Mrs. Rachel Attah

Sunday 26 April 2024

Happy Mother’s Day, Rachel Attah

by Joy Osiagwu

Mrs. Rachel Attah’s unconditional love is everlasting.  I express my appreciation for her admirable strength every Mothers’ Day to her.  Please, let me share a little about my mother with you. She suffered from glaucoma over a decade ago, shortly after she retired as a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Education, Lokoja, Kogi state, Nigeria. She had plans to continue authoring books for Secondary schools and develop her poultry farm, two businesses she became conversant with after my dad, Dr. Samuel Attah, died in 1998.

Mummy and me in Ottawa 2017

Despite the vision setback, her strength is renewed daily, like an eagle’s. Talk about the strength of a woman called Moses; look no further; you have Rachel. I was almost nine when I sat for the entrance examination to gain admission to secondary school in Nigeria. You may have wondered why I took the examination at a tender age. While in class three, my mother, a high school teacher at the time, took advantage of the homeschool method to give me extra lessons. I was that brilliant and eager child who had gained voracious knowledge about education and business early on. At age eight, I had a soft drink and pastry business in the sprawling new neighborhood called Ankpa Quarters in Makurdi, Benue State. It was easier to do business as a young girl at the time because the community raised all the children. Parents were the community watchdogs.

My father, Samuel Attah, was away at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in Kaduna State, for a master’s degree in Animal Husbandry. Despite the brilliant outcome, he was furious when he heard I sat for the examination. He felt I was too young to leave home for boarding school. But I was ready and not willing to take no for an answer. Mummy Rachel understood the “fierce urgency of now in my unfolding conundrum of life.” She got a driver from my father’s office to drive us from Makurdi to Gboko, the location of the Missionary School, William Micheal Bristow Secondary School. We got to the principal’s office, he looked at me and exclaimed, “Madam, I hope she is not here for school.” I responded before my mother could talk. “Sir, I am here for school.” Here is my admission letter. He looked at it and asked, “How old are you??” “I will be nine in September”, I responded. “You are not qualified to be here. How did you get the letter?” He added. “I took the examination and had one of the best results”. I was responding to prove my right to be there while my mother watched from a distance. “She is not mature enough for secondary school”, said the principal. “Sir, my daughter will surprise you; allow her to prove herself” was my mother’s response.

While they were talking, I found a comfortable spot and sat on the floor. The principal turned and asked that I leave his office immediately. But Mum told him I would only leave the school when I got confirmation to resume in September. So, she sat down, too. We agreed with the principal that he would send me home if my first-term results were poor. Fortunately, the 5th position in the first term result had my name on it. The memory of the encounter is eternal. From then on, my mother’s support system turned me into a bold and confident individual. She is my greatest motivation. Today, no mountain is too big to climb in my world. That is the motivational mantra that has guided my journey in life.

The narrative above is a fraction of what she did for me while growing up. Once in a while, I remember the drama at the principal’s office with great fondness. Meanwhile, the principal saw me reading the news on the National Television (NTA) seventeen years later. He got my phone number from an associate and called with pride; “Joy, this is your former principal. I am proud of your accomplishments. Each time I see you on the news, I ask myself, what if I had turned her back? Greetings to your mother for believing in you”. 

It will take a series of stories to share about my mother’s unconditional sacrifices over the years to cater to her seven children after my dad passed twenty-six years ago. Despite the challenge with her sight, she has completed several building projects in her family home and is still thinking about her next adventure, at seventy-five. I was heartbroken when we found out the doctors could do nothing more to recover her lost eyesight. From Abuja to Ottawa and Atlanta, it was the same medical report. But my mother is an optimist. Her faith gives me the courage to stay positive.  Do not worry; look on the bright side, miracles still happen. Jesus will heal me in his time she said to me.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mummy. May the Lord answer your prayers.

Joy Osiagwu.