely in June 1929 .
How would you describe your growing up ?
While I was growing up , Lagos was an exciting and a great place to live. We didn ’ t go to school, but we were raised in a good way. Those things I learnt from my parents , I used them to train my children as well . I believe it is a better way than how children are trained now . When children do wrong things now , they are not disciplined .
If my father had a visitor , I couldn’ t look into the person ’ s eyes. After greeting the person , one mustn ’ t pay attention to what they were saying . I could be hearing them , but I must not let my father know. If I wanted to leave the room upon the arrival of a visitor and my father wanted me to stay , he would instruct me to stay . If he did that , it meant he wanted me to hear their discussion.
Was there a time you felt your parents maltreated you ?
We felt they were wicked , but it was for our own good. My father was strict , though I was particularly a stubborn kid. Till date , I am stubborn . I don’ t think disciplining one ’s children whenever they do wrong is a bad thing.
Why didn’ t you go to school ?
I did not go to school because we did not think it was necessary at the time . I only studied the Quran and we had teachers who taught us . Any child who went through Quran lessons has self – respect and fear of God . If our parents said they would report us to our teachers , we always panicked . The teachers knew how to use the cane and nobody would come to one’ s rescue .
Did you regret not going to school ?
At some point , the late Obafemi Awolowo introduced an evening school for adults . I attended it but at that time , I was already married and I had started having babies . The stress became too much ; so, I had to stop . I feel bad I didn ’ t go to school. As a young girl , I knew how to read and write Yoruba very well .
How many children did your father have ?
We are many in my family . My father married four wives ; he was just having fun in Lagos . But my mother who was the first wife was the only wife of my father who came from his hometown in Epe , Lagos .
Were you happy that your father married many wives?
Even though I was not happy with his decision , would I beat him ? There was nothing I could have done , as it was a common practice for men to take many wives then. He did his part and he is no more, but my mother was the first wife.
What work did you do ?
I became a trader . I started by selling onions . I was not a small dealer of onions ; I sold it in large quantities . People brought from me and sold to others . I also ventured into the business of clothing before becoming a distributor of beer drinks . I also sold bread and other food items .
Do you take alcoholic drinks ?
Even when I was selling beer, I didn ’ t take it . I sold it in cartons. Apart from beer , I sold soft drinks too .
Which business earned you more profits?
I made much money from alcohol, but I had to stop when I returned from Hajj in Saudi Arabia because they said alcohol sellers and drinkers are sinners before God . I was able to save well when I was into beer business . I invested the money in a lot of things .
At what point did you join politics ?
When I was trading on Lagos Island, ‘ Ebute Ero ’ was my market. My mother was the head of the garri sellers in Lagos then. As a market woman , we were active in politics because politicians know women are powerful . I was with the Unity Party of Nigeria before I defected to another party . I was given a car , but I returned it to them after the election; I didn ’t see why I have to keep it .
When did you marry?
I married on January 5, 1950 .
Was that not early ?
It was not too early . Then , once you were 21 and unmarried , your parents would be worried . Things have changed now .
How did you meet your husband?
We stayed in the same area . When I was a young lady , I had many suitors; men begged to marry me . Then , if a man met a girl he loved , he cannot approach her by himself. He must look for a friend or someone who knew her who would do the introduction .
What made you agree to marry your husband?
I really liked him . He was a boxer and popular in my area at the time. He was known as Hurricane Badmus . Whenever he had a fight , I would go with him to cheer him up. I didn ’ t feel bad whenever they punched him in the ring because he punched others too . Whenever his head and eyes were swollen, I would be the one to take him home and treat him .
Was there a time you told him to quit boxing ?
There was no time because it was what he loved . I was always abused by people for marrying a boxer , but I didn ’ t care . They gave me different names .
Did any of your children take after him?
My children are lazy ; none of them can fight . I have five kids ; three girls and two boys . They are all into business .
Was there a time your husband hit you being a boxer ?
Hit me ? If he had hit me , I would have hit him back ! When I wanted to marry, I was not afraid that he could turn me into a punching bag. Once you are in love with someone, other things don’ t matter to you .
How do you relax?
I sleep a lot . I don’ t like movies but I like listening to radio. Once I enter my house and I don’ t want to answer anyone, regardless of how much you call my name , I will not say a word.
How do you keep fit ?
I walk around my compound . I have goats that I keep .
What day do you regard as your happiest?
I am a happy person . During Sallah , I killed more than one goat and it all finished . Some people killed theirs and didn ’ t see who to share it with. I am always happy every day ; I don’ t have any sad moment . Even if something terrible happens to me , once I think about it a bit , I move on . I feel anything that happens to us as humans is predestined by God .
Where is your husband now ?
He is no more. I think he died in 2009 .
How do you cope without him ?
I cope without him . We separated even before he died.
Why didn’ t you remarry ?
I didn ’ t see any reason to remarry . I now have grandchildren and they are my children too .
Why did you separate from your husband?
Once a man starts having money and becomes popular , he misbehaves . When I saw that he couldn’ t stay away from women , I had no choice but to leave him . Before I finally left him , we were always having issues . I left the marriage when I couldn’ t tolerate the things he was doing any longer.
At times , women can be stupid . When they see you and your children looking good, they conclude the man is spending money on you . It is when they move closer to the man that they see things clearly . I was working too and I was able to take care of my children .
Did you cry when he died ?
Why should I cry? I didn ’ t cry at all ! He died because God said it was his time . When my time comes too , I will die . If I had died before him , there was nothing he could have done as well . He wouldn ’ t say because I died he would kill himself .
What do you still desire in life?
I still want to do great things ; one cannot get tired of doing great things . I would have said I still love to go to school, but it is of no use to me any longer.
But there are things I still want from God and it is between my God and me . There is no point telling humans as they cannot do it for me .
What is your favourite food?
I like tea . I also like semo , eba and
amala. I don’ t really eat at night any longer.
When last did you attend a party?
I am old now ; I cannot be jumping from one place to the other again. When I was ‘ somebody,’ I was always part of any party held in the family . If I was not in a party , it wouldn ’ t be complete .
What are your concerns about Nigeria ?
When I see young unemployed graduates , I feel sad . There are jobs. Lagos for instance is crowded . When I brought my property (her house in Bariga , Lagos ) in 1982, there were bushes and water everywhere . As we speak now , the whole area is occupied .
I have no choice but to be happy for my country . All the problems we face now are signs of end time . It is written in the Bible that strange things will be happening when the world is about to end .