Every military barrack in Nigeria has one thing in common; a mammy market. A mammy market is a place close to the barracks, where soldiers’ interact and buy their day-to-day needs.
However, many do not know that mammy market was named after a woman, Mammy Ochefu, the wife of late military governor of defunct East-Central state, Col. Anthony Aboki Ochefu.
Mammy started the sale of enyi (a local non-alcoholic beverage similar to Kunun Zaki) in 1955 in Enugu barracks just to support her husband in taking care of the family.
Although, her husband initially declined as soldiers’ wives were known to stay at home and take care of the family, but when mammy told her husband it was to support him, he grudgingly accepted.
When Mammy started her business, people started complaining about flies, so, she stopped the business for a week. However, her customers who liked the drink, put pressure on her so much that a Lieutenant Colonel ordered a kiosk to be built for her.
Sadly, her family was posted out of Enugu to Abeokuta but Mammy continued the business wherever her family was posted to, while she added snacks that would interest the soldiers’.
Interestingly, whenever her family was transferred to another state, she would hand over the business to women who were interested in it but asked that the name of the business be retained.
Mammy registered her business as “Mammy Market” in 1971. By the time her husband retired, the business had grown into a supermarket and a transport business.
In an interview with Tribune, Mammy Ochefu explained that military officers like General Ibrahim Babangida, Ikya, Ejiga, Ataua Dickson, including President Muhammadu Buhari patronised her business.
When her husband rose to become a military governor, Mammy was still going about her business. She joined him few months later due to pressure from people, leaving the business in the hands of four people.
The idea of Mammy market, which was started by Mammy Ochenfu in Enugu Army Barrack with one shilling in 1955, continues to grow with the country and whenever a barrack is built, a mammy market is built together with it.
Through this initiative, Mammy Ochefu helped millions of Nigerian women across the countries to be business owners.