It was one of those sunny Saturday mornings I dreaded going to the market. I stood at the entrance of Gete market, asking a palm oil seller for my change.
“Oga, I have told you that I don’t have change!” She replied rudely.
“Madam take it easy, we aren’t fighting”. I was already vexed.
“If you don’t want to buy the palm oil, then drop it, I no get change”, she said sarcastically again.
I was about to put her in her place when I heard someone say from behind, “Mama Boniface, easy does it. Bring the money make I change am for una”.
“Wow”, I said silently. She looked familiar and seemed well-behaved, compared to the ill-mannered palm oil lady.
“Thanks dear”. I collected the money from her.
“It’s nothing”. She smiled and returned to where she had come from.
“I must have seen her somewhere in school before, what’s she doing in this market?” I asked myself. And then, I discovered she was actually selling Ugu (pumpkin leaves) over there.
“Hello!” I walked up to her. “You sell Ugu?” I said, trying not to make it sound like a question. She looked up and smiled. “Yes I do. Would you like to buy some?”
“Yes please!” I answered instantly as though I had been poked by someone. “I want the one of two hundred naira”.
“Do you want it cut?” She smiled again.
She really seemed jovial. While she was cutting the vegetables, two guys carrying bags of rice walked past and shouted, “Ugu with uku!!!” She looked up and giggled and shook her head.
“Uhm! Sorry you look familiar”, I finally said. “Are you a student at Ziko University?”
“Yes, I am dear”. She smiled yet again. “A 300 level Law student”.
“Beautiful!” I said and collected the vegetables from her. “I am a freshman—Microbiology”.
“Welcome dear”. She grinned as I handed her five hundred naira.
“Oops! I don’t think I still have change o”. She winked. “But not to worry, have a seat, make I go find change over there”. I liked the way she combined normal English with Pidgin English, she had quite an elegance.
She seemed different from girls of these days. She seemed to have every quality a lady should have, yet she still went about her business cheerfully. Most girls from school would rather flock around sugar daddies than stay in a market and sell vegetables.
“Please do you have hundred naira, so that I can give you four hundred naira?” She asked me, the moment she returned. “Oh! I don’t dear, but let me just get garri over there to save you the stress of going to search for change again”.
“Oyinbo!” An elderly woman selling fresh tomatoes signalled me to come and patronize her as I walked past her shop.
“Next time ma”. I shot her a smile with my eye brows raised.
“Who dey here?” I finally arrived at the garri shop. “Who dey here o?” The shop was open but no one was inside. And then a man suddenly emerged from the next shop and said, “Yellow come buy here”. As I was about stepping into the man’s shop, someone else grabbed my hand from behind and said, “Customer don’t mind him o! come back and buy from me”.
“You dey craze!” The other man grabbed my other hand and pulled me back. They would have torn me apart if I hadn’t released myself and run away.
“Here we go”, I said as I handed her the hundred naira note.
“Thank you so much, I hope those guys no break your hand o?” She smiled from ear to ear.
“Ah! You saw them. They almost break am o”. I chuckled. “I didn’t get your name”.
“Oh, call me Muna dear”. She smiled. She was so full of smiles and her voice was remarkably silvery.
“Lovely. Call me Kamsi. Nice to meet you dear”, I said as I shook her soft hand. Her skin was glorious, it reminded me of the delicious peanut butter we ate back home.
And then three slay mamas with umbrellas walked past. I noticed they were rolling their eyes at her and frowning as though they were irritated by the very sight of her. They whispered to one another as they sniggered. It was obvious that they were making mockery of her.
“Ugu seller!” One finally shouted.
“Hello!” She waved at them. I was so impressed by her response and a bit taken aback. I knew those girls were also from our school. She didn’t even look disturbed, not one bit. She brought out a book to read and then another customer came to buy Ugu.
“Alright Muna, see you later dear”. I waved as I left. She waved back and laughed when I almost bumped into a young girl hawking sachet water. “I’m so sorry” I said and kept moving as I thought about Muna. She exuded a certain kind of light. She was a resounding evidence that as a young lady you don’t have to sell your body to earn a living. She was such an inspiration; a reminder of the quote which says, “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t”.
Mention ‘Ugu’ anytime and I’ll tell you about a young lady I met in Gete market. An inspiration!