Mrs. Ezinee Daniel-Nze, 83-year-old former traditional healer from Ndi-Obasi, Abia State, tells GODFREY GEORGE about her childhood, marriage and life lessons
Or are you from and where did you grow up?
My name is Mrs. Comfort Daniel-Nze. I am 83 years old. I will be 84 in September of this year. I am from Ndi-Obasi, Okagwe-Ohafia, Abia State. My village is well known for buying and selling. It was a very nice place. There were no hills like some other places in the east. There was very lush vegetation and I had many friends.
One thing I will always remember from my childhood is that we always went to the stream to swim. I was a very good swimmer. No one could compete with me then. Once in the water, I disappeared like a fish. Even now in my old age, my love for swimming remains as I now train my daughter, Vivian Nze, to swim. We had a lot of waterways in Ohafia. We girls would go swimming at the creek and the boys would join us, and we would rush to cover ourselves. In the end, we would always swim with the boys. I was also good at sprinting.
I didn’t go to school but people who were at school came begging me to represent their school in a race. I have always won. When I look back now, it gives me so much joy.
How would you describe your family growing up?
We were four children. I am my parents’ first daughter. My father was very rich. He had lots of farmland and houses at Ogbo Hill in Aba and some of them which he bequeathed to his children still exist till this day. People knew him even at my mother’s. They always came around to ask him to give or lend them money. He was also very free.
Why didn’t you go to school when your father was rich?
In our time, they said there was no need to send a girl to school because soon they would be married and start having children. They saw it as a waste of time and resources. That’s why I told myself that whatever the cost, I would make sure to train my daughters; and I’m glad I did it before my old age.
What were some of the responsibilities that being a first child imposed on you while growing up in the family?
As an “ada” (first daughter), it was my duty to go to the kitchen and cook the family meal, and it had to be tasty enough for my parents to eat as well. We had cousins with us so it was a big family and I had to cook with a big pot to make the meal go well.
I started cooking when I was seven years old. I was very young but my mother made sure I started on time. My other siblings were men, so you wouldn’t expect them to come into the kitchen and cook for the family. After cooking, I would sweep the entire enclosure. I also fetched water and made sure to provide chew sticks for the family to clean their teeth. I was a very hardworking child and that made me a good businesswoman in my prime.
What are some of the most striking differences between the lifestyle of your time as a young woman and today?
In my day, we only cooked with firewood, but now we have so many ways to cook. I always like to use firewood. The one they call gas scares me. It’s my daughter trying to teach me how to light it now. It’s too sudden, and it makes my heart “fly”. The food tastes almost the same, but I like the taste of food cooked with firewood. The smoke from the firewood adds to the aroma of the food.
Being the firstborn, did you learn anything from your father?
My dad was disciplinary but I don’t remember him boxing me. If you report to him that boys or girls are beating you on the street, he will scold you to stop crying and go fight them. He taught us to always stand up and fight for our rights. He hated getting involved in fights between two children. He would tell you to go fight the person yourself and leave them out of it. And if the scenario happened a second time, he would punch you for crying at home.
My father was a traditional healer and a businessman. He didn’t like the idea of working for someone. He used herbs to cure people’s illnesses. Many people came from all over the state and the country to see it. He was a well-known healer.
So it was from him that you learned the craft of healing with herbs?
I was very close to him so he taught me to get leaves and roots. I learned to combine and cook the leaves. I would also squeeze the juice and bring it to the patient if he was admitted with us. So, I became very knowledgeable in these things. There was no illness that we both couldn’t handle. If the disease challenged orthodox medicine, people would bring them to us and we would take care of the case. Some people, who couldn’t pay my father’s bill, would go behind my father and approach me, and I would do it for them cheaply. I used the money to take care of my children before orthodox medicine spread and some leaves also disappeared. To this day, I still think these traditional herbs are better than most orthodox medicines in some cases.
At what age did you meet your husband?
I don’t remember very well, but I know that I got married very early. I was not yet 16 when I got married. He was from Enugu State.
Where did you meet him?
My husband saw me in Aba and found me in my village of Ohafia. He was a well known man in the village so it wasn’t that hard when he told my people he had eyes for me.
What are some of the characteristics you saw in him that endeared you to him?
I had other men coming to marry me, but I liked that he didn’t pay much attention to other women. I like the fact that he doesn’t have a big belly. I had never liked men with big bellies anyway. He was a very calm and loving man. It was when we got married that we were joined in the church, the apostolic church, Abia State. I didn’t look whether he was rich or not; I just liked it. This is why I advise young people to stop looking into the pockets of their future spouses. Let your relationship be based solely on love. If you marry with love, I promise you the money will come. Take a closer look at the person’s outlook and where the two of you are going and all the great things you can achieve together.
What is the best part of marrying Mr. Daniel Nze?
The best part would be the fact that most people didn’t even know if people lived in that house because they would never hear our voices. People who saw us asked us if we were brothers and sisters. We were at peace. We never called anyone a single day to come and fix our problems. It gave us a lot of respect. That didn’t mean we didn’t have problems. There came a time in our relationship where it was really difficult. At one point my husband wasn’t so supportive even though he was earning a lot from his furniture business but that didn’t deter me from going the extra mile to support my six kids and make up for the delicate situation with my husband. I was into goat farming at that time, and God was so gracious that my goats gave birth to as many as three or four kids at a time. I was able to take care of my children with the profits. That’s why I don’t understand the fact that some women these days expect their husbands to do everything for them. As a wife, your husband’s financial situation should not justify separation or divorce. Instead, you should be on your feet and doing and covering for your husband until his situation changes, because it won’t be for a long time. One thing I want people to know is that marriage is about endurance. But I know there are times when it would become too much for you to bear, especially when your life is at stake; in this kind of circumstance, my advice would be “Don’t die in marriage!” I’m still trying to figure out how a man would throw up his hands and hit his wife. If there is a man who does this, he should abstain and become good.
When my husband passed away in April 2002, after a brief illness, I cried for days knowing that my own helper had passed away and decided to be left alone. I was already old, so what was the point of remarrying even if people came to marry me? I still mourn my husband.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in your more than eight decades of existence?
For someone to have stayed in this world this long, of course, there are a lot of challenges and lessons that I learned and tell the younger generation who would like to live as long as me. I am someone who loves and serves God with all my heart, and that has helped me a lot. The word of God is what I use as a mirror to see my life. The Bible says we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When you do this, you wouldn’t want to harm another human. We should all live as one. There is no need for these infighting and conflict. We are all brothers and sisters of the same parent. If we see life this way, we would have no problem with life and we would live long.
In fact, I remember that during the Biafra war, I had just given birth to a boy. A beautiful thing that happened then was that the soldiers when they saw my son loved him – they nicknamed him Ojukwu because of his “beauty” – and always gave him a part of their own meals. That’s why I tell young people who beat the rhythms of war to seek peace. If Nigeria then was even better than what we have now and we were still suffering, then imagine what it would be like if we were to experience this again.
Will you still vote during the elections?
Ah! Why not? I am a responsible Nigerian citizen and voting is my right. As I speak to you, I have my permanent voter card and if God keeps me alive until 2023, I will line up and vote for the person who I think will lead Nigeria better. If there is going to be a change in the country, then I think we should take the vote seriously so we can stop complaining about bad governance.
All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without the prior express written permission of PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]