By Julius Atabor.
Call her a child of destiny with a will not to give up in any circumstances, you will not be faulted. Born a girl among six male siblings, Mrs Fidelia Eleojo Haruna lost her husband three years after marriage. Her father also died a year after her husband. And when recovering from the shocks, her mother passed away. Determined not be a burden to anyone, she hawks snacks across Lokoja metropolis. However, not long into her business, she has become a brand and toast to her customers in the confluence city. Fidelia Eleojo Haruna’s mobile delicacy is a delight to ministry officials, paramilitary stations, relaxation spots, markets and in fact, anywhere people cluster around in Lokoja.
Ms Fidelia Eleojo Haruna, an indigene of Ogodo in Ankpa local government area of Kogi state spoke to Atabor Julius in Lokoja on the death of her husband and how she has been coping. Felicia has this to say.
I was married to my husband, Moses Agada from Ogugu in Olamaboro LGA in 2000 immediately after my graduation from Kogi state Polytechnics where I bagged National Diploma in public Administration (ND). He was a journalist. My late husband worked for many media organisations in Kaduna. His last organisation was Freight Monitor Newspaper. He later got employment with Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) Zaria but he could not resume before he died.
He died in 2004 barely four years into our marriage in my early 20s. The marriage produced a boy, Joshua 16, who is in his 100 level in the Kogi State University Anyigba, and his sister, 14 year old Grace who is in SS2.
Attitude of her in-laws.
It was a pathetic story. When my husband died everybody abandoned me. We were left alone for seven excruciating years before one of the senior sisters called to know about our conditions. And because he had not resumed at the NITT before his death, there was no way the organization could prepare entitlements for him. All other media organisations he worked for were private concerns but some of his friends from Abuja, Kaduna and other places who gave their support when he died. The irony of it is that the family collected all the proceeds. Initially, my in laws, because of my tender age, thought I will remarry and abandon the children. Maybe that was why they left me to my situation. However, I give glory to God for his mighty works upon my family.
Asked why she has not remarried after many years of the death of her husband when she is too young to carry the toga of widowhood.
The ever smiling, happy and gorgeous Fidelia Eleojo has this to say; “Because of the love my husband exhibited to me and my children when he was alive, I said to myself, no matter how rough the situation gets, I will pick up the challenge and I promised my God that I will not disappoint these children. I said to myself that since he was unable to give standard education to the children before his demise, I will do whatever is within my capacity to train them to befitting levels.
How she delved into snacks baking.
My business is not based on going out looking for men but go out there to secure meaningful things for my children.
I make all manner of snacks, I do interior decoration, when the state was good.
Initially, I started selling groundnuts. I can’t carry loads on my head, hence, holding the plastic container with my hands become my trade mark. I cooked groundnuts in a very big Ghana Must Go bags and when I get to an office, I will drop the bags and started selling my specially made groundnuts. It got to a point that people would be waiting for me before they could buy groundnuts. From the proceeds of groundnuts, I feed my children and pay their school fees. I sometimes buy clothe in bales and also sells shoes. I do cook for people who have ceremonies when the economy was good. From there, I initiated a brand of fish roll which I called Special Forio in Lokoja. When I came to Lokoja, I saw people making meat pie and all sort of snacks and I told myself that it is possible for me to introduce to the market an entirely new product. I decided to create something on my own. I have never learnt snacks baking from anywhere. My people used to say, necessity is the mother of invention.
God used some women to encourage me. They would say, madam, you have tried but do this and that and I kept following their instructions before I got to a stage that my customers can’t hold their appetite until my Sweet Forio is served. I created this special fish roll which I christen Sweet Forio in Lokoja.
Returns on her business.
I do make a daily contribution of two thousand naira (N2,000) and on a good day I realise about N6,500. With my challenges I still pay my siblings school fees. We are orphans as we have lost our parents. I have trained one of my junior ones to polytechnic. We are seven of us and I happened to be the only girl among them.
From the N2,000 daily contributions, if you multiply it by 30 days it gives me N60,000 a month. I believe in the Bible which said “he that does not work should not eat and also said he will bless the work of our hands” . I said, no matter how tedious a business is, if you are determined, you will succeed. Some women used to be afraid of weather, but to me all weathers are favourable to me.
Even though I have been trekking in the sun, in the rain, I have not broken down once and my children have not fallen sick, I give glory to his name.
I always pray for God to connect me to my helpers. There was a man in my church who has been encouraging me in my business. He gave me #100,000 as a seed money for my business. The man saw me and within himself said if he died will his wife be able to take care of the children, just like this woman. Even, a widow like myself who is also a member of my church gave me #50,000 to pay the school fees of my daughter who is attending Confluence International Academy Lokoja without interest. In fact, when I was to pay back the money, she said no, I only decided to encourage you.
According to her, “I want my Sweet Forio to be like Gala and even surpass it. It is my joy to see my fish roll packaged like Gala. I need modern equipment to raise the standard to have company label that I will no longer hawk around.
To stay with fire consistently and to trek round the city to sell is not a tea party. The business requires strong determination. I have to sacrifice shame to remain in business. In fact, I have faced lot of challenges which I titled “little Joke” in the course of the business. Some men will praise you saying you are this and that with ulterior motives to get at you. Their passes no longer move me. They are now my friends and they no longer disturb me.
I must confess, to become a widow at an early age is dehumanizing, but for the love I have for my children, I kept prodding on with what I am doing.
Some women in the neighborhood envied a lot. When the state was good, I go out with large quantity of my wares and I will sell all before returning home, so it became a source of jealousy. Sometimes, they pick quarrel on slight or no provocation, but with time I have overcome all that.
Her advice to women.
I urged women, most importantly the widows never to give up and not to think that because their husbands are dead all is not well with them. You can still pick up life and live your destiny to the fullest. Don’t be foolish to any other man. Some men would come with the pretense to help you but they are actually devils incarnate. Just be focused and lay your hands on profitable ventures, then the law of seed time and harvest will respond to you. I encourage widows and women generally to engage themselves in doing something no matter how small. From groundnut, to fish roll, I am able to pay my bills without depending on men. I have unconsciously mentored several women.
Yes, everyone would say the economy is bad, but still, some are building houses and buying cars. They should not relax and feel what I called ‘madamlistic’. They should not believe that if the husband does not bring, she will perish. Women should engage in something to assist their husbands.