You are currently viewing THE OLD WOMAN AND HER HEN
Woman and her hen


As I was driving to the office on that fateful morning, I saw one of my colleagues and beckoned on him to hop in. We were almost late to work and had no reason to tarry. My mind was on beating the heavy traffic when suddenly, a local fowl emerged from nowhere with her chicks. I applied brake in order for them to pass through. For a reason best known to them, they stood there and started scavenging for food in front of the car and thereby halting my movement. I had to horn severally for them to let me pass. My colleague was livid. “Why on earth would you wait for a local hen to halt our movement, guy I don’t understand, you could just smash it”, he lamented. I simply smiled and told him, “You wouldn’t understand”.

You see, as a child growing up in Abakaliki in the late 80’s, I observed the importance of hen especially to the aged mothers. I lived in Udensi street which in Abakaliki of that time was the end of modernity in the town. Right at the back of our window was a village populated by the Izzi people with their thatched houses and subsistence farming. Every evening, we are inundated with the shouts of aged mothers calling on their children to make sure that all their fowls were home. Home was usually the family kitchen with a little opening for the fowls to retire. Unfortunately, some of the stubborn ones preferred tree branches and the young boys would be forced to climb tree and scare them into looking for their appropriate home. I often wonder why all the noise concerning a “common local fowl”. One day, I went to kpirikpiri market and met some of these women selling the fowls. That was around the Christmas period. I saw their sweat and haggling prowess in their bid to sell to the highest bidder. Mama Paul, my neighbour was among them. Three days later being 23rd of December, I met her again in the market with two of her grand children. They were there for Christmas shopping. The joy, sense of accomplishment and fulfilment in her face as she bought some Christmas toys for the kids was heavenly. I saw a woman who felt fulfilled that even in her old age and frail body, that she was not a total liability. I realised at that instant that all the year ranting about her foul was simply to afford to take her grand kids for December shopping.

It came to me forcefully that nobody wants to be a liability for any reason. Every human being struggles to have a sense of purpose, accomplishment and usefulness. Years later, this came as a crude joke to me when my dad was forcefully retired from civil service during the regime of Chimaroke Nnamani. As if being forced to retire after devoting your youthful age to your state was not heart breaking enough, after one year of receiving pension, his name was struck out from Federal pension list. For those who may not know, some of the pensioners that were employed in the 1970 earn two pensions, one from state and one from the federal government. Unfortunately the money is usually peanuts as government hardly implement minimum pension. In order to rectify this, he and his comrades made frequent visits to Abuja but it came to nought. One day, as he was preparing for Abuja, I overheard him telling the last born of the house, “Gozie, I would be going to Abuja for my money. It is about N250,000. When I come back, I would become a good dad once more”. He went to Abuja and came back with nothing. Mere looking at him, I realised he was no longer the same. We tried to encourage him but it became obvious that sense of uselessness can wreck a man from within. I still blamed the incident as one of the harbinger of his death. When his comrades advised me to follow them to Abuja to pursue the benefits, I simply told that I was not interested. I often wonder why pensioners are allowed to wallow in regret especially as it concerns their gratuity. Of all the crimes Rochas Okorocha was accused of, none was as horrible as asking the pensioners to sign off their owned pensions. Having stayed around pensioners after the retirement of my mother and subsequent illness, I noticed that some of these men have well to do families but the little money which represents their youthful struggles and sense of purpose is dear to them and should never be denied them. Their pension is their hen which they nurtured in their youthful age with hope of being useful to their grandchildren.


I dedicate my 2021 birthday to all pensioners who are still hoping to collect their benefits and who are also forced to participate in several verification processes. I often wonder why government cannot design a software for these elderly people to thumbprint quarterly, biannually or annually in any cybercafé to indicate that they are still alive rather than being subjected to the humiliating and cumbersome physical verifications.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. peaceada

    Well expressed article. Thanks so much sir. I wish our government should look into the plights of the retired civil servants. My mum is a retired teacher and has been waiting for her gratuity.

Leave a Reply