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...we can only be human together...
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I turned to frying and selling akara after my goods were seized by Customs officials and my world almost crumbled

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24 July 2022
8 minutes read
I turned to frying and selling akara after my goods were seized by Customs officials and my world almost crumbled

My name is Janet Iyabo Ayodeji (nee Matthew) from Isanlu Makutu in Kogi State, Nigeria.

I was my parents' first born. My mum had a total of twelve children, including a set of twins. But, only ten of us, four males and six females, survived after birth. We have also lost one of us, the second to the last child, born after the twins, hence named Idowu.

While quite young, I was sent to Egbe, also in Kogi State, to help my Uncle Aina, my dad's older brother, a herbalist, in carrying out his household chores because of his visual impairment and he was then unmarried.

So, I attended primary and secondary schools in Egbe.

I was in St Joseph's Primary School between 1977 and 1982. 

I was a star athlete in primary school. In fact, I was a member of the school's relay race team and we came first during a competitive meet with the Salvation Army School in 1979.

I was admitted into Egbe Girls' School in the 1983/84 school year.

We were to take our promotional examination to Class Three when I fell ill and it was so serious that it kept me at home for a year.

My dad had to come to Egbe to take me back to our home town.

At Isanlu, I was taken to the Cherubim & Seraphim Church called Jolugba after its founder (Prophet Oni Jolugba). 

When I recovered from my illness, I was returned to Egbe but I decided that I was done with schooling and chose to go and learn tailoring instead.

I was apprenticed to a man named Folorunsho but popularly known as Django or Jango.

I spent only six months with him because I became disinterested in being a tailor.

Now, my uncle wanted me to get married to someone I did not have any likeness for.

Eventually, I left Egbe and came to Akure, Ondo State with a man whom I loved.

His brother was the one living in Akure. 

His mother, however, was not supportive of us getting married but we spent five years together.

Unfortunately, none of the three children I bore for him survived. None. 

I had to leave him but I have remained in Akure ever since. That was, I believe, 1989.

I was then selling pepper, onions, tomatoes and other essentials for making soups and stews at Oja Oba, near the defunct OK Stores.  

I was hooked to another man with whom, in 1990, I had my first surviving child, a boy,  named Temitope Adeyeye.

Two years later, I bore another boy, Olufemi Adeyeye.

This relationship, however, suffered a collapse in 1993. 

I could not cope with the turbulence.

Meanwhile, the state government during the Olusegun Mimiko Administration cleared the market of street traders and I soon began to sell what we call "clearance." These are the lowest grade of  second-hand clothes in a bale. 

One Pastor Emmanuel Amuleya from Akoko who traded in the clothings used to keep his stock with me where I used to live at Ijomu Street.

He was the who used to sell the "clearance" to me and I would go and hawk them on the streets.

Later, a woman known by many as "Iya Togo" - because she used to travel to that country and some others to import shoes and bags - said if I could raise a certain amount,  I would be able to join her in the trade. 

I got into the business in 2012. But I stuck to trading in second-hand clothes but of higher grades.

We went to Cotonou. She did not get her supply of bags and shoes but I got my clothes.

Iya Togo said we should go to Togo, still she did not get what she wanted. Eventually, we went to Ghana where she got her goods.

Still in 2012, we made another trip to Cotonou and we did not have to go anywhere else; we got all we wanted there.

But the third time, in 2013, was where it all ended for me, tragically.

When we got to the Nigeria-Benin border at Owode, I had my goods - bales of clothes for children and adults - seized by .Customs officers. They said that Iya Togo did not have the correct papers.  Her goods were seized too.

I had left Akure with three hundred and fifty thousand Naira and was left with twenty-three thousand after my purchases.

A kind member of my church had lent me two hundred thousand out of the money. It was a loan from the Cooperative Society he was in.

The balance was what I added from my own savings. 

My world almost crumbled. But I did not give in nor give up.

Thanks to people such as one Mrs Edwin whom I had known while hawking and lived in the same neighbourhood (Plaza Road) with me, I got help with food particularly.

By the way, in 2005, I gave birth to another boy whom the spirit led me to name ApotieriOluwa (which can be translated as God's bundle of evidence, although "apoti" is box") but he is generally called "Eri" and I am referred to as "Mama Eri". He is my evidence of God's faithfulness in my life.  

Life had to go on.

I decided that I had to sell akara. This was what my grandmother did at Epinmi Akoko.

But when I took this decision, it was not because of her. I just reasoned that I could do it. 

I started in 2015.

Our pastor at the CAC Garden of Faith on Ore Ofe Street, off Oke Ijebu Road, helped me to talk to the rewire (auto electrician) at the beginning of the street, named Wale and he gladly allowed me to use the space in front of his workshop.  That place is known as Jako (or Jacko) Junction.

So, I have been here since then.

Before Eri recently got admitted to read science laboratory technology at the Bamidele Olumilua University of Education, Science and Technology, Ikere Ekiti, he used to help me out. 

Now I have to do it all by myself. But, I am not complaining. 

I get told that my akara is delicious.

I believe so too.

We start to sell from around four O'clock and sometimes we stay up to eleven O'clock and we are patronised by all and sundry - vehicle owners, commercial bike riders and others who buy akara from one hundred Naira and above. Some want their akara sprinkled with diced onions or pepper sauce. Some buy eko or agidi while some others buy bread, all of which I sell too.

What do I desire? A shop so that I would be sheltered from rain, as it is drizzling now. 

Anyone moved to help me can reach me through +234 8132879470. I will be most grateful. 


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