Erstwhile banana hawker who eventually bagged a PhD, Nonye Onyima has revealed in a recently-held interview how she ended up being a lecturer of a tertiary institution.
Onyima said her mother’s demise led her into hawking. “The death of my mother led me into hawking bananas. I was 15 years old at the time. For a girl of that age, it was a risky and dangerous way to earn a living.” She said.
The female lecturer of Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, revealed the things she ventured in to survive after stopping schooling to help her dad.
“Even at stopping schooling and started hawking to help her dad provide for the family, we were not still able to meet up with demands and rent.” She said, “The first thing I sold was the food called ‘mama-put’. I hawked cooked rice and stew. Most times, there was nothing to eat, sometimes, we cooked unripe pawpaw and ate it with palm oil. It was at this juncture I decided to take the bull by the horn. I sold iced water and raised some money with which I later started selling fried groundnuts. Later, I went to learn how to make polythene bags and ice-cream.”
Revealing how she decided to return to school, Onyima added; “One day, I decided to cross from one lane of a busy road to sell my bananas. Suddenly I saw myself being kicked into the nearby bush by an impatient female driver. I heard people shouting ‘motor don kill person’ and a crowd started running towards me. I had bruises on my body and my arm was broken, twisted anti-clockwise and swollen like a balloon. My bananas and about N5,000, being the sum of money that I realised from selling bananas and groundnuts on that day, had vanished. They were stolen.
“The ‘hit and run’ driver had zoomed off, but she was given a hot chase by some military men. When they eventually caught up with her, they forced her to take me in her car to a hospital. Unfortunately, they made the mistake of not asking one of them to accompany me. The lady drove to a swamp and asked me to come down.
“I begged her in Igbo not to throw me in the swamp but to keep me by the road side. When the brother-in-law (who was in the same car with us) heard me speak Igbo, he asked where I came from and I told him that I was a native of Imo State. Then he insisted that the woman must take me to the hospital. When we got to the entrance of the hospital, she refused to drive in. The brother-in-law ran to the nurses and doctors and told them she wanted to run away. That was how the nurses ran, caught up with her and pounced on her. The security personnel drove the car into the hospital, but she refused to pay a dime until the police was invited.
“Later, my Dad said he trekked from Oyigbo to Port Harcourt in search of my corpse. A few days after that incident, one of my uncles living in the United States came home and heard what happened to me. He returned to the US and persuaded his siblings to send my siblings and me to school. My younger brothers and sisters went back to secondary school at their instance.
“To the Glory of God, I got admission at the age of 23 to study Cultural Anthropology at the University of Ibadan. I had gone for a three-day ‘dry fasting and prayers’ with other ladies in my church and so while others were praying for marriage, I was praying for admission.”