By Ibraheem Abdullateef
I could feel it, I could read it. The relief on the faces of those tailors interviewed in a viral video on social media, over the production of 500,000 units of face masks awarded to them by the Kwara State government.
The contracted fashion designers’ words of appreciation didn’t hit me like the realisation that the wind of change has equally reached the side of artisans.
Recently when the government announced its plan to make face masks for the citizens, as a part of the larger efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 just as the state undergoes gradual ease of lockdown as a measure to revamp the economy, little did people expect them to make reality of the promise of patronising the local artisans.
Why? History and antecedence. Kwara is a state with a rich history of denying the indigenous artisans of economic opportunities.
This is why something as elementary as entrusting the indigenous peoples with a contract is novel here. In the not so distant past, someone had jokingly told me that it was better to be a non-Kwara Segun than being an indigenous Aliu to stand such a chance.
You may wonder why this was so. But it is simple. Lack of clear vision of sustainable economy and passion to make lasting impacts at the local level.
By the sheer decision of giving the local tailors the contract of making 500,000 face masks in the first phase of production, Governor AbdulRazaq has shrewdly demonstrated trust and belief in their competence and expertise.
By implications, he endorsed them to the world as industrious people. Do they not say a leader, amongst other duties, is the chief advertiser of his state in the modern world?
Another major benefit aside from the recognition is the economic impact. I overheard the state president Nigerian Union of Tailors, Alhaji Abd’Azeez Ojoo said that thousands of their members partook in the project.
Without taking his words verbatim, he had the knowledge to view the economic impacts of the project on members who have been largely rendered idle by the lockdown to be massive.
We may imagine such a number and the influence on other dependants viz-a-viz the scale on poverty index. It suffices to say more of such intervention could reduce the poverty rate in the state.
What I believe we are not seeing is the fact that such negligence in the past killed enterprise and entrepreneurship in Kwara State.
Denied of encouragement and patronage, armies of able-bodied young men took to commercial riding. The not-so-lucky female counterparts embraced menial labour on construction sites with the attending indignity.
The older ones would rather form a long list of beggars on the doorstep of the deposed Governor-general every week for crumbs. Whenever I remember the story of Muba (abridged form of Mubarak), I battle hard to keep the tears back.
My friend’s dad was a teacher who had a wife and four children. Muba the eldest barely finished secondary school with us when he was taken to learn tailoring. Being a young, sharp mind, he took to the learning quite amazingly and was already good at it just two years in.
By the time we were resuming year two at the college, the family got him a sewing machine from the joint savings( Leave English: Won da owo jo ra monsini fun ore mi ) so he could start working. Since Kwara is largely a civil servant state, he had little to no patronage.
Tell me, who buys new clothes to cover an empty stomach? You’d remember the old cliche Afusa (satirical phrase for half salary) and geri gedi synonymous with the state.
The gains for his industry and enterprise were broken legs when he eventually abandoned tailoring for Okada riding in order to eke a living!
Whereas not much has changed with the economic composition of the state, decisions like empowering and patronising the local artisans as AbdulRazaq demonstrated would only make it better.
This little act of trust and desire to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor was grossly lacking in the old dispensation. This, exactly, was the change Kwarans sought and have gotten.
Making Kwarans work for Kwarans is another feather to AbdulRazaq’s cap. Not only the concerned tailors and artisans would know how wonderful the O to ge revolution was.
The students receiving bursaries, civil servants, local builders and road contractors, health workers also seem to be serenaded by the song of change as Ramadan inches to an end and AbdulRazaq marks 365days in office in a few days’ time.
Ibraheem is a social and community development advocator
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