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BN Prose: Mama Bene by Achalugo Tomato-Jos



The year Mama Nkoli met Mama Bene, it was 1997, upstairs in the Tejuosho mall, Yaba.
She had missed her way from the children clothes section, and was trying to get out through the gate near the rail tracks.
Nkoli had scrunched her 11 year old nose at the cocktail of pigs, goats and cow’s blood, splattered on the once white tiles. Despite trying to squeeze into herself and move on as quickly, her gown caught in a protruding nail, from one of the butcher’s table. Her buttocks and mickey mouse themed pant unraveled in full glory. Nkoli had begun to cry immediately.
Her mother exchanged a few words with the butcher, who seemed truly sorry. It was in the middle of this, that a chubby woman, overly attired for the market, burst into laughter.
“Nne, stop crying nu, at least it did not tear your pant too”
Mama Nkoli laughed a little, enough to let the woman know she was grateful for the intervention, and also not so much as to make Nkoli think she was making fun of her.
“Come, my shop is upstairs, a na m akwa akwa, I will stitch it now for her” the woman, offered and turned to lead the way, not checking to see if they followed, but they had.

Fifteen years after, Mama Bene had made dozens of attires for Mama Nkoli. Her personality endeared her to you. Customers would leave their houses in the morning and go to see Mama Bene, with other clearly outlined plans on their to-do list. She would hold you down with her laughter, her teases, her gists, she made dresses for a good number of rich women in Lagos, Enugu, Asaba, and beyond the shores, all her customers agreed that visiting Mama Bene was a day’s job.
You would sit opposite her and feast your eyes on her feet as they pedaled , on her fingers when she chose to hand-sew some fabrics, on her elbows when they bent at the Ironing board.
The only thing wrong with Mama Bene, apart from complaining that her daughter Benedicta had refused to learn to make dresses, was that the evil spirit that plagued tailors plagued her too.
“Please, aunty, please, the event is on Thursday, don’t disappoint me I beg you in God’s name”
Many a customer would plead.
“Ahannn, customer, don’t you trust me again? It will be ready by Monday sef”
That was an assurance both Mama Bene and the customer knew was false, Mama Bene would end up giving them the dress after the event was past, or on the morning of the event when the evil spirit’s grip on her loosened. They would frown for her, but not for long, because another event would come up and they would want to outshine mamywata, and only Mama Bene could craft to suit that heavy ambition.
Nkoli was getting married.
“Mama Nkoli, olooma gi achapugokwa o, your orange is ripe!”
Mama Bene hailed her now long time time. The two had become inseparable since the abattoir incident. Mama Nkoli beamed with gladness. As she stood to have her measurements taken for the attire she would don as mother of the bride, she remembered silently, the day she taught she had lost her friend.
On the day, in December 2007, when the Tejuosho market building collapsed in a fire, Mama Nkoli had run about like a headless chicken, screaming
“Enyi mu o! My friend o” and refusing to be consoled.
Mama Bene ought to have been in her shop, predalling away her backlog from the Christmas season. Perhaps, one of her lies caught up with her that morning-  I couldn’t finish your dress, I had diarrhoea. Mama Bene huddled truly on her W.C, had escaped death. She would continue life, unrepenting of her penchant to disappoint customers.
They both aged gracefully, shared the joys and pains of rearing their children together, fought, made up. Mama Nkoli had joined in helping to douse the fury of countless customers, even when her own dresses sat abandoned in Mama Bene’s client wardrobe.
Mama Nkoli smiled a reply
“Ahhh o nne, ekene diri Olisa thanks be to God”
Mama Bene, excited prodded and turned her about endlessly
“Nne, why are you measuring my hips na, isn’t it double wrapper again?”
Mama Bene frowned
“Mba, it is not in vogue anymore, now we sew the skirt and you tie the George on it”
She nodded, her friend was the dressmaking goddess after all
“Mummy! She is not picking” Nneka, informed her mother.
Mama Nkoli was getting frantic. Her friend would not disappoint her today, not on Nkoli’s wedding day.
“Aunty, you have to stop coming into Nkoli’s room, you are getting her tense” the maid of honor politely informed her.
“Lolo, wear something else, the mass begins in twenty minutes” her husband chided “We are leaving now”
She picked a blouse and wrappers matching the wedding color themes and got into the car, with face like an ugly thunder about to roar.
Everyone kept off.
The wedding mass was over, she decided to get herself a spot to cry out her anger and hurt and get it over and done with. She retreated to the stairway leading upstairs, sat and cried. Asking herself those questions you ask yourself when you feel that your foolishness is the only reason you are in at a tight spot. She headed back to the fountain, they were not parishioners of St.Dominic’s Church, Yaba, but they loved the ambience and agreed that the mass would be celebrated there. There was also the proximity to the reception hall at Unilag multipurpose hall.
She smiled and received all the congratulations warmly. Her husband beamed at her, for years he had seen her mask her sad feelings with a graceful facacde, today was not an exception. The ride to the reception was smooth.
Papa Nkoli decided to empty his bladder just at the same time the MC would call them in, they quickly decided that the groom’s parents danced in first. She decided to check on the caterers when someone tapped her in a familiar brashness
“Mama Nkoli, Bia! Come to this corner and change!”
She stared long and hard at her friend, and moved on.
Mama Bene ran after her
“Nne, it’s not like that, I ran out of red thread, eziokwu, before the markets could open for me to buy ehn…”
Mama Nkoli waved her off
“Leave me, please” she barked. She would finally make do her resolution to get rid of the friendship, it couldn’t survive this betrayal.

It was two months after her wedding, Nkoli and her husband huddled in bed, excitedly going through their wedding album
“Ehen, if you see how my people were hailing your mom ehn!”
Nkoli looked puzzled
“What did she do?”
He pointed “Is it not big women that wear two outfits to their daughter’s wedding?”

Photo Credit:

Achalugo Tomato-Jos Ezekobe is paid to run around for clients as a Legal practitioner in the day time, and runs around her three children in the evenings, for free. She enjoys evenings of Chess or Ludo, and would occasionally engage in Playstation affairs but with children, who would believe her when she says “I let you beat me” She covers up the real work behind running a family by sharing them in witty and often humorous pieces on


  1. Taiwo

    July 19, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Seamstresses !!! The power they wield is second to none!!

  2. Naijatalk

    July 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    Nice one Achalugo, ezigbo Tomato-Jos
    Someone should author a book already – “Tailor Tales.”

  3. Purplegirl

    July 19, 2016 at 5:09 pm


  4. @edDREAMZ

    July 19, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Oky seen…

  5. Chinma Eke

    July 19, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Oh my! Nice prose!

  6. tunmi

    July 19, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    lmaooo I loved this. My heart was in my mouth hoping nothing happened to Mama Bene. oh man, this was good. Thank you for writing about this category of women: older women and blue-collar

    • ifyBEKE

      July 19, 2016 at 7:08 pm

      @tunmi, lol, me too. Nice one Achalugo tinted.

  7. nwanyi na aga aga

    July 19, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    hahhahahahahaha! This brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of my mum and her tailor. God bless their souls. After every solemn resolution to sever the friendship, her legs ( my mum) still took her to the woman(the tailor). E be like jazz. Strangely I just cant, I cant take that kind of disappointment ever! No tailor has ever disappointed me cos I sew my clothes like a month b4 the event or worst case scenario 2weeks. Anything later then that I will use an old cloth.

  8. bijouxthisbijouthat

    July 19, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    What did she do?”
    He pointed “Is it not big women that wear two outfits to their daughter’s wedding?”- hahahahahhahahaha, this line sums it all up…
    the friendship was never gotten rid of… it did indeed survive a betrayal…
    Very beautiful written prose

  9. bijouxthisbijouthat

    July 19, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    and yes i love your bio!! u have a great sense of humor as a legal practitioner and a mother of 3!

  10. Dr. N

    July 19, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Great sense of humor

  11. molarah

    July 19, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    This is some real laugh-out-loud prose! More ink to your pen dear writer. Loved it!

  12. bukunmi

    July 19, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I lovvvvved this. “The only thing wrong with Mama Bene, apart from complaining that her daughter Benedicta had refused to learn to make dresses, was that the evil spirit that plagued tailors plagued her too.” I can so relate cos I’m Benedicta.

  13. Mma Bb

    July 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    You stirred up a plethora of memories. Beautiful writing.

  14. Amara

    July 19, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Achalugo my friend, you have done it again! Tailors have shown me pepper! That’s how I looked like a bag of potatoes at my baby sisters wedding. Chai! Good job love, super proud of you!

  15. Josh

    July 19, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    You write well.

  16. nini

    July 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Chioma never disappoints!love it!!! @achalugo my fnd,my lawyer hehe

  17. Amaka

    July 19, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    In the end it was worth it…lol
    Well done Acha!

  18. donchi

    July 19, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Sweet. Do continue. Looking forward to reading some more from you already. Don’t keep us waiting too long.

  19. beautiful prose

    July 19, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    One of d Reasons I fell in love with BN is the beautiful prose,even when I get busy for weeks,when I come I catch up 4 reallllllll, I must say Av never been disappointed even today…so relatable,most of us have our tailor tales….and most of us have relationships we believed would never survive a “betrayal” and then friendship finds a way……

  20. Mama

    July 19, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    You write beautifully! Was entirely captivated by the story.

  21. Maxy

    July 20, 2016 at 3:30 am

    Really really nice! Excellent piece. If you are ibo, you can even relate all the more. I guess there is more than one Chimamanda in the world!

  22. omalicha

    July 20, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Captivating… Got engrossed while reading… I did not want the story to end..hope there is a part two

  23. chiomah

    July 20, 2016 at 7:55 am

    This made me smile from start to finish! Nice piece and everyone can relate to at least some part.

  24. Nanubelle

    July 20, 2016 at 9:23 am

    This made me laugh till tears filled my eyes.. I write too, and I can honestly say this is very refreshing and close to home… Kudos! you should be proud of yourself.

  25. Yeyeperry

    July 20, 2016 at 10:45 am

    This was my father’s tailor that time.

  26. Nammy

    July 20, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    Laughed soo hard and I can relate, I have a tailor that constantly disappoints me but severing the relationship is another issue

  27. Kiki

    July 20, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    “He pointed “Is it not big women that wear two outfits to their daughter’s wedding?”hahahaha…. Omg lmao. I wish I could favorite this! I can totally relate. My mum was a tailor, and she disappointed a lot of ppl in her time, even disappointed me for a school pageant. I ended up wearing her iro and buba, looking like a bag of beans! Upon everything, they always came back to her shop. ‘magical hands’ she called her hands. I miss her big… Big ups!

  28. Ebuka

    July 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Ndi oru-aka as we call them do have this unexplainable grip on us. If you feel ‘sufficiently’ annoyed, learn their trade.
    Nice one Ada mmadu!

  29. Annie

    July 20, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    Mama Bene is Aunty Ngozi in Maza Maza! that woman can disappoint eh! but because shes good I still take materials to her. lool

  30. Jaykay zieuwa

    July 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Nice and hilarious. Saw ds coming as in u posting an article on BellaNaija. Well done Achalugo.

  31. Eliza's English.

    July 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    “”children clothes section.”” children’s clothes.
    “”they bent at the Ironing board.”” ironing board.
    “”she taught she had lost her friend.”” “”thought” from verb “”to think”” and NOT “”taught”” from verb “”to teach””.
    facade and NOT “”facacde””.
    “”Everyone kept off”” is ‘Nigerian’ English, took me a while to figure out. Everyone kept away would have been better.

    That said, thank you. It was light, refreshing, humourous, culturally apt, a pleasant read. Best Wishes.

    And to the commenter who said something about it being nice to see there’s more than one Chinamanda. There isn’t. There’s only one. Just as there’s only one Achalugo. The world doesn’t ever need more than one of an individual. Otherwise, God would have included that in His creation. Even identical twins are individuals. We don’t need to make idols or gods or glorified models of perfection of each other. If the whole world were duplicates one person, how boring (and possibly incestuous) that would be. Let ALL our individual, amazing, quirky, idiosyncratic, different, INDIVIDUAL colours shine! God’s sky’s more than big enough to accommodate and properly display that huge rainbow!

  32. Realchild

    July 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Interesting piece!

  33. Debbie

    July 23, 2016 at 5:40 am

    Amazing stuff. Loved it.

    However, lots of typos. Grammatical errors. Editing should be more thorough by writer and by BN.

    Checking out your blog now. ?

  34. Lmao

    August 4, 2016 at 4:55 am

    Nice one looool tailors are legends. But did anyone also realise that it is only half of what is going on that people see. Everyone saw a big madam who wore two clothes for a wedding when actually it was d dissapointment of the tailor that led to herusing the initial cloth. Life lessons

  35. Tamy

    August 6, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Hahahahahahaha this is my mum and mama chichi her everlasting tailor, I’ll try and send my mom this story

  36. reechad_writes

    August 29, 2016 at 12:57 am


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