Days are gone when artisan-ship was despised, downgraded and slighted obviously as it was a trade which a good number of its practitioners were either school dropouts, illiterates or those from poverty ridden families.
In those years it was probably a thing of letdown that someone’s child, out of all lucrative professions like medicine, pharmacy, law, engineering, the person’s child is only interested in mechanics, welder, Panel Beating and others like them. In those days a parent who was incapable of sending their children to school found succour in getting such children to go and learn one art or the other or go to a brother or friend for apprenticeship as is mainly practised by the Igbos of Nigeria.
Is the situation still the same, especially this age of unemployment, economic meltdown and predominantly weak purchasing power when even the rich also cry! It is no longer unusual to find graduates in the business of artisanship.
The economic situation indeed has become so dynamic that artisans are becoming major drivers of the economy in Nigeria. You find them in every nook and cranny in cities, towns and villages doing their work. Artisans have become so indispensable that their services are sought after by both the rich and the poor alike and they are obviously smiling to the bank.
ALSO READ: ECOWAS Special Envoy, Goodluck Jonathan Briefs Buhari On Mali, Says Opposition Insists On Boubacar Keita’s Resignation
Handwork as many would always like to call it, artisanship is becoming the in thing among the low income earners in Nigeria today. Any average family in Nigeria would want their children to learn one handiwork or the other even though he or she would still further their education. The major reason was hinged on the unpredictability of life. Many a time one might not be able to actualize one’s life’s aspiration, in such a situation the best thing is for one to bounce back and rely on one’s handiwork for survival.
Many a time life is not as one would have desired, with a hand work, it is easier for such a person to fall back on his handiwork, be it mechanic, welder, among others.
Artisans today are envied by the white collar job seekers who have wasted years looking for a neat job as it were. In today’s job environment the question is, as always, what can you offer in the entire value chain of whatever an individual is doing in life? The artisans have created a niche for themselves and have become really indispensable, so to say, in the scheme of things.
The artisans are also bread-winners. The event of the coronavirus pandemic has also brought economic dislocations. It is even much more so when they have to depend on the patronage of those who are also facing challenges in their various sectors.
Ndubuisi, a Mechanic
Ndubuisi is a mechanic. Ndubuisi services truck engines, axles and gearboxes. He works on such trucks as Mack, Renault, Iveco, Owo, DAF, Mandesel, among other truck brands, and he has been doing well until the Covid-19 pandemic.
He is not immune to the negatives that are associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. A hard-working young man in his late twenties, though not married said he was unhappy, he wore a sad look while explaining what is happening in his life now, if it had come to him in the form of prophecy he would not have believed it.
With head office at Beggar Suya, in Apapa area of Lagos, he said their workshop still operated an alternate market system according to the Lagos State guidelines on coronavirus, or what is popularly called one day on, one day off. He said it is affecting his business. Ndubuisi also lamented that his customers also complain of not having money and that they don’t pay for services; they always request to be attended to on credit.
Ndubuisi disclosed “Cost of parts have doubled and it affects the price we give our customers, because if they buy parts at high price, and we raise our workmanship for them, they complain, so it is affecting our business seriously.
“Those parts we were buying say N5,000 is now N12,000 because when they spend money on parts they will now tell you that they don’t have money. They will say they bought parts and when we finish working they will use coronavirus as an excuse. Again we do one day on, one day off here, but sometimes I do outside work, but talking about my workshop, we alternate the days.
Lukman, another Mechanic
A group of men were also sighted at Coker, along Badagry Expressway, they were working on Injectors. For the men, their work was not affected in any way as they have tens of Injectors still waiting to be serviced. They claimed that every business depends on the site; one of them, Lukman said that their workshop is close to a truck terminal near the Express and anybody whose truck has issues knows exactly where to go for a solution.
He however called on the government to further ease the lockdown as the cost of goods and movement of people is too high. Lukman said coming from Okoko his residence to Coker/Orile, he spends too much on fare and also disclosed that he eats at home before coming to work and takes gala while in the workshop. He said another food would be when he gets home. He said expenses, inflation, high cost of goods and services have whittled down his purchasing power. Lukman still thanked God for preserving his life and that of his family from the pandemic.
“Government should ease the lockdown as the cost of goods and movement of people is too high. I am always coming from Okoko to this place in Coker/Orile, I spend too much on fare and also I eat at home before coming to work and I take just gala while in the workshop, another food would be when I get home, expenses, inflation, high cost of goods and services have whittled down my source of income and. As it is, I don’t have a choice again, what I see I eat. I still thank God for preserving my life and that of my family from the pandemic.
He said some of his boys have stopped coming because there is not much work and he is no longer giving them stipends because he is not as buoyant as before, adding that it is now to your tent o Israel. “When you work, you go to your house and eat; my agreement with them is to teach them the work and not to feed them.
“That is not to say that I don’t give them something any day. God blesses me extraordinarily, something you sure you have made gain, you can drop 5k and say you people should share this. There is love in sharing.”
Friday, Panel Beater, from Benin Republic
Friday is from Benin Republic, works as a Panel Beater in Lagos, he said that coronavirus has nothing good in it. Gas is a major component of his work, a two liter cylinder which used to cost N2000 is now N3000 to fill and most times it does not last as before.
He said he is just working to keep body and soul together, adding that if he fixes high prices for his services the clients would run away, so they only work in order to eat and not to save money.
This time you don’t have somebody to borrow from; again if you give me today, what of tomorrow? So we do anything we can get after buying material, we use it like that. Friday said the economic activities and lockdown in Nigeria is the same as in Benin Republic but said his country has allowed markets to open.
He called on the government to see the plight of the masses and open the economy.
“The size of this (pointing at a cylinder) is two meter, before the price was 2000 but now it is 3000, this is gas. We have a hose and nozzle, these are old ones, but if you go to the market to buy them now, the prices are certainly very high now. The money we collect from customers is just management because we are left with no choice; there is no money in town. It is no longer like before. The government should remove the coronavirus so that old things will start new again,” Friday pleaded.
“Coronavirus is also in Benin Republic, it is everywhere. There was a lockdown there also, but they just opened it less than one month again,, so there is free movement there now.
Ola (Alfa), a Welder
Ola popularly called Alfa, is a Welder plying his trade on Agor-Link Road in Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos, he said his work has slowed down since the pandemic. He said it was only when people were building that people could ask welders to construct gates or iron protectors for them. According to him the work they do now is mostly repair works and such money is not for savings or projects. Ola said the work he is doing now is just for feeding which is not even enough.
Ola said he uses electrode as the major material for his profession, but it is now on the high side. He also makes use of diesel because he doesn’t usually have power supply. He buys diesel to power his generator. He lamented the hike in prices of petrol products which is affecting their work negatively. Government rather than pity them and help them with reduction in prices, the government rather found convenience in increasing prices of fuel, diesel and all related products.
Even though where I am doing my work nobody disturbs me, but the alternated market system affects me in a way, because assuming I want to buy raw material for my work and I go to market in a day that they are not there, my work will be delayed and my customers will be complaining. So coronavirus is an evil that does nobody any good. “I buy my materials in cartons and it has doubled, let them help us, we cannot continue like this. As for the materials I am using, if I go to market, the market is one day on, one day off, like tomorrow that is not a market, if I go there to buy materials, I will not see those selling what I am looking for. I use gas and diesel, I also use electrodes for welding and I buy it in cartons.
“A carton I was buying about N2000 before, it is now about N2800, because importation is no longer as before because of coronavirus, and I cannot charge people more, if you charge people more, they can run away. You see, our materials have gone up, but we cannot increase our workmanship, that is the problem we are facing. So if we put money more that what we charge before they will run away and go to another person, there must be somebody who is ready to collect peanut, that is life, but I thank God for everything.”
He spoke further “Before somebody can decide, okay, I made money this month, let me go and buy land or car or anything of that nature. All those things have been kept aside, to eat; that is what we are after now. Who has money for a motor now? Nothing like that again my brother, many people that even have motor, generator, TV, Radio, once they spoil the owners would just pack them one side till further notice because they are not a priority and there is no money.
He said the government should realize that those at the lower rung of the ladder should be catered for in a way, by either getting them food or giving them other forms of palliatives. “Let me ask you people that are closer to government; why is it that government is not looking at our direction, I hear about US, they give money to their citizens for locking them down, even some African countries, they exempted their citizens from paying light, water bills and all those areas government can easily play a role, they also approached landlords and pleaded them not to take rent from tenants, especially at that early part of Covid-19.”