From: Tunde Omoheim, Sokoto
It is not in doubt that Sokoto State is an ancient city in Northern Nigeria. Aside its awesome presence as the seat of the Caliphate that was inaugurated by the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio in 1803, the city is also famous for its traditional devotion to arts and crafts.
One of the most popular manifestations of this tradition in Sokoto is the culture of hides and skin. Evidence of this popularity is reinforced n the fact that an entire area in the metropolis, ‘Shiyar Madunka’ is inhabited by mainly those who relied on the arts and craft for their livelihood.
Today, the people, young and old, work night and day, to process and come up with enduring designs out of the hides and skin of animals such as goats, sheep and cattle, creating products such skin bags, shoes, carpet, skin bed sheets, pillow cases and all forms of interior decorations, which in turn are presented as priceless gifts and souvenirs to dear and beloved ones.
One of the geniuses in this sector in the state is Alhaji Kabiru Madunka. He is the Chief Executive of Marhaba Leather Works, a leather factory started just a few years ago, but now employs over 30 craftsmen and women.
Speaking to Arewa Report, he confessed that the business had been good and rewarding while dispelling the long held notion that it was an enterprise reserved for only the aged .
He explained that many young people had joined the business, duly earning their livelihood along its value chains adding that the youth had blended modernity with tradition to scale up the landscape of the leather industry in the state.
“Before, the hides and skin business was synonymous with the old, but today it has turned to a big business. It is an enterprise for all, especially the youths in Sokoto,” Kabiru explained.
An artisan in the sector, Alhaji Suleiman Alkali told Arewa Report that his leather materials were produced from the famous Sokoto red goat skin.
“We used the skin of either red goat or cow, which is reared by Sokoto herdsmen to make some of our best items” he said while listing his leather works to include bags, shoes, carports, skin bed sheets, pillow cases and all forms of interior decorations.
Alkali disclosed that some of his clients included the state government and their officials as well as some of the wealthy individuals in the state, who oftentimes contracted him to make new products or for already finished leather works.
“In this case, we make reasonable profit whenever we get such orders from government. Some individuals are also patronising us,” he explained.
Starting off a new leather outfit, according some leather practitioners in the state, did not require a fortune or an undue stretch of apprenticeship to accomplish.
“We normal buy fresh skins at reasonable prices. But by the time we finish and process them into items like bags, foot mats and other interior decorations, they become big money” said Musa Kware, another practitioner .
Speaking on his superlative craft, Kware admitted that he mastered the skills years ago while working as an apprentice to his father, saying his family had been engaged in the business across several generations.
He said he made his works stand out by deploying competence alongside the latest technologies in the sector, resulting in improved qualities and designs.
“Once your designs are good and the people see them, they would certainly buy, they are bound to buy ,” he said.
Kabiru, however, regretted that their biggest challenge remained the absence of technology and equipment to produce top class designs of leather works.
“We want to know how we can get modern equipment that can aid our works. We need machines also to replace the human aspects of the craft so that we can engage in mass production of leather for commercial purpose.”
He appealed to Sokoto State Government to beam its light on the sector as part of its drive for further earnings and resources, counseling that, “If government wants to give out loan or technical support, genuine entrepreneurs should be identified instead of giving money to unproductive people.”