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I became a nurse after rejecting my dad's request to be a cop like him and my mum's wish for one of her girls to be a tailor, but I now make and sell clothes

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13 July 2022
11 minutes read
I became a nurse after rejecting my dad's request to be a cop like him and my mum's wish for one of her girls to be a tailor, but I now make and sell clothes

My name from birth was Salome but some of my friends began calling me Sally while I was in secondary school because they said they could not pronounce Salome. But Sally has stuck, and when I got married in September 1998 to Mr Cornelius Nchok Kayit, from Kaduna State, I became Sally Kayit.

I am the first of the eight children of Jacob Ede and Margaret Erima Adikpe, both from Oboru in Oju Local Government Area of Benue State. We are Igede.

My dad and mum met and married in Oboru, but he became a policeman in Kaduna in 1960, and my mum joined him there, and I was born, about two years later.

I will be sixty years old in December, by the grace of God, though almost everyone keeps saying I look fortyish. I took after my mum in everything, the slim stature and all. My dad is not a fat person though.

I attended primary school in Kaduna, and, because my dad wanted his children to be familiar with the culture of his people, I was sent to Makurdi where I attended Padopas Harmony Secondary School. I am not sure if I learnt much about the culture because we would take the train from Kaduna to Makurdi, be in the hostel and once the term ended, we were back in the train heading home. 

At Padopas, I was both the labour prefect and the sports prefect because I was an athlete. I ran 800 metres and 1,500 metres and won a lot of medals. I represented Benue State in secondary schools' games held in Cross River State and another in Kaduna. 

In 1982, after I finished secondary school, my dad was transferred from Kano to Abuja, and that was how I came to this city. Since 1982. That is forty years ago, when only one road passed through the city: the one on Area One that goes through Keffi and so on. When my dad said we were going to the federal capital, I and my siblings thought that we were going to a big place, but Abuja then was just like a small village, and that made us to ask what we were doing here (coming from a vibrant city  like Kano). Most of us were not happy but there was nothing we could do about it. My dad was then the DPO (Divisional Police Officer) in Kuje. He was DPO in Kwali, Abaji, and Karshi before being transferred to Minna, and from there to Jos, where he retired.

My mum was a seamstress and, when I was about ten years old, I started making dresses for my doll, using some of my mum's remaining fabrics and her needle and threads. She would compliment me that I would be a good tailor. She really wanted one of her five female children to take after her but we always told  her that there was no money in tailoring. 

Just as well, my dad, who died fifteen years ago, wanted someone to represent him in the police, and that I, as the first child, should be the one. 

I told my dad outrightly that I did not want to be a policewoman. He left me alone and said that was my business.

Now, when we were in Kuje, my mother had a neighbourhood friend, Mrs Chukwu, who was a nurse and had a small clinic in her house where she attended to pregnant women. She said that nursing would be good for me. Initially, I had wondered, 'who would go and do nursing and be packing people's blood and all that?' 

We did not have any career guidance and counselling in secondary school but I desired to be a lawyer but I did not meet the admission requirements into ABU (Ahmadu Bello University Zaria) and the pressure to go for nursing became strong and I had to give in. 

In 1983, I sat for admission into the Federal School of Nursing, then in Suleja, and now in Gwagwalada. I passed and attended the school, finishing in 1986.

After passing out, I was at home for about three months before I became a resident nurse for a few months with a small-sized patient medicine store at Gwagwalada where I attended to customers who had minor health challenges such as wounds and the like. My salary then was about seven hundred and fifty Naira per month. It was a stop-gap measure. 

While working there, one of my colleagues informed me that a pharmacy in the then Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotel (now Transcorp Hilton) Abuja had a vacancy for a nurse. In short, I got employed at the pharmacy called Newland, situated at the Shopping Arcade in the hotel, in 1988, as one of the pioneer staff.  I was not doing nursing per se, you can say. 

I was planning to move from the pharmacy when the hotel started its clinic but it already had its own nursing staff. So, I stayed on at the pharmacy for about ten years.

Now this: I decided at some point while working at the pharmacy to take up tailoring. Aha.

How it happened was that I began to see ladies wearing dresses made from ankara and they looked really nice. But, more importantly, the push was that more people began to move into Abuja from Lagos. One of such persons was a tailor in Area One who became like the talk-of-the-town.  She also came with her tailors. I joined others in taking my fabrics for her to sew. For at least two months, my materials were not sewn. When I went there, I found heaps of other people's materials. People were stepping on them. So, I began to ask myself 'what's in this tailoring that these people are doing yanga for us?' Kai, I resolved, I was going to learn how to sew. When I eventually told my mum, who sadly died last year, she laughed at me, asking, 'is this not what I begged you people to do then and you refused? By now, you would have gone far.'

So, I became an apprentice under one woman at Nyanya. My siblings and I were living in an apartment in the area then, got for us by our dad while he went on transfer to Jos. So, if I was on morning duty at the pharmacy, I would resume training after closing and when on afternoon, I would be on training from morning till noon. I was an apprentice here for about three or four months. It happened that a tailor had sewn a dress for my sister who was then at the University of Jos. I brought the dress to my madam but she was unable to cut it as I requested. Following that, I decided to end my apprenticeship with her. 

I was introduced to another seamstress, Mrs Okoro, who came to Abuja from Port Harcourt where she was quite popular. I moved there. But she was more into blouses, the type worn by Igbo ladies over wrappers. This was not what I wanted. I wanted to learn about some more varieties, not just blouses. However, I stayed with her for up to a year because she was really nice. 

In the interim, I started a restaurant business.  I had a shop in Nyanya where I was selling food. My mother's friend, who made me go into nursing, had a shop which she used for a restaurant and stopped running. I took it over and sold a variety of food items while still working at the pharmacy and being an apprentice. I got a woman who cooked at a restaurant where I used to eat in Wuse Market to join me because she also lived in Nyanya. 

We had good patronage at the restaurant that my two sons - one is a university graduate and the other is in the second year in a university -  always wondered why I stopped when I eventually did, noting that I would have, by now, had a big restaurant business. The reason was that as soon as we began to have good traffic, and consequently making money, my mum's friend's said she needed her shop, so I  decided to close shop. I got another shop but the owner said we could not cook in it. That was how Salcon Restaurant died.

I then got another shop where I sold stuff such as shoes, bags and jewellery, because, at the pharmacy, my boss normally sent me to Lagos, like every other week, to buy most of what we sold, the medications and cosmetics. I used the opportunity to buy those items. I had a couple of employees in my shop. Speaking of Lagos, I also went to learn how to do event decorations there, for one week.

I was also buying fabrics because by now, I had become a better seamstress, and found time to sew while I also had tailors who worked on my customers' jobs.

I was happy that my customers also loved the dresses I made. 

That was how my fashion business, Salcon Fashion (my business name is Salcon Ventures) started and I began to go into it full time.I make most of the female clothes I sell here at my shop at the Graceland Garden on Ahmadu Bello Way, Wuse.  We moved here after the Arts & Crafts Village was shut about five years ago.

I have joy when I see people wear my clothes.

When my mum was alive, she was always telling me to go and rest because she always saw me cutting and sewing. I always told her, 'Mama, this is what you wanted me to do, so allow me.' 

I have a feeling that this has always been part of me but I did not realise it, because I have tried other businesses which did not work and this is the most fulfilling.

You know what? I have participated in several fashion shows abroad. I had one at the Rotary International Convention from 15-18 June 2008. Later in November that year, I featured at the World Bank's Celebration of Cultures in Washington DC, USA. My younger sister works in the World Bank in DC. She had told her boss that she has a sister who is into fashion designer and requested to know if I could be allowed to showcase my designs. Why not? So I took my stuff and had a show with others from countries such as South Africa and Burkina Faso. I was also in the Republic of Rwanda from 25 July to 6 August 2014. 

Let us just say that God has helped me and He is still doing so. One of my younger sisters went into tailoring, and just as I moved round, she has left it and is into baking now. Maybe when she goes round she will come back to tailoring. For now, I am the one carrying my mum's torch. 

I am available on WhatsApp: +234 809 763 6591.

Appreciations to Mr Sam Amuka, publisher of Vanguard Newspapers for logistics support in Abuja.


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