As a bona fide student of Adekunle Ajasin university, Akungba-Akoko, (AAUA), the name ‘Mama Chemistry’ would not make you think of chemical equations, but it will definitely make you think of specially made popcorn and groundnut. An AAUA Insider correspondent paid a visit to one of the oldest and charismatic traders on campus. In an exclusive interview she talked about her journey as a trader and the creative nomenclature of her goods. Excerpts…
Kindly tell us about yourself?
My name is Mulikat, I’m from Ilorin in Kwara State. I am over 60 years old.
Do you have any educational background?
I didn’t have access to formal education when I was young. I only grew up to start trading.
How did you come about the popcorn selling business, have you done any business before this?
I came to Ondo state over 40 years ago, when I got here I settled in Ikare-Akoko, where I started selling snacks at Lenon Jubillee secondary school in Ikare before moving down to Akungba in 1999 when the university was opened. So I have spent like 22 years in Akungba.
How did you get the nickname “Mama Chemistry”?
I was the one that thought of the name for myself. When I got here I started advertising my goods the typical way. But after a while, I thought of another way to make my advertising sound more attractive and since this is an academic environment I decided to make use of some of the subjects taught here and I named my goods after these subjects. That’s why people call me Mama Chemistry and I answer them “gbogbo subject” (meaning all subjects).
You said your goods are named after certain subjects, can you tell us the subject each good stands for?
You see this white popcorn, it stands for Biology and Physics, the groundnut stands for Computer science, this honey/red popcorn represents Chemistry and Law. I named all of them myself, nobody gave me the idea it just came and I decided to use it to advertise my goods and it has been effective ever since.
How do you see AAUA students?
I see every student as my child, that was why I decided to start using the nickname initially. It is not good to frown or be harsh to students. Every student faces pressure at some times so it’s good to have someone that can make them smile and forget their troubles. That’s why I made up these funny names and also interact friendly with everyone. And the students too are very friendly, whenever someone patronizes me and misplace a property, the students always return it back for me to give the person. Even during riot or Aluta periods students don’t damage my stuffs or harass me, our relationship is very cordial.
What are the challenges you face in this trade?
One of the challenges is in the aspect of preparing the popcorn and groundnut. I do it all myself and it’s tedious because of the smoke that comes from the fire. Another challenge is whenever school is on strike or holidays, sales are always low. But even during the COVID-19 lockdown times I used to come to sell, until a time that I travelled to Lagos. The job is challenging but I still do it anyways.
What advise do you have for AAUA students?
My advise to students is that they should always behave themselves appropriately, and persevere in their studies. They should not live their lives by comparing themselves to other people, because we are all running different races, and no matter how long they stay here they will leave one day. So they should focus on their studies and do their best, God will always be with everyone of them, and also the staffs of AAUA.
The language of the interview was Yoruba, however for the readability for the entirety of past and present students, it was translated to English language in a way that preserves the originality.