Whilst most Nigerian youths struggle with poverty due to a lack of jobs, AbdulWaheed Jinadu, a blind artisan in Ilorin, Kwara state, has decided to fight poverty through the art of hand bag weaving.
Jinadu was born in Inisha, Osun with an eye condition 33 years ago, but now has a shop located in the Ita Kudimoh area of the state capital. In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, the bling weaver said he preferred to fend for himself and his family rather than beg for alms, a common practice among the disabled.
Aside from his bag-weaving trade, he also teaches part-time at the Kwara state school for Special Needs. “I was born blind, and after my parents relocated to Kaduna, we tried both orthodox and herbal medicines in finding a solution to my eye problem, but all to no avail.
“I started primary school very late at Olex Nursery/Primary School, Nasarawa, Kaduna in 1985. It was difficult for me to learn since I cannot see. I had to memorise what the teachers taught us and had to repeat classes many times.
“We left Kaduna in 1992 and returned to Ilorin. I then enrolled at the School for the Handicapped in 1994 and passed out in 1999, from there I proceeded to Government High School, Ilorin where I studied from 2000 – 2005.”
Having lost his father in 2002, the burden of sponsoring the blind artisan became solely the responsibility of his mother. “My mother could not sponsor my higher education alone, I therefore enrolled at the Nigerian Farm Craft Centre for the blind in Ikeja, Lagos to learn vocations such as bag weaving, soap making, brail and typing,” Jinadu explained.
Though the school was tuition free, the Jinadu said that a number of people, including his former teachers at the Government High School in Ilorin assisted him with money for his upkeep while in school.
He completed his training at the school in 2007 and used his savings from the money donated to him by some kind-hearted Nigerians to set up his bag weaving business in 2008.
“We sell the bags to schools. It requires about six days to make a bag and the prices range from N800, N1, 000 and N1, 300 depending on the size.” Jinadu said that the greatest challenge he faces is disappointment from people who would ask him to do a specific bag for them but never turn up to collect it.
But he was one of the beneficiaries of a government poverty alleviation scheme, where he got N50, 000 to further improve on his trade. The artisan has also pleaded with the state government to offer him full employment at the school for special needs, Ilorin. “The ministry of education had in 2011 initiated the move to employ us, but this has not materialised,” he stated.
He advised physically challenged persons to find a means of enrolling in schools and shun street begging, adding that, “the disabled should at least learn a vocation; begging for alms is demeaning”.
He also emphasised the need for the parents of such people not to keep them at home, but instead take them to the school for Special Needs for necessary counseling.
“The government should do more to assist persons with disabilities. We should be given employment upon completion of our studies. There are blind doctors, lawyers, etc. We should be treated like every other normal person.”