Olanrewaju Lawal, Birnin Kebbi
Potters in Felande, a farming community in Argungu Local Government Area of Kebbi State, have certainly not forgotten their culture. The art of moulding local tools and domestic items has been a vocation in the community from one generation to another.
With their tools, the potters dared the scorching sun and burnt their fingers in fire to mould various domestic items of their choices for sale. What matters to them is not the blaze of fire but how to mould the best items and attract buyers.
Sani Mantu Felande, 28, depends solely on clay-sand to produce various local utensils. He and the other nine potters within their community have no other job than farming in one hand and turning clay-sand into domestic utensils through the traditional tools inherited from their parents and brothers.
After days of hard work heating up wet pots, the next stage is the marketing of the moulded items. They display their wares along Argungu/Birnin-Kebbi Road. Once displayed, they look forward to different kinds of customers, sometimes some of them end up appreciating their hard labour and talents by purchasing these products for valuable prices.
Sani learnt the vocation from his senior brother, Lawale, who retired from the job due to old age: “I served under my brother for 10 years before I decided to start my own. Though, five years was enough to learn all the rudiments of the vocation, I spent 10 years with my brother to know more about the trade.”
Sani has two wives and five children. He noted that the old methodology of moulding local pots required a lot of energy and reduced productivity: “You go inside the forest to dig out clay sand. Before you come back, you are tired. Yet, you must get it ready for production, spending hours in turning it around, designing it, drying it up inside a local bar (hut without windows), you must be saturated.
“If you finish your production, which we usually start on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, out of the 30 pots that you have produced, 10 might be damaged. The process is sometimes very frustrating, considering all the time and energy one is expanding on the production process.”
Despite the challenges, Sani admitted that the job is lucrative: “For now, about 20 youths are going through the training under me. I do not depend on the government to feed my family. I have not gotten any intervention from the government. I pray that if government could help us with modern tools, shorter place to get clay sand and mobility, I believe, it would hasten our production and safe our energy.”
He sells about 20 different pots at the cost of N300 or N200, depending on the customers and their sizes. Sometimes they get contracts from customers from Kaduna, Sokoto, Kastina and other nearby states. He said he has no regrets spending his life as a pot maker. He lost his parents in his youth. This contributed to his inability to further his education. He had no choice but to join his senior brother in the business.
But Sanni is not alone on this job. There are others like Samaila Mogaji Felande. He is a 55-year-old potter, who has three wives and many children. He is among the major dealers of local pots along Argungu/Birnin-Kebbi Road. He inherited the business from his father, grew up helping him as a potter. He gets the finished products from Zuru, Argungu, Yauri, Augie and Felande and retails them in the traffic like all other petty traders.
However, recently the story of Samaila took a turn for the better after a surprise visit by Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who stopped over as he was passing by: “The governor stopped here and asked us if anybody had ever assisted us? We said ‘no sir.’ Therein, he ordered that we should be given N100 million worth of contract for the supply of local pots, with tap running mouth of about 15 litres.
“He wanted us to supply 10,000 pieces. These pots would be supplied to hospitals and local government areas. The purpose of this is to ensure the industry is growing and expanding. This action really helped our members who are into local pots trading. The governor even gave us N50 million as mobilisation fee to start the contract immediately.
“We are grateful and we are praying that the government would continue to be successful. This action has really helped us, the nation’s economy. Nigeria leaders should emulate this gesture.” Samaila customers are located beyond Argungu, Augie and Suru. Many of his customers come from Kaduna and Niger states: “Over the years, I have trained many youths who have started their own businesses.”
Hassan Garba Felande, 27, pot dealer, is one of them. He believed that with enough capital, modern technology, the trade could become a major boost to the nation’s economy: “When I finished from secondary school in Felande in 2013, I decided to go to Abuja to search for job, to further my education. Unfortunately for me, a vehicle hit me and I had this leg fracture. But thank God in 2015 I could walk again with my two feet. So, I decided to come back home to learn the trade.
“If I go to farm in the morning, I will come back here in the afternoon to sell my pots. I am really happy because I am earning my livelihood here and I am cater for my parents because I am not yet married.”
Speaking with the
Head of Maintenance Department, Sir Yahyah General Hospital, Birnin Kebbi, Alhaji Mohammed Illo, told Daily Sun: “If our government could help them with modern technology to enable them make their products more enduring, it would help our nation a lot. Just like Alkali ceramic, if this industry is properly taken care of, it would contribute to our nation development.”