By Wole Mosadomi
He is a happy man today, smiling all over
the place that houses his tailoring shop in Minna, Niger State. He has many reasons to be happy: He is a proud owner of a business that employs other Nigerians and his products are making waves across the country and adding value to his life and family members.
Jonathan Isaiah, who completed his university education with a degree in sociology in 2016, is no longer roaming the streets in search of jobs but is now training many other Nigerians in his shop where he sews fashion clothes and sells materials to others as a going concern.
Jonathan, who is a graduate of sociology from the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, graduated in 2016 but had to retire to fashion designing after many years of fruitless search for white collar jobs. His case seems peculiar in their family because the blood of tailoring seems to be running in their veins.
His grandmother was a tailor just like his mother who is now his major partner in the tailoring business. Jonathan merely tapped into the family business in a bigger and more creative way, thereby making more progress and impact than his predecessors in the trade.
Today, he runs his outfit with his mother, who learnt the trade from his grandmother. “My grandmother was a tailor and she encouraged my mother to go into the business while my mother also dragged me into the business from childhood with my academics going hand in hand. I started learning the trade at the age of 12 in Ilorin, Kwara State but I never knew that it would eventually be my sustenance,” he explained.
According to him, he made up his mind to fall back on the trade after his fruitless search for work.
Thus after his graduation, he went back to fashion designing in Ilorin to brush his skills and also add embroidery to his already acquired skill in tailoring, adding: “Altogether, I am about 10 years in the business and now sew for both males and females. I also have eleven apprentices – five males and six females including four graduates with one of them being my course mate who is learning the skills and they are all feeling proud and full of hope for the future.
“With my situation, I am no longer thinking of any white collar job. I have no regret being in this trade because I am touching the lives of many people and I will continue to do that. My plan is to expand the business and promote made in Nigeria attires to the outside world because my label is boldly printed on my finished attires indicating Niger State, Nigeria.”
With the mother sewing in a corner of the shop and beaming proudly with smiles, Jonathan pointed to his mother and declared “that is my managing director while I am the manager and we have been working together for years without any conflict.” One of the problems he and others like him are facing is lack of funds to expand.
“My aim is to transform my shop into an institute where people especially the unemployed youths can be trained. I have applied for loans in the past but didn’t succeed,” he remarked.
However, the Niger State Commissioner for Commerce, Trade and Investment, Dr. Mustapha Jibril, has assured that the state government has already entered into an agreement with the Bank of Industry towards assisting owners of small businesses to boost their trades. “Presently, we have N250 million in our own budget to boost small businesses.
However, we have discovered that this fund will not be enough to go round those concerned and that is why we are collaborating with Bank of Industry because they said whatever money we have should be brought to them and that they are going to match it with their own funds too to make N500 million and we hope before the end of this year, the money would have been ready for distribution to the beneficiaries.
Dr. Mustapha, however, said that the state government will take all steps to make sure that only those who are genuine tradesmen benefit from the fund. “What happens is that we have tailors, barbing saloons and other small shop owners that are working daily but sometimes, when this type of opportunities comes, they do not have access to such money and that is why we want to make sure that this time around, the right people have direct access to such money.
He said the collateral needed is not scaring, pointing out that intending beneficiaries must bring a guarantor to sign for them.
“They will be made to undergo some training after meeting up with the criteria so that they don’t divert the money to non-lucrative ventures like acquiring more wives and other frivolities.
He said his advice to the youths still desperately searching for job is for them to look inwards and come out with the skills and talent deposited in them by God to be self reliant and also employers of labour adding that since the scripture has established that God will bless the work of our hands, they should work along with this and make a head way.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, 33.3 per cent or 23.2 million of the about 70 million people who should be working in Nigeria are out of work. The country’s underemployment rate i e people who work less than 20 hours a week is also high at 22.8 per cent. Similarly, the unemployment rate in Nigeria according to the NBS rose from 27.1 percent to 33.3 percent from December to March 2021. In Niger state, statistics from the Bureau shows that in the fourth quarter of 2020, about 23.44 percent of the labour force was unemployed.