Mama Lami Daye Hannatu Rabo is a centenarian whose reality is what others only dream of. She has witnessed the fourth generation of her lineage, BEATRICE GONDYI BAUCHI writes
At the age of 108 years, Mama Lami Daye Hannatu Rabo is strong and sound of mind. As she reclined in her deep seat at her modest residence at Sabon Kaura area of Bauchi metropolis, Bauchi State, Mama Daye, as she is fondly called, cuts the picture of the very ancient yet very perceptive.
The shrivelled old lady could only be described as a peculiar being. With a total number of 156 off springs, comprising eight direct children, grand children, great grand children and great great-grand children, isn’t she blessed?
Though partially blind, one distinguishing thing about her, which unlike people of her age group, is that Mama Daye is very active and not bedridden. Indeed, as observed by LEADERSHIP Weekend during a visit to her house, she is still very agile and has a sharp memory despite her old age. She is blessed with a legendary memory as she is able to recollect what happened in her childhood years as easily as if they just happened yesterday.
Jarawa by tribe, Mama hails from Bawusuk village in Dass Local Government Area of Bauchi State. Born into a pagan family, she is today a Christian of Roman Catholic extraction and was baptized with the baptismal name Hannatu.
“My name is Lami Daye Rabo but my baptismal name is Hannatu. I am 108 years old,” she proudly told LEADERSHIP Weekend. Asked how she got to know her actual age given the fact that as of the time of her birth literacy level was abysmally low, she stated that it was based on calculation using the traditional festival celebrating attainment of adulthood among her people.
According to Mama Daye, “I know my age because there was a traditional festival known as ‘Kumusu’ then, which was celebrated every five years. The Kumusu is coming of age that children are made to pass through to become adults, especially the male child. It is celebrated every five years and children from the ages of 15 to 17 participate.”
She explained that she got married at the age of 15 at Bawusuk but later remarried. “In all, I gave birth to eight children: four are now dead, while four are still alive. I have 30 grand children, 107 great grand children and 11 great great-grand children. This is not even counting the ones that have died,” she informed.
Unlike some women nowadays who are wont to wait for men to give them money for them to sustain themselves, Mama Daye explained to LEADERSHIP Weekend that she learnt to make money of her own earlier in life by engaging in trading.
Mama Daye said her first trade as a young girl was the preparation of a snack popularly called ‘Dakuwa’ in Hausa. “I remember as a young girl my first business was making and selling of Dakuwa. I will get tiger nut (aya) groundnut roast it in order to prepare the Dakuwa.
“When I came of age, I decided to engage in the brewing of the local beer, popularly known as Burukutu. I used to make it very well then to the extent that you would find most of the single men in the village rushing to drink at my place. Most times, some would even buy the whole beer even before I started selling it. I continued with the business after I got married until I retired.”
She was particularly happy when asked to recount the story of her conversion to Christianity. Her journey to the path of Christianity, according to her, was made possible by its faithful’s peaceful way of life and powerful message. Though she had the option of joining the Evangelical Church of Winning All (ECWA), Mama Daye stated that she preferred the Catholic Church as of that time because members of ECWA do not take alcohol.
“I have been fascinated with Christianity but my mother was against it. We were worshipping idols then and she died as an idol worshipper. For me, I like the religion because of their way of life; they were peaceful and their message was powerful. I vividly remember one of the missionaries, Malam Audu, from Ningi and his companions. They normally lodged at my husband’s house whenever they were in Dass then. They were ECWA missionaries.
“I refused to convert to ECWA because they don’t take alcohol. I prefer the Catholic church because I can continue with my business of brewing and selling of local beer. I recalled telling my children to pour a whole pot of beer in my grave when I die. But that was then, I don’t take it anymore. I have been a Catholic since. I was baptized in the Catholic Church,” she recounted.
Mama Daye recalled with nostalgia the people’s way of life back in those days compared to now, declaring without mincing words that if she could turn back the hands of time, she would want it the way it was back then.
According to the centenarian, marriage in those days was very different from what obtains today. “In those days, when you wanted to marry, both families were involved. Your mother-in-law would provide you with soup ingredients like Kuka, Dadawa, among others, while your own mother would get you calabashes, pots, brooms and several other items you would need in your husband’s house. As a newly wed then, you would not cook for the next one month after your wedding. You can only help in the preparation of the food.”
Still recounting what she referred to as the good old days, Mama Daye stated that there was peaceful coexistence among the people and you were your brother’s keeper.
“I will really love to have the old life back,” she nostalgically declared. “Then, you cared for one another; your neighbour who is not related to you by blood would have genuine interest in your wellbeing. A neighbour would become your brother or sister because of the way you were relating; no malice or jealousy. I remember when we were young, my mother had a fight with my father and went back home. It was my grandfather’s friend who brought her back with his own goat,” she stated.
“These days there is no longer such care and love: What you children of nowadays know is to be killing one another, no love even among siblings. They don’t visit each other, everybody is just interested in yourself and your nuclear family, that is all you care for. It is very wrong.”
Mama Daye, however, called on the younger generation to be peace-loving, love one another and shun all forms of vices. “I urge you to love one another, don’t harbour ill-feelings towards one another and learn to live in peace, irrespective of who you are. Love everybody. Whoever is against you, extend a hand of friendship to that person and he will surely change his ways,” she admonished.
Considering the rate at which marriages break up these days and the numerous challenges in marriages, Mama Daye said :”For married women patience is key. Learn to be patient in your husband’s house and you will have a happy marriage. During our time, whoever is chosen for a woman, she did not have a say in the choice yet we all lived peacefully. My husband had 29 wives; 29 of us but we were patient and we stayed. Now it is only you; where will you go?”
Mama also called on the priests and those who preach the gospel to be patient with the flock and teach them what is right.
One of her daughters, Mrs. Ramatu Habila, 65, who told LEADERSHIP Weekend that she is the fifth child of Mama Daye’s children, appreciated God for the life of her mother, who despite her old age is not ailing.
She informed that out of Mama’s children she is the only one who is educated and the only Christian as, according to her, the rest are Muslims, while her eldest brother died a pagan. Unlike Mama, she tilted towards ECWA and her highest obtained educational qualification is the National Certificate in Education (NCE).
Habila recalled that her father was particularly fond of her because it was after several years after her elder brother was born before she was conceived. She said although he was a strict disciplinarian and a pagan, he did not object to her being educated by the missionaries, adding that he was always the first person to pay her fees as he was well to do going by the standards of that time.
She told LEADERSHIP Weekend that if she asked for a pound from her father, he would ready give her two just to ensure that she faced her studies in order to be educated.
She described her parents as caring and loving and those who ensured that their children had the best. She explained that while they were growing up they were well trained and they did not accept anything from any strangers.