‘Truth Is, We Also Are Scared Of Boko Haram’
Why Artisans From North Could Be Your Best Friend
IN Rivers, it is rare to find young indigenes of the state eking out a living as cobblers or itinerant tailors. These jobs are often viewed as the premise of artisans of Northern extraction – economic migrants who have come to the Garden City.
But while many Riverians shy from the humble tasks, it appears these few who have chosen to do them may, after all, have discovered a gold mine of some sort.
Ahmed Musa, a cobbler who came all the way from Jigawa State, told The Guardian he has a number of achievements to show for his labour under the Port Harcourt sun.
According to him, he has an apartment he rented from earnings made, he’s married, and even sends money to his parents back home. Musa described the job as very lucrative, saying he would rather do it than venture, like some, into armed robbery or kidnapping. According to him, the job is not only legitimate; it also puts food on his table daily.
Musa said he feels sad whenever he hears of young people being arrested for crimes, advising them to put aside pride and get something doing.
But Musa is not alone. Usman, a tailor who has lived in Port Harcourt for over a decade, said he is proud of his job. He explained that he has been able to train three of his children in school, meet his family’s needs and also care for his parents. According to Usman, his pocket is never dry.
“There is no day I go out without returning home with money, and I am happy about that. Though the earning is not huge but it is better than begging for alms. I feel it is important for people to learn skills and utilise available opportunities rather than wait for government. Government cannot employ everybody,” said Usman.
Entrepreneurial expert, Michael Ufong, canvassed the promotion of entrepreneurship and skills training among youths in the country, especially those from the Niger Delta region.
Ufong said young persons need to be inspired and encouraged to explore and exploit their potentials in skills that afford vast ranges of opportunity.
“Nigeria, as a developing economy, needs inventive minds to create, build, explore and export ideas in making entrepreneurism a major driving force in the country’s quest for industrial and economic development,” said Ufong.
An Accountant, Jude Anyamele, condemned feeling among some people of the South South, which makes them conclude that cobbling is exclusively for persons from the North. He said: “It is improper to keep waiting for big jobs without thinking about starting small. If the waiting process gets delayed, people could end up being pushed into armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism or other vices,” he warned.
For John, a student of Rivers State University of Science and Technology, a typical ‘Port Harcourt Boy’ performing such menial jobs is inconceivable.
Urging youths to begin with small jobs, Mr. Ajoku Samuel, a lecturer, said: “If someone can’t manage N1,000, even if he is paid N1m, he would not be able to handle it. So, I advise young people to start with little legitimate jobs, and then aim higher.”
Lagos is another state in Nigeria that boasts of a huge population of people from the North. Like Port Harcourt, it has many of these artisans and low-skilled workers, anxious for a dip in the economic waters of the Centre of Excellence. They constitute the hundreds of shoe repairers, tailors, and perhaps thousands of Okada (commercial) motorcyclists.
The Guardian caught up with some of them at CMD Ikosi Road in the Shangisha area of the state and found that besides economic motives, there is another reason why many of them are fleeing the North.
“I came from Bornu State. I have many Hausa friends who also stay here with me. I came to Lagos to make money and also save enough money to feed and sustain my family,” said Gambo Muhammed. A gatekeeper, Muhammed has been on the job for two years. According to him, he took up the placement after his brother left the job.
He described his host community as “a nice place”, adding that the people are good and caring, despite his belonging to a different ethnic group. Muhammed explained that he was displaced by the insurgency in the North, a situation, which made him relocate his wife and three children to Cameroun.
“I hardly go to see them due to insufficient money,” he said, appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to curb the insurgency “so that I can return to my hometown and live with my family again. Many Yoruba people say those of us from the North are Boko Haram. But the truth is we are afraid of the rebels too.”
Displaced by the insurgency, Ibrahim Abba, a commercial motorcyclist, also has his wife and a daughter hidden away in Cameroun. He regrets that in the past one year, he has been unable to set his eyes on them. He, however, has other troubles.
He complained of harassment by local touts who he hoped President Buhari would restrain. Unlike Gambo Muhammed, Abba said he has had a raw deal from some unscrupulous Yoruba people, including one who boarded his bike, and rather than pay for the service insultingly called him ‘Boko Haram!’ “Not wanting any trouble, I just left the man.
This is a drama I face every time, in order to find money to feed my family in Cameroun,” said Abba. Another, a petty trader for three years, Abubakar’s family is tucked away in far off Libya. “I came to Lagos to make money, so that I can send some to my family.
I travelled here due to fear of Boko Haram, having witnessed a bomb blast; it’s a sight I never want to see again,” he said, calling on the Nigerian government to quickly end the insurgency “so that I can take my family back to my home and live in peace.”
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