Mammy Market: A story of innovative though that sparked action.
Mammy Ode was born in Jericho-Ugboju; present day Otukpo Local Government. With 11 other siblings for her parents to manage, Mammy grew up living with her elder sister who had already ventured out of the nest. She was eventually taken by her elder brother to serve as a reverend father’s apprentice while she attended school.
Mammy was married off to Anthony Ochefu a non-commissioned military officer posted to Enugu at the tender age of 14. An ordeal, she causally writes this off as a cultural norm of the Idoma people; her ethnicity.
A newly wed & bored out of her mind from sitting at home & dwindling her thumbs, Mammy decided to start something to “keep her busy”. She began making enyi/kunu -gruel- to sell around the military barracks she resided. According to Mammy, she would get up at the crack of dawning, hawking her kunu & be sold out before 10 am!
Not long after this undoubtably, the hate started streaming in. & it was in form of neighbors; complaining that the preparation of the enyi had been attracting flies, even after! Mammy had already sold-out. Due to this Mammy Ochefu was forced to take a break.
After only 2 weeks out, her costumers started to notice her absence & swarming Mammy’s apartment demanding to know why she stopped her daily rounds of hawking deliciousness.
She explained it was so as to not further irritate her opinionated neighbors. Mammy was met with encouragement from the officers; who had become her loyal costumers, urging her to continue her pursuit. This included Nigeria’s current President Muhammadu Buhari; who was a young officer with 2 stars at the time. Mammy & her husband had moved to a barrack in Kaduna by then.
These officers instructed their younger peers to build Bacha -tents- for Mammy behind the barracks.
Boldly written on them in Hausa was “Welcome to barracks, let’s branch at Mammy Market and drink Kunu” from there, Mammy’s business took off yet again! & she introduced Tuwo Shinkafa (a local dish) to her menu. Every time her husband was posted to another military barrack, Mammy brought herself & her business with her. Soon after, other women started to join in selling their goods in their local Mammy Market.
In 1971 Mammy registered her business as “Mammy Market” at this time the business which started with less than a single shilling had grown into a supermarket & transportation business. She eventually left the business in the hands of 4 capable people when her husband was posted to -then- East Central State as Military Governor.
Till today no military barrack visit is truly complete without a taste of fresh fish from a supporting Mammy Market. Through this initiative Mammy Ochefu created jobs for millions of women who otherwise wouldn’t have had one. She seems to remain grounded & humble about her impact. Mammy Ochefu is yet to receive any formal acknowledgement from the Nigerian military.
Because of her we can.