The Woman Behind Mammy Market

By Chidinma Okere on Wed, 18/03/2020 - 06:09

Anyone familiar with military barracks in Nigeria is also familiar with the term "mammy market". Mammy market usually shortened as mammy is a market attached to a barracks. Mammy is also found in NYSC orientation camps because those are also considered a military settlement.

What you may not know is that the first mammy started in 1959 and is named after the woman who started it - Mammy Ochefu, wife of late military governor of defunct East-Central state, Col. Anthony Aboki Ochefu.

Anthony Aboki Ochefu, a young non-commissioned military officer who had just been posted to Enugu from Abeokuta went with his young and newly wedded bride who hails from Otukpo in Benue state. They were quartered at the Army Barracks, Abakpa, Enugu. So as not to be idle and to earn some extra money for the family, Mrs Ochefu started selling soft drinks. She also sold a local gruel popularly called 'Umu or enyi' in Idoma, or kunu in Hausa. Enyi is a common street drink and was popular among the soldiers. Mammy would run into troubles with military authorities but her popularity with the soldiers saw her business restored in no time.

Her husband got transferred out of Enugu and Mrs Ochefu went to the new barracks with her Mammy market but not without handing over the old business to another woman. Many transfers would happen for the family but each time, the woman would hand over the existing business to another woman while making plans to start up at a new place. By this time, she and other women like her had expanded the scope of what can be bought from mammy market. Now, at every mammy market, there's not just soft drinks but other supplies ranging from beauty items to home staples. After Colonel Anthony Ochefu's retirement, the couple went on to register a company called Mammy Markets. The company was into haulage and trading. Mrs Mammy Ochefu is alive and lives in her home town of Otukpo, Benue state. One of her children with her late husband is Professor Yakubu Aboki Ochefu, Secretary to the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, a Professor of African Economic History and a former Vice Chancellor of Kwararafa University, Taraba State, Nigeria

Mrs Ochefu's small plan of supporting her family has gone on to support thousands of other families from military to civilian. Nowadays, everywhere a barracks is set up, a mammy is automatically set up too.