As I prepared to celebrate my sixtieth birthday last year, and getting dressed for a party organised by family and friends, she came forward while I was still dressing to say she was closing. Our agreement was for her to show up four times a week on a non- residential basis, clean, cook, and generally keep the house in order, including run market errands if there were any.
I am a very hands-on person. I love to cook, so this activity was minimal for her. My spouse is a cleaning freak so you can do the maths. I love going to the market to buy fresh produce myself, so even the market errands were far and few between. So madam simply waltzed through my house, cooked occasionally, and cleaned when it was necessary.
I found that she was not happy that I knew my house in and out, and if anything moved, my husband and I could tell. She did not like to be corrected and hated the idea that I would occasionally go with her to the market. But two things stuck out for me beyond these. One, she was very self-entitled and stuck her nose in the air in response to inquiries. Secondly, she had all manner of excuses for not eating food she had cooked and served us. Oh, she was not hungry. Oh, she was fasting. Oh, she was not ready. Oh, her stomach hurt. The not eating part of things was more of a red flag.
She would find excuses for not eating what I had cooked as well. My mum of blessed memory would have sacked her on account of this food part within the week. In our now more modern minds, I made many excuses for her. But the long and short for me and by my training from my mum in assessing house helps was that in those three weeks, she could have poisoned the whole family. God forbid. But God can only help those who help themselves. Her self-entitlement and her never-ending arguments when she was corrected got my goat, and I was ready to lay her off.
So let us return to my birthday dinner. Madam’s closing time was five p.m. but we had agreed that if there was much work, she would occasionally close at six or seven which hardly happened, and a lot of times, I would let her go at 4 pm or even 3pm sometimes. There is nothing more irritating than a househelp whose job is done and is humming loudly in the kitchen, so you know they are still there. My space is sacrosanct.
“Life is now a set of thorns bestowed on us all by modernity, Internet drugs, and greedy young people”
On this birthday event, madam stood resolute in front of the house as I ran back and forth to get shoes, headscarves, etcetera. Chefs and waiters were running helter-skelter with chafing dishes and drinks. Madam stood at the door and did not lift a finger, a sour look on her face, nose up in the air. It was as if she was unhappy that I had turned 60 years old. She was only a little over one-third of my age. In local parlance, it would be considered some sort of witchcraft. Two days later, she became my ex-househelp. She complained to my daughter how I had sacked her ignominious bla, bla, bla. Please note that I had paid her a full month’s bonus plus her monthly wages. I went on to have two others who were clearly insane. All brought by the same agent, these agents, scam artists themselves.
Things have certainly gone south from the time we brought up our own children where it would be someone fully recommended by a family member or they give you a young girl from within your family whom you were required to send to school while she helped you with domestic chores. Things have changed significantly, and the world has darkened since then. Everybody is looking for money by any means, our children are more trusting, and some of them are lazy and dependent. So they hire from unknown agents and we don’t have a choice as well. Today food is even delivered to our children’s homes by app drivers. It’s crazy. I cannot even fathom what can happen in these dangerous times. When you say what? They dismiss you with a wave of the hand. It’s the new weird world. That’s now how the cookie crumbles.
And so the cookie crumbled in Minna when Professor Funlola, brilliant and comely, was murdered by her fourteen year old house girl and her accomplices simply because she had let her go because of her misdemeanours. The Niger state police command shared her confessions, murder weapons; knives, and a stool. I pinched myself. Wasted by her accomplices. Wale and Smart, whom she invited to murder her boss because she had been sacked. Wale and Smart later entered, beat the deceased, hit her head with a stool, stabbed her with a knife brought by Wale while Smart took another knife from the kitchen and stabbed her several times, these were the confessions of the house help she got from her church. Gruesome murder orchestrated by Joy Akekafe, the fourteen year house girl of the professor.
Life is now a set of thorns bestowed on us all by modernity, Internet drugs, and greedy young people. Professor Funlola’s crime was that she laid her off for bad behaviour for which she paid with her life. It’s harder and harder now to hire. Drivers, cooks, house helps. We do not know these people anymore. Trust has flown out of the window. Bizarre stories everywhere. Chidinma, the University of Lagos undergraduate, allegedly killed her boyfriend, Usifo Ataga. Lagos state elderly couple The Egbeoluwas allegedly killed by their driver. Then the Ogun state couple, the Fatinoyes whose driver and house help with accomplices killed them and drowned their only son because they felt they had been recognised. It’s a new wicked world we are in, where money is the new God.
My condolences to all victims across the nation, especially Professor Funlola, whose tragic end by a fourteen year old maid could never have been foretold.
Let us be more circumspect in hiring. Now I have no maids. It’s tough, but we keep searching for the best. May God save us all. Amen