I remember that day so clearly. We were in Form 3, first term.
We were standing outside the classroom block under the shade of the teacher’s car park, adjacent to the admin block.
We were having a conversation; I don’t remember what about but I remember clearly telling her I was broke. It was on a Friday, if I remember clearly.
On Monday, without prompting, Fatima Gana came up to me and gave me N10!!! Almost a whole term’s pocket money…I’m talking about back in 1983!
To say I was shocked is putting it mildly; I almost threw the money back at her. Fatima Gana had gone home crying to her dad that her classmate who lived all the way in Enugu was broke! She couldn’t understand how I could cope without money in boarding school. To make matters worse, I didn’t even have a guardian! In boarding school, miles away from home, no money, no guardian! The poor girl was distressed and in that distress, she couldn’t let it rest.
Not only did her dad give her the money to give me, he invited me to spend the Sallah (Eid) holiday with them.
I went over to their house on Rimi Drive in Ungwar Rimi. Her parents didn’t know me from Eve, not to mention Adam. They asked the usual questions most Nigerian parents ask, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What of your parents?’ and so on…but that was it. They welcomed me with open arms.
They were on their way to Niger State for the Sallah holiday but they let me stay in their house as I had no guardian to spend the one week holiday with. I could have stayed back in school but they were adamant I stay in their home.
I expected to stay the night; a day or two maximum but they didn’t even spend the night in their village. They got there alright but Grace, Fatima’s younger sister wouldn’t let them stay. She insisted that they go back home for me; it didn’t make sense to her that they left me at home with a maid or two while they travelled to their village.
And so they cut their holiday short…for me.
They drove all the way back to Kaduna that same day; night rather. They arrived at night.
They became my unofficial guardians from that day…from Form three till I left Kaduna in Form five.
That was the kind of people they were; that was the kind of person Fatima Gana was.
And now she’s gone.
I only saw her once; about three years after we left school, I went to Kaduna, heard she had trained as a nurse and was working at her uncle, Dr Mama’s, Lafiya Clinic. I went to see her there.
She hadn’t changed. Her gap-toothed smile…she welcomed me once again with open arms.
And now she’s gone.
Adieu Fatima Priscilla Gana!