The sieve making craft, like most traditional crafts, is dying, giving way to morden utensils, but that is what keeps a family of eleven in Sabon-Wuse, Niger State. PEMBI STEPHEN-DAVID writes.
Armed with wire mesh, nails on a magnet and some basic tools, Adulkadir Abubakar hits nails on a piece of aluminum he had cut to size, putting finishing touches to what he was working on.
He places a wire mesh round the frame and holds it in place with ten small nails, almost without taking the measurement and in ten minutes, he has made a good sieve. Abubakar does that with ingenuity and is happy about it. He is not just fast at it; he is accurate and has become a household name in sieve making.
A native of Gombi town in Adamawa State, Abubakar has the ability of making excellent sieves from aluminum which he buys at N1500 each, by cutting it into 74 pieces. He uses a pack of ¼ inches nail which he buys for N200 on about three ceiling. This act, as simple as it sounds, has kept him and his family for three decades. As far as he knows, he has been in the trade for 30 years and he says he cannot imagine life without the sieves. ‘‘The sieve is my life.It has brought me good fortune.It is all I know how to make,’’ he says.
When in 1981, Abubakar learnt the craft of sieve making from his elder brother Ahmadu; little did he know that he was learning a life-long trade. ‘‘My elder brother Ahmadu forced me to learn how to make sieve. I was never serious about it, I made several attempts to run away but I found myself in Gombi market which is on Friday, making and selling sieve,” he explains. ‘‘I am happy I learnt how to make them. What would have become of me if I did not learn the act of craft?,’’ he asks rhetorically.
Today, from the business he thought nothing could come out of, Abubakar says he is able to cater for his family of nine children, most of who are in school. ‘I have nine children,eight of them are in school. The last child is just a little baby, so she stays at home with the mother.’’ He says two of his children are in secondary school while the rest are still in primary school.
As you move through layi kasuwar kayan gargagiya in Sabon-Wuse market along Zuba- Kaduna Road, ‘sieving’ through the activities around, you are sure to see Abubakar, the popular sieve repairer and seller. He says he is both a wholesaler and a retailer and is grateful to God for the patronage he receives from different clients. “I have a lot of customers; some call me even at night to book for sieves. There are people who sell sieves and other commodities, they don’t make the, so I make and sell to them. That is where I make sure that I make enough sieves. I don’t want to disappoint my costumers.’’
Abubakar truly enjoys a lot of patronage. On this market day, as on most market days, he has a handful. ‘’ can you please sell these three for N400 to me, please reduce the price,’’ bargained one of the buyers who gave her name as Asabe. ‘‘You see, if I reduce anything on the N450, I will not make any profit. Just help me and buy it for the price,’’ Abubakar replied her.
‘’We have a lot of people selling sieves in virtually all the markets around, but we prefer his own. He is a serious man and he makes good sieves,’’ advertised a costumer who gives her name as Halima.
Selling the sieves for between N50 and N150, Abubakar says he makes between N4, 000 to N5, 000 each market day. But during the holy month of Ramadan he makes between N7, 000 and N8, 000. ‘’I take my wares to three markets every week. Fridays I go to Sabon Wuse Market. Tuesdays, I go to Ida while on Thursday I go to Jere market.’’ He says when he is not in the market, he stays at home to make and some times sell sieves as people around know his house.
With some boys learning and working for him, Abubakar has certainly reduced the rate of unemployment in Unguwa Koko, where he lives. ‘‘I have some boys who help me do one thing or the other and they are doing well,’’ he says. Each of them has a duty and they are not push over as they are equally good. ‘‘ and are learning fast,’’ he adds. This boy you see, referring to 15-year-old Aminu, paints the yards into the various colour we have here. The fellow over there,’’ pointing at Usman ‘‘ helps to cut the aluminum into different sizes, while Audu and I do the rest for now.’’
Like the sieve he makes, which involves sifting large particles from smaller ones Abubakar has been separated from poverty. From the proceeds of the sieve, Abubakar has built a house and says he has made Sabon-Wuse his home. As I said earlier, I am from Adamawa State but I have built my house here and have made this village my home. I go to my home town once in a while but this is the place I know and hope to be all my life,’’ the delighted Abubakar euthused.
Though Abubakar lives by the sieve, he does not have a head or memory like a sieve. ‘‘I can never forget my elder brother Ahmadu. There is nothing I would do to him that I will say yes I have done enough. I paid the dowry of his son and gave his daughter out in marriage last year but I still have not paid him. Just last week, I sent some materials to his wife and children for the Sallah,’’ he says.
Popularity, like happiness, is elusive for those who seek it, yet comes easily to those who never think about it. Abubakar’s customers and colleagues have never known him to do or say a single thing for the sake of public favour. They have known him to do and say several things that seemed likely to incur public disfavour.
Yet, the fact as revealed by his collegues is that there is no one in the sieve business in the market who is so well loved and respected as Abubakar. ‘‘I have been with Abubakar for over 5 years in this market and I can say that he has integrity. He does not make empty promises.Whenever he tells his costumers to come and collect a given number of sieves, he makes sure he does not fail them,’’ says Mallam Lawal, his neighbour Kola- nut seller selling next to him.
Abubakar has been their pride, voice and counsellor, and friend -a good companion on sunny days, and a sympathetic and wise adviser and helper when things go wrong. ‘‘He is a good man; he is like our leader here. Not because he is older than us, but because he is sincere. As you can see, I am older than him,’’ says Mallam Kabir, a knife-seller in the far end of the row.