Onyinye OyedeleTuesday, April 29, 2014




er hands are very tender on the scalp. She plaits the hair with ease and finesse making her clients fall asleep. She often paused to take calls on her phone which had an Igbo song ring tone! Sometimes she spoke in fluent Hausa language. It was not the first time her home services were needed; she was referred by a friend and her number was saved on speed dial! Amara would say, "Oh aunty, please give me anything from your heart!" When asked how much a hairdo cost. Even when she eventually quoted a price, it was very reasonable. She used her 'fast hands' to earn a living.

This 'mobile' hair plaiting business is something Amara did in addition to her steward job for some expatriates. In fact, she just added another line of business; selling recharge phone cards! Airtel, MTN, Etisalat, Glo! Amara is a Polytechnic graduate just hustling. She is picking up her life after she fled from Jos, Plateau state. A place she loves dearly, for that is where she was born and bred.

"Aunty, that place was too 'hot', eh!" She said shaking her head and heaving her shoulders.

"My sister escaped first. She is also here in Lagos." She said affirming her decision to also flee Jos.

The beautiful coal city of Jos! The amiable Northern city that two Canadian missionaries remembered fondly as the home of their childhood; the exceptional missionary schools, the pleasant and favourable weather, the food, the quiet life, and the warmth of the people. The place Amara and her entire family called 'home' was no longer safe.

"My sister helped me with the steward job. Both of us work in the same place." Amara said as she 'sliced' through a chunk of hair, making another furrow to weave.

"Hmmm, may God protect us all in this Country!" The client responded and sighed.

Amara became comfortable and began to peel like an onion; one layer at a time.

"Oh aunty, ima Ihiagwa? Ima Nekede? (Do you know Ihiagwa? Do you know Nekede?) She said, explaining her roots.

The client drifted down a nostalgic memory lane; her brief campus life at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). That Solitary town in Imo state with places like Obinze, Douglas road, Amakaohia, Ikenegbu, Urata road, Orlu road, and Shell camp! Some students lived 'off camp' in Ihiagwa village, a relatively quiet community with its dusty lonely roads and bushes. The market at the village motor park saved students from long commutes into Owerri town. She also remembered going for 'Village Evangelism' in Ihiagwa, with a Christian fellowship group.

Amara slapped some cream on the hair extensions to give it some more shine.

'So did many people escape? Is everywhere unsafe?' The client asked with her arms folded across her chest.

'It started in some villages. Some people left, but aunty it is not easy to return to the East and start life again.' Amara said with despair in her voice.

When she first arrived in Lagos, she got a job as a Nanny through an agency.

"Aunty, my madam that time said I should not tie her child on my back when I am working! And the work was too much in that house!" Amara said narrating her ordeal as a nanny.

She feigned a family emergency and never returned to that madam!

"Aunty, even this steward job will soon end. The expatriates say their contract in Lagos is over."Amara said breathing heavily.

"Don't worry, you will get a better job by 'the grace of God' (AMARACHI)." The client tried to reassure Amara whose 'boy's quarters' accommodation was also tied to the job.

Oh Amara! Oh God's Grace! It is that grace that is sustaining so many. Amara is an ordinary young woman just trying to get by. There are so many Amaras out there....Some are graduates with a Bachelors degree, Higher National Diplomas (HND) and even a Masters! They are salesmen/women (foot soldiers) hawking products for companies in busy traffic. Some are street food vendors and some are even "Area Boys" (Omon-nile)...Sons of the soil! They are often not looking for a "handout" (Free money). Instead they are confident in their ability to work and earn a living; they are ready, energetic, creative, and available to hustle their way through the economic ladder. Amara also has a Dream and a Hope for a bright future. The Prayer is that her name, "Amarachi" God's grace, will make a way for her in Life....

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