5 January 2009

Nigeria: Substituating Native Clothes for Celebrations

As Nigerians engaged themselves in a cluster of celebrations nationwide, many families, parents and children were not able to provide for themselves the desired clothes.

On Sallah and Christmas days, many parents wore clothes entirely different from their children's. Ladies and gentlemen in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were equally engaged in buying ready-made clothes for the occasions. The situation continued until the New Year.

Many Nigerians expressed their displeasure and attributed their conditional outfits to the attitude of tailors in the country.

On Id-el-Kabir day in Kaduna, many mothers appeared in native clothes while their children followed them in ready-made English dresses to places of worship.

At Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna, children appeared in muti-coloured dresses following their fathers and uncles to trigger off the occasion.

When Daily Trust interviewed some of them, they all had their story to tell.

Mr Ridwan Baba from Jema'a Road said he bought two different clothes of five yards each for every member of his family of five and gave them to two different tailors, but none could even finish the children's clothes.

"The two tailors did the work half-way. That was why father and children appeared in different clothes to celebrate Sallah as if they were not members of the same family."

The gentleman equally added that there was a serious quarrel between himself and his wife because he refused to follow her advice that the children's clothes should be given to her cousin.

"I did not follow her advice because no member of her family would charge a kobo for the service and if they eventually disappointed, I would be compelled to remain silent." he said.

At Ibrahim Taiwo Road in Kaduna, native clothes were on display every evening at affordable prices, but Mr Dauda Bolairn from Kakuri in Kaduna South said he does not wait for Sallah before buying clothes. He said he has cultivated the habit of buying clothes awaiting celebrations because tailors in the country do not value time because they do not know the legal implications of 'breach of contract'.

"Many tailors are professional liars. They can divert your attention from highly pressing assignments to trivial issues. I will not even trust my own child if he learns the trade tailor. They are always ready from any situation as if the 'Telling Lies' is a compulsory course during their apprenticeship."

There is a tailor in Nasarawa who is yet to complete my clothes after three years. Another one has been holding the head-tie of my wife since December, 2007. One day, I will devote more than enough time and retrieve my items from them."

Mr Dauda added that tailors disappoint deliberately because clothes hardly gets lost in their shops except in a case of house-breaking.

"After holding your cloth for six years, many tailors can locate your cloth easily." he assured.

A woman Mama Toyin a vegetable seller at the Kaduna Central Market who narrated her experience with a tailor in Tudun Wada said anytime she gives Mr Sola a tailor at Tudun Wada Sallah clothes, she never used them for the occasion. To her family, Sallah has always been celebrated without clothes.

"Mothers suffer in the hands of tailors trying to sew clothes for their sons. When my husband was in Kaduna, the tailor was very friendly and reliable. I hardly went to his shop because transactions and every discussion related to it were done by my husband. Since the year my husband was transferred to Sokoto, the tailor has proved very difficult. Only God knows when we are going to get the clothes now that Sallah is over."

On Sallah day at Tudun Wada in Kaduna, some children neatly dressed cried, whimpered and rolled on the ground while a middle-aged man struggled hopelessly to raise them from the dusty ground, patting them on their shoulders before to enter the car that was to convey them to the prayer ground. When Daily Trust inquired into the cause of the disagreement and advised the young man to invite the mother of the children, Mr Tahir Yusuf Abubakar their uncle said the children identified their clothes as the ones they used for Id-el-Fitr and would stop at nothing to disorganize festivities in the family because their cousins in other parts of the town would visit them in new clothes. He said their mother caused it all. Inviting her would mean more trouble.

"A week after Id-el- Fitr, Mr Hassan the father of the children released N20,000 to their mother for purchasing of shoes and clothes and service of the tailors. For a long time, their mother insisted on getting clothes from her customer who was nowhere to be found. When she finally bought the clothes, no familiar tailor in the neighbourhood would enter into an agreement to sew the clothes of four children two days before the occasion because many people have their clothes lying in tailors' shops for six weeks before Sallah. To these children, what mattered on occasions like that was where to wear and where to visit; not what to eat." he said.

At Kagoro Close in Kaduna, Mr Abdul-rahaman Musa said he had earlier informed his family that that Sallah was likely to be celebrated on Monday, but when he arrived from Maiduguri very early on Sallah day, there was no sign of festivities on his compound. His children were not prepared for the occasion because their clothes were not ready. They would only be visited.

"They understood the situation and were not in any way ready to revolt. But if I had no car, they would not have gone to the prayer ground." he said.

Christians equally had their own bitter experience. Mr Lawrence Joseph a private businessman resident in Barnawa in Kadina said he has never appreciated his appearance in foreign dresses than in native ones. African clothes are more beautifully designed than English clothes. I provide an alternative for my children every Christmas in case of disappointment.

For Christmas, 2008, the tailor gave us our clothes on Boxing Day. Each of my three children had a native dress and an English wear, and I always communicate effectively with my tailor. I do not go to his shop without assurance that the clothes are ready.

"When we were at Ahmadu Bello Way, the situation was different because it cost me N20 to get to his shop. If you have a good tailor, you will know that we have inherited beauty in Africa. All you need is a tailor who will perfect it." Mrs Chinyere Timothy in Sardauna Crescent said she deliberately decided not to buy Christmas clothes for her children because they dis-stabilized her plan to celebrate the occasion in the east. None of them informed me they were coming to the north for Christmas. She only saw her three children in the evening of December 23.

"Which tailor would sew their clothes in two days at that time of the year? Am I the one who trained him?" she added.

Mrs Chinyrer's neighbour Helen Samuel on own part decided to punish teenage sons for not helping her in domestic affairs. She said she has five sons and a suckling that came to life after she had concluded that she wanted no more children.

But these boys always disappear from home after school.

They are brilliant in class activities but but when I assessed them domestically, their performance was poor. Their father gave me money for their clothes, but I seized it. Imagine Monday the youngest of them telling me that only women stay at home while men go out to struggle. For how long am I going to wait for this one to grow and help me?" she asked.

In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), ladies and gentlemen heavily patronized shops selling ready-made materials. An interaction with some residents revealed that it was time-wasting cutting and sewing clothes. Mr John Michael from Karmo said buying clothing materials for Christmas celebration was like keeping it for Christmas, 2009. "No tailor will sew it for me."

His friend Lazarus Solomon said he could not remember the last time he entered a tailor's shop.

"Ordinary replacement of button has never taken me there. If I lost the button of my shirt, I stop using it. When my younger brothers come for holidays, they take them away."

Ifuoma Angelina Sunday a student resident in Wuse Zone 2 said she told her tailor in Zaria that she was going to use her native clothes for Christmas in the FCT and was charged for express service, but still the man failed. Even if he had sewn it at the right time, I would have needed another for the to celebrate Sallah with my muslim friends. "Now I need two different wares because the first one is still with the tailor in Zaria."

Ifeoma added that the attitude of tailors nationwide is discouraging people from buying native clothes and this is partly responsible to low patronage of Nigerian Textiles and consequent collapse of the industries.

Mrs Yomi Adedokun in Ibadain Street in Kaduna lamented her encounter with an inexperienced tailor in the town .

In n2004, I was preparing for my wedding introduction and went to tailor. He was sincere and told me he had too much work at the time. In the course of our discussion, a man came and discussion revealed that he could sew. But what surprised me was that he did not know how to cut the exact length of a man's cap from the damask material I bought for the occasion. I was discouraged and could not give my cloth to him."

Mr Yomi added that he sought assistance of the first tailor to direct him to an experienced one, but he cunningly directed him to the shop of the same ignorant man who was already in his shop before he could arrive there.

I was forced by circumstances to give him the cloth, he said, and when he finished the work, I wore the N7,000 beautiful lace material for the for the occasion and abandoned it afterwards. I envy my wife whenever she wears hers.

"What surprised me most was he appeared professional and his hair-style was enough to convince the public the work had been perfected; but he knew nothing in the field."

However, there are some Nigerians who hold steadfastly to the use of native clothes irrespective of the level of disappointment from tailors. One of them Mr Barnabas Angus who was in Kaduna to celebrate the last Christmas with a friend in Kaduna said he will never divert from native clothes which pictures him clearly as an African.

"I strongly detest second-hand items. When I was in Makurdi, I bought clothes and gave them to a tailor who did a very good work. One day, I washed and dried them outside bearing in mind the exact time they would dry. Hours later I went out and, to my surprise the clothes and others that I left outside were all gone. I searched individual homes in the neighbourhood, but could not find them. Days later, I saw a boy wearing one of them in them. I called and challenged him and the matter was taken to the police station. He maintained his words that he clothes belonged to him and even employed a lawyer when we proceeded to court. My tailor stood as witness and provided the measurements of all my clothes, but he had nothing to prove that the clothes were his, and he had to fold them slightly to suit his purpose. I stood at advantage because they were original."

At Kakuri in Kaduna , Mr Hussen Brown a retired tailor said he left the industry when his shop caught fire in December, 1998. When he was busy working towards Christmas period.

"I was doing overnight work on December 22. I became tired and decided to take a rest. The food I had on fire got burnt and there followed an explosion of the tank of the kerosene stove. Everyone in the environment was asleep. Before they could come to assist everything was had been burnt to ashes."

Mr Hussen added that when he was actively into the business, he realized that there are some tailors with alternative work who abandoned their primary responsibilities in search of other sustainable means.

"These are part time tailors and the public should expect any level of disappointment from them."

Another tailor Gabriel Luke friend to Hussen added that he left the business for eleven years and took a white colour job. Now that he has come back to it, he is having problem with his customers when it comes to choice of styles.

In an interview with Abas a tailor at BY 12, Faki Road in Kaduna, he said

"For a serious dedicated apprentice to be professional he must spend at least four years as an apprentice. In my own case, I spent eight years as an apprentice. Between 1970 and 1977, I was an apprentice in Zaria. In 1977, I moved to Osogbo where I spent another two years. There is no cloth I cannot sew ranging from English dresses to native dresses worn all tribes in the country. From experiences that I have heard, many tailors compound problems for themselves by collecting clothes more than they can sew. During festivals, they gather excess work with the feeling that when festivities are over they will not lack what to do. This creates a lot of embarrassment in the industry. Another problem delaying tailors is the embroidery industry. This is industry have the same problem as the tailors, but they tell the truth when they have a lot of work in hand."

Mr Abas added that tailors are not to blame entirely because there are drop-outs in the industry who have the opportunity of renting flashy environment to impress the public while some members of the public assign work to apprentices through the back door.

Mr Abas added that the public is to share in the blame because most of them are civil servants who had to wait for their salaries before fulfilling contract agreement. The industry understands this problem but there was no way a tailor would abandon the work of a customer who had made all necessary payments and focus on the work of those yet to pay.

"Since my graduation in 1978, I have never shut down my sop for a day, and as Secretary of tailoring association I am aware that any serious minded tailor in Nigeria will see his business grow. Everyone wears clothes and when some are out-fashioned, others replace them."

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