When Mrs. Hauwa Kukah died on Friday July 10, 2020 at the age of 86 in Kaduna; that day ended a life that was dedicated to the relentless pursuit of improved living and providing inspiration to those unafraid of the future. Life to her was neither warmer or colder, as Ernest Yeboah would say, she rode through the rough storm and smooth weather until she breathed her last peacefully into the waiting arms of her Maker whom she served.
In life, the first Mama Fada in Bakulu Nation, was not only the mother of His Lordship, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, she was also a mother to many priests who saw in her the stimulating qualities of quintessential motherhood that were appreciated beyond the land of her birth. Beyond being a mother to one of the nation’s illustrious clerics, the late matriarch of the Kukahs served as a candle of hope for many trapped in the mud of rural hopelessness bereft of education.
Though her shadows never darkened the walls of any school, like Ezeulu in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Arrow of God’, Mama Hauwa was sufficiently convinced early in life that those who refused to prepare their children for the future risk fear-provoking uncertainties. Having realised that the race for the future might have eluded her in terms of acquiring education, she focused her attention on her son, then little Hassan Matthew, with the sole purpose of preparing him to walk into her envisioned future.
In appreciation, Bishop Kukah remains ever grateful for her many sacrifices of sleepless nights of weaving mats and engaging in other petty ventures that saw him through early education. Just as our lives “shall always not be good and it shall not be bad,” this exceptional mother became the major driving force towards instilling virtues that made her family members become aware of education as the weapon against an uncertain future.
One of her sons, Samuel, recalls her willingness to reward hard work and even withdraw the same if it was given under false grounds: “There was this day we went to work for Mama in the farm. In appreciation of our work, she cooked a delicious meal and sent it to us. After some days, she went to inspect the farm and discovered we had not done the work according to specifications. Mama would later return home and insisted we pay for the food prepared for us. We had to avoid her for some time in order to escape her anger.
“She never kept malice with anyone. Once you cross her part, she tells you her piece of mind, no matter who you are. She never cringed before anyone to unveil her mind once she was convinced of the truth. Mama hated injustice and discrimination just as spoke out for the oppressed. If you never wanted to hear the truth, then, do not go to Mama on any matter”.
Unlike others who pride in a sense of entitlement, Mama Fada found inner serenity in deploying her skills to earn a living. Through the weaving of mats and other domestic objects, the late matriarch was never wearied of seeing the bright end of life in every dark situation. Considering the fact that life may sometimes be a puzzle, resorting to counsel always becomes imperative. Mama made herself available to attend to people in search of advice. One of her children recalled how her simple advice made him change his perception about life when he was buffeted with so many wild allegations against him that were untrue.
After narrating his woes of being misunderstood, and looking forward to getting consolation from the old Lady, Mama simply looked at him and jokingly said, “What was the mouth created for? Is it not to eat and talk? Why then are you bothering yourself with one of the functions of the mouth? As long as you live and you are important in life, someone must talk about you. Do your own and let your conscience be the judge.”
Mama Hauwa was not all about taking life too seriously; she saw and lived life from the comic perspective. A relation recalled how Mama jealously guided her secret skills in making beads round a local tambourine used by choir and the Zumunta Mata group. In a bid to break her monopoly in making the musical object, a particular woman had plotted to break into the then lucrative business.
“Instead of telling Mama of her intention, she deployed a trick of constantly visiting her to learn how she was weaving the bead round the calabash. Mama got skeptical at her constant visits and rapt attention on her skillful hands as she weaved beads around her musical instrument. It then dawned on her that beyond the suspicious love shown by the incessant visits by the woman, she was after her skills.
“There and then, Mama resolved to stop work anytime the woman was around. When asked why she refused allowing the woman to learn the skills, she responded: ‘You don’t learn a skill by tricks. You come to the person with the skill to teach you. The woman was simply being tricky and I knew that her visits were not signs of love but attempts to learn my skills without my knowledge.’”
Mama Hauwa was also a story teller whose knack for folktales was almost endless. Apart from possessing an amazing capacity for anecdotes to teach the right lessons, she was an effective communicator who could hold her listeners spellbound when speaking.
Her birth in June 1934 may not have been celebrated by others outside her community, but her death was not only nationally acknowledged as seen in condolences messages of President Muhammadu Buhari and governors, among others, but the global community shared the grief and pains of her demise. The outpouring of sympathies seems to be the crowning exit for Mama who grew from the mud of impossibility and placed a candle of fame for not only her immediate community, but the nation and the world.
As she is committed to mother earth in Anchuna Sarki in Bakulu Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf LGA on Friday July 17, 2020, may the essence of what she stood and lived for be replicated in a land where the wind of disillusionment is ripping across the people and subjecting inhabitants to a brutish life never experienced before.
Musa, an Abuja-based media practitioner, can be reached via: [email protected]