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Fatimo Braimo: Life lessons from a sexagenarian

Title: Fatima’s Ranch and Other Stories

Publisher: The Erodio Alphabet Company, Fatimo Braimo

Year: 2022

Pagination: 138

REVIEWER: Henry Akubuiro

The title of this book, Fatima’s Ranch and Other Storiessounds like a collection of short stories, but the smiling visage of a composed personality on the cover offers a contrasting hint. Fatima’s Ranch and Other Stories is, rather, a memoir of fortitude, hope and triumph, written by Fatimo Olusola Braimo, a nurse who overcame a bleak future to rise to the top, serving as an inspiration to other women dying in silence.

The author begins her memoir media res: “The story of my life took an unexpected turn on the evening of December 6, 1992. It was Sunday.” This is an arresting opening that immediately tells you the author is facing some challenges. How does she solve the problem? This is, in parts, what this book is all about—how Fatimo Braimo survived cancer and her journeys through life, amid an air of uncertainty.

In the prologue, the author recalls how her cancer ordeal started. She had just turned 30 when she discovered a lump on her right breast. A test showed she had cancer, and her father used his influence to arrange for a medical trip to London. She was deeply worried, for the news was destabilising: “Here I was, in my prime, and it seemed like my life was about to end before it had barely begun.”

In the first chapter, the author briefly keeps the reader in suspense on the cancer ordeal, as begins her childhood memories, allowing you to get a glimpse of what the future holds for her as a child of destiny. We learn about two events that shaped her life: the first, when she was born on July 27, 1962, and, the second, when she was eighteen months. She turned out to be almost a replica of the mysterious girl on the door the night before.

But the most amazing story of her childhood was when her mother dropped her off at Olodan market, near her parents’ village of Ile-Oke, to play, when she was 18 months old. But she, surprisingly, returned to her mum with a sack of money. When her mum announced to the market her daughter’s discovery, nobody came forward to claim it. When the sack of money was taken to the Baale, the community leader, after weeks of investigation, nobody came forward to claim the money. It was then decided that the money was sent from above to Fatima to help her parents.

Braimo writes: “I believe my purpose in life is to help and be a blessing to others. I believe I was fulfilling that purpose when I dragged the sack of money to my mother. I had no concept of money or what you could do with it,” (p.17).

The author recalls her school days at St Peter’s Primary School, Sekona, from 1970-1975 and Ife-Oluwa Grammar School, Osogbo, from afterwards for secondary education. After leaving secondary school, she developed an interest in nursing, a profession she saw as a “sacred duty”, and got her first posting to Lagos Island Maternity Hospital as a staff midwife. In 1985, she traveled to England for a brief course, returning two years later. But went back to Manchester for her MA in Hotel Administration, graduating in 1990.

The cancer story returns in the second chapter. Here, we see serious attempts to address the ailment with chemotherapy in London and a fortuitous meeting with her would-be husband, Dr. Braimo, was meant to facilitate a medical evaluation in Saudi Arabia. In 1998, the couple relocated to the United Arab Emirates following a new appointment as a consultant hematologist at Fujairah Hospital. That sojourn lasted for 10 years. The author recalls that, on returning to Nigeria, she got a job as an assistant director of administration with Health Service Commission of Lagos State on grade level 15.

She rose to the deputy director of administration at General Hospital, Lagos in 2011, a position she has held till date. The author recalls in the fourth chapter how the cancer resurfaced in 2013, but was quickly nipped in the bud with the support of her husband. In 2021, the Fatimo Olusola Braimo Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation has its first outing. “I felt that drawing on my personal experience, I could champion the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer,” she defined her motivation.

The remaining portion of the book is flooded with goodwill messages to mark the author’s 60th birthday, containing various perspectives on her humane side. The glossy production quality of Fatima’s Ranch and Other Stories makes it an inviting read. The book title, however, should have been couched better.

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