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Abubakar: ‘Sieving’ His Way Through Life

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Sieve-making, like most traditional handicrafts, may be dying as modern utensils take over the kitchens, even in the rural setting, yet it sustains a family of eleven in Sabon-Wuse, Niger State. PEMBI DAVID-STEPHEN writes.

Armed with wire mesh, nails on a magnet and some basic tools, AdulkadirAbubakar hit nails on a piece of aluminum he had cut to size as he put finishing touches to what he was working on. He placed a wire mesh round the frame and held it in place with ten small nails, almost without taking the measurement and in ten minutes, he was through. He had made a good sieve.

A native of Gombi town of Adamawa State, Abubakar does that with ingenuity and is celebrated. He is not just fast, he is accurate and has become a household name in sieve making. He makes excellent sieves from aluminum which he buys at the rate of N2000 each. The process starts with his cutting the aluminum into 74 pieces. He then uses a pack of 1/4 inches nail which he buys for N250 on about three ceilings. That is it.

This act, as simple as it appears, is rewarding and has kept him and his family for over three decades. As far as he knows, he has been in the trade for 36 years now and says he cannot imagine life without the sieves. “The sieve is my life and sieve making has brought me good fortune. It is all I know how to make,” he says gladly.

When in 1981, Abubakar learnt the craft of sieve making from his elder brother, Audu, it never occurred to him he was learning a life-long trade. “My elder brother Audu 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 usually on Fridays, making and selling sieve,” he explains as he attains to customers.  “I am happy I learnt how to make them. What would have become of me now, if I did not learn the act of craft?” he asked 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. “I have nine children, four of them are through with secondary school education, three are still in secondary school while two are in primary school,” he divulges.

As you move through LayiKasuwarKayanGargagiya in Sabon-Wuse Market, along Zuba-Kaduna Road, you are sure to see Abubakar, the popular sieve maker and seller ‘sieving’ through the activities around. 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 of various sizes. There are people who sell sieves and other commodities, they don’t make sieves, so I make and sell to them. That is why I make sure that I have enough sieves. I don’t want to disappoint my costumers,” he says.

Abubakar truly enjoys a lot of patronage. On this market day, as on days, he has a handful. The haggling seems endless. “Let me pay N500 for these three, I don’t have the extra N50 you are asking for, please reduce the price,” one of the customers who gave her name as Asabe was heard telling Abubakar. “You see, if I reduce anything on the N550, I will not make any profit. Just help me and buy it at the price,” he replied her. Another customer, Halima said: “We have a lot of people selling sieves in virtually all the markets around, but we prefer sieves made by Abubakar. He is a serious man and makes good sieves.”

Selling the sieves for between N100 and N200, Abubakar says he makes between N5,000 to N6,000 each market day. But during the holy month of Ramadan, he makes between N8,000 and N9,000. “I take my wares to three markets every week. On Tuesdays, I go to Ida Market, on Thursdays, I go to Jare Market while on Fridays, I am usually here in SabonWuse,” he says, adding when he is not in the market, he stays at home to make some sieves as people come to his house to buy every day.

With some boys learning and working for him, Abubakar has certainly reduced the rate of unemployment in Unguwa Koko, where he lives. “As you can see, 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 no push overs as they are equally good on the trade. “They are learning fast. This boy (pointing to of them, 15-year old Aminu), paints the yards into the various colours we have here. Usman here, (pointing at another boy), helps to cut the aluminum into different sizes, while Shehu and I do the rest, for now,” he confides in LEADERSHIP Weekend.

Like the sieves he makes, which involves sifting large particles from smaller ones, Abubakar has been separated from poverty. From the proceeds of the trade, he has built a house in which according to him has become 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 visit my village once in a while but this is the place I know and hope to spend the rest of my life,” the delighted Abubakar enthuses.

Though he lives by the sieve, he does not have a head or memory like the sieve. “I will never forget my elder brother Audu. There is nothing I can do to pay him. I sponsored the wedding of one of his sons last year and gave one of his daughters out in marriage last month. I still have not done enough for him,” he says.

Popularity, like happiness, most times is elusive to those who seek it, and comes easily to those who may never have sought it. Abubakar’s costumers 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 seem likely to incur public disfavour. Yet, the fact as revealed by his colleagues, is that there is no one in the sieve business who is so well loved and respected as Abubakar.

“I have been with Abubakar for over 11 years now in this market and I can say that he has integrity. He does not make empty promises. Whenever he tells his customers to come and collect a given number of sieves, he makes sure he does not fail them,” says MalamLawal, his neighbour, a kola-nut seller.

Abubakar has been their pride, voice and counselor, and friend-a good companion on sunny days, and 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 Malam Katie, a knife seller in the far end of the row.

 

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