(Story) Farida – Part 15

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Brother Chris took Farida and her mother for the interview. When Aisha said Farida cheated in her examinations, brother Chris had some doubts about Farida but because she was such a good person, he supported her. When she complained about the scholarship examination, his doubts resurfaced. But her passing the examination erased all doubts from his mind. She was indeed very intelligent. There was no way she would have cheated at the examination.They were invited to SNEPCo in Marina for the interview. Farida read in preparation. They were just twenty of them that made it. They were interviewed one after the other. It was an oral interview. Farida, maami and brother Chris entered for the interview as guardians and parents were needed at this stage. They asked questions about Farida. They wanted to know more about her. They asked how much the scholarship means to her. She explained to them that her mother was her sole provider. They asked more questions which she answered. Then they congratulated her. The scholarship covered both tuition and accommodation as they have an agreement with the University to ensure all students on scholarship have accommodation until their final year. This was good news. They were led downstairs for group photographs for the press.Farida took the third position in the examination and she won an additional cash prize of N10,000. The prize was given to her. She couldn’t believe it. She was so happy. Her hard work had paid off. She had received favour all around. She had more than she needed now. Iya Farida couldn’t believe her blessings. She knew she was not praying in vain. She realized her leaving Alhaji’s house was because of Farida. Farida had blossomed over the years all by herself. She wasn’t that bright a child until she began to fantasize about marrying a rich husband. She took in every advice and worked with it. Now, she could see she can achieve anything she sets out to achieve. At least, for some time now, she hadn’t mentioned rich husband again.Farida was proud of herself for the first time. She couldn’t believe she passed the examination to the extent of taking the third position. She was very happy. She could see the look of pride in brother Chris eyes. She could see the excitement in her mother. There was so much joy waiting to explode. Brother Chris took them to an eatery along Marina. They had to walk there but maami didn’t care. They talked as they walked down. At the eatery, brother Chris bought snacks and drinks for them. “Farida, I hope you know there is a big responsibility that comes with all this success?” brother Chris asked.“What is that sir?” Farida responded.“You cannot afford to fail. You cannot afford to go to school and fail your examinations. You cannot join bad gang. You cannot have any type of scandal. Many younger people are looking up to you. They have seen you achieve and they would want to. If you can work hard and get a scholarship, they can too. You have a reputation to protect. Farida, do not disappoint us. Don’t follow boys and get pregnant while in school. Do not allow anyone intimidate you; always stand up for your right. Avoid cult boys, don’t make friends with them. Have I ever told you how beautiful you are? You are very beautiful. Your beauty is yet to radiate. But you have brains. You are intelligent. Do not allow your beauty which is superficial to undermine your intelligence. Let your intelligence lead the way. People should know you as a scholar first and then a beauty. Do you understand me?”“Yes, I do sir”“In university, it is easy to lose your way. The first lady I was engaged to lost her way. I ended it with her. I got another girl who reminded me of you. She was all about her academic. I sponsored her to complete her first degree, she did her Masters and now she is pursuing a PhD. She is lecturing in Enugu state. I don’t believe I should raise a family in Lagos, it is too corrupt. So, she is there with my son. That’s why I travel every month. I want you to be focused. You do not need sponsorship; you have gotten it. Work hard to make all of us that believed in you proud”Iya Farida was so happy Farida found a father figure in Chris. She had no doubts Farida would do excellently well in school. She wasn’t afraid of that. Farida had a mind of her own. She had seen and experienced things at such a young age which would guide her through her life. There was enough money for Farida to go to school for three’ years or more without worry. What to do with the rest of the money was the problem. Farida took the money she was ‘dashed’ for gaining admission to go shopping for her school items. The woman she buys clothes from at the night market told her about a market in Badagry where things were sold very cheap. She begged her mother to allow her to go with the woman. Early the next morning, they left for Badagry. Farida couldn’t believe her eyes when they got there. The market was bubbling at 6:00am in the morning. She joined the woman in selecting clothes for herself, her brothers and even for her mother. She bought shoes and sandals at ridiculously low prices. She bought handbags too. After buying, she still had a lot of money left over. She knew some of her friends and acquaintances who had gained admission too. She bought extra to sell to them. The woman threw bedsheets, pillowcases and blankets to her. She inspected them and selected for herself and also for sale. She was very excited. She bought a big box and a travelling bag. She packed everything she bought into them and the rest were wrapped up for easy carriage. When she got home, she needed help from her brothers to carry her load in. Her mother was shocked by the number of items she bought.“Maami, take!” she handed her mother the balance of the money.“You didn’t finish it and you bought all this?”“Maami they were very cheap. I even bought some for sale. I bought three Ankara materials for you. I know you like Ankara. This is very good business. I will do it while in school”“No, you won’t do business while in school. You will concentrate on your academics. I don’t want anything to stop you from having a first-class”“I will have a first-class but once in a month, I will bring in things for sale to make extra money”‘What do you need money for again? Your brothers will have to work like you did to enjoy the things you enjoyed when you made your money. They are human beings like you. We will be ok at home”“Maami, I want you to go back to school. I know you like teaching. I think you should acquire a degree in education. You are still young and a good teacher”There were tears in Iya Farida’s eyes as her daughter spoke. She would have loved to further her education but she couldn’t afford to do that while Farida goes to university and her sons still in secondary school. Farida was looking at the money they had now but nobody knows tomorrow. She explained it to Farida but Farida saw things differently.“Maami, you have to write the examinations first. My brothers will work and get money for daily feeding. You will still do your lesson. Nothing is stopping you”“If it is education, then I will go to the College of Education and enquire. I believe they have part-time classes during the weekend. That will favour me more and would not disrupt our activities at home”“Thank is also good. And maami, you have to take better care of yourself. You are young but you like to look old. You are too fat; you need to lose weight. You stay at home for too long watching television. Ahmad and Akram will not be going to the market for you again, you will go by yourself so you can exercise. You made me lose weight, you too can lose. And, please stop covering your scar, it is not that bad. You are a beautiful woman who fails to see her beauty” they all laughed at her mother’s reaction when she called her beautiful. Farida continued. “On a serious note, one day, I will build a big house for you to move into. You will leave here and move into your own house maami. I want to thank you for taking the risk of leaving our father for us to have these opportunities. If you didn’t, where would we be today? You have sacrificed for us, now, we will sacrifice for you”Maami was still in tears. Her sons held unto her as she shed the tears. Farida was worth every sacrifice she had made. Her children were worth it. Now, they wanted her to have an education too. This was what she had dreamt of but never thought possible but her Farida was making it possible. Farida now has scholarships in two places.Farida was the talk of the town for good. The story of her admission and scholarship was all over town. Every day she went out, she received favour from people. Chioma supplied her all her toiletries for the semester. People dashed her money. Some people gave her food items. She came back home with something each time she stepped out.Farida opened the box and bag and offloaded everything she bought. She shared them to her family members and tried on her own. They were a perfect fit. The bags were lovely. She bought two for her mother. In order not to expose herself and the source of her clothes, she went to see the dry cleaner three streets away from the house. The man had asked her out before but she refused and avoided him whenever she was on the street. Now she needed him to wash the clothes she bought and iron them. She went with her brothers. He was happy to see her. He had heard her success story. “What can I do for you?” he asked.“I want to have all these clothes laundered. They are many”“I can see that. Come into my office let’s talk”“Ahmad and Akram, let’s go into his office to discuss”“Not them, just you”“Why? What do you want to tell me you can’t say in their presence?”“That’s the problem I have with you, you are not mature. Let’s discuss inside the office. I don’t want my staff to hear what I want to charge you”She went into the office with him and insisted on leaving the door open so her brothers can come in if she screams. He didn’t like that at all but he had no choice.“Baby, I have been talking to you and you are running away. Why are you doing me like that? Now you need my help and you are still acting like a baby”“I am not interested in what you are asking for. I want to wash clothes. They are many. I want to know how much it would cost so I can pay”‘You can’t afford to pay me to dry clean these clothes. How much do you want to pay? N5000 is too small for all this”Farida stood up and walked out of his office. He tried calling her back but she turned a deaf ear. She and her brothers carried the clothes and left. On their way, a boy working with him who was a friend to Farida stopped them. He told Farida he would help her wash and iron all the clothes but it had to be done in batches so his boss won’t suspect. He charged N1000 which Farida felt was very reasonable. He counted 20 clothes from the clothes for sale and left with them. The next day, he came with the clothes and collected twenty more. Farida enquired how he was able to do it so fast, he explained that they use a washing machine and drier to wash and dry the clothes and then they iron with a steaming iron. So, he added her clothes to the clothes for washing and ironing and separated them when they were done. Akram became interested in the dry cleaning business. They were on long holidays. He begged Farida to talk to the man to employ him so he could learn the ropes during the holiday. He seemed fascinated by the process so she swallowed her pride and went back to the owner of the drycleaning shop. He agreed instantly. He believed he could get closer to Farida by employing him. He was also paying him well and giving him some privileges. If only he knew it was a waste of his time and resources. By the time he realised ‘nothing for him’ he had a rare gem in his hands. Akram was very good at the job and also very dedicated.Farida sold out the clothes she bought in the market in a short time. They were washed and iron; ready to wear. She added the cost of the laundry to the cost price and still made 100% profit. She went back, she bought more clothes and bags. It sold out. She returned the principal back to her mother and continued the business with the profit. The girls that had gained admission came to her to place orders. She bought their travelling bags, shoes, and clothes. She had eyes for good things and so her house became a mini market anytime she came back. Before long. Some girls bought from her to resell. A woman approached her to take her to where she buys her goods. Brother Chris was outside that day. He called Farida aside and told her,“I know you benevolent but my dear child, don’t make the mistake of taking anyone to where you buy your goods. If you do, she will take over your market. Instead sell to her cheaper than others and allow her to select first so your business will continue”Farida had learnt another lesson. She told the woman that her partner refused. Instead, she would buy for her and allow her to select first. On her next trip, she bought extra for the woman. She selected almost everything Farida bought unwashed and paid her cash. Farida still made 70% profit from her transaction. She had to go back the next day to restock.Iya Farida wondered where Farida got this enterprising spirit from. She was never tired. Her brothers helped with her chores while she established this profitable business. In the process, she acquired more things for herself and her family. She was even talking about going to Cotonou to buy bales and sell to people in Badagry before coming back to Lagos to sell. Her mother refused. She was just seventeen; she didn’t want her going alone across the border. Instead, she asked the woman that introduced her to the business to help.

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