Muhammad Aliyu is an indigene of Auyo Local Government Area of Hadejia in Jigawa State. In 1981, he left Jigawa for Kaduna in search of greener pasture and ventured into cobbling. He speaks with Daily Trust on his journey and lessons learnt on the job. Excerpts:
Daily Trust: How long have you been a cobbler?
Muhammad Aliyu: I have been in this business for a long time, at least about 35 years in this exact spot along Muhammadu Buhari Way formerly Waff Road. You know God has many ways of doing things; I have worked with many people here but they have moved on, found better jobs, however they still come around and see me here.
DT: What has been your greatest challenge?
Aliyu: The biggest challenge I have faced is the attitude of Nigerians towards small businesses like ours. Nigerians are not clever. Instead of investing huge amount of money in building houses worth millions of naira, they could invest in people like us. We could come to an agreement where they take about five or six of us to countries like Italy for about six months to perfect our skills since we know the basics. When we come back, we’ll be ready to start good business of making shoes.
What we are praying for is funding, at least we will be able to teach others because we have children. Some school children come after school, some are even almajiri. I have one who is now like a son to me. I have enrolled him in a school.
DT: How have you been able to sustain the business for this long?
Aliyu: I have been repairing shoes at this spot for over 35years so all my customers that have enjoyed my work still come to me no matter how far they live. They drop their shoes for repairs in sacks and big bags because they believe I will do a good job for them.
DT: What have you achieved so far from your work?
Aliyu: I can only thank God that with this work I have made a large family of 20 children and two wives. All my children attend private schools for which I am very grateful.
DT: If someone were to open a school for you to teach youths the business, how much do you think you will need?
Aliyu: To start the shoe making business, one will need at least N500, 000. I will be able to buy all the materials needed and even print my name on the shoes which can be exported and the skills can be passed on to many generations.
DT: Has any of your children taken after you?
Aliyu: Yes, and he is very good at it. He is in school now if not he would have been in the shop mending one shoe or the other.
DT: What class is he?
Aliyu: He is in Junior Secondary School (JSS) 3.
DT: Apart from repairing shoes, have you started making shoes?
Aliyu: We can even make better shoes than the shoe makers themselves because we have better materials than theirs, but the problem is you cannot do the work of a repairer and shoe maker at the same time. Everyone has his work, but as far as shoe repair is concerned, I can change your shoes and even design them to your taste.
Well, as far as you are working, you will definitely meet different kinds of people, you will meet good people and those who will even hurt you. The best is to learn how to interact with and accommodate everybody.
DT: How lucrative is the business?
Aliyu: I have to come out to work every day to make money for the day. I buy food and other things every day for my family with the proceeds of the business and I do not save anything. But if I were to save the money, I could make more than a N100, 000 in a month, but we are human beings and we have needs.
DT: What’s your advice to government on small businesses like yours?
Aliyu: If the government could support those who are less privileged with funds to establish small businesses, the same government will one day benefit from such people. Unfortunately, the government collects money, in the name of tax from you instead of giving you.
DT: What advice do you have for youths who do not engage in any business?
Aliyu: The problem with our youths today is that they want to enjoy life without working for it. Even if your work is to sweep floors, try and do it with sincerity. One day, God will help you and even if you are not rich, you won’t be dependent on others.