Every day, untill COVID-19 broke out and changed life’s course, Sani Kaura would set up his cobbler tools in the Old Market, Gusau. He was certain to go home with at least 500 Naira and on a good day, 1,000 Naira. All that is gone now.
To pre-empt the spread of Coronavirus in Zamfara state, Governor Bello Mattawale initiated a partial lockdown. This drastically reduced the number of people who come out daily, even Kaura’s customers.
The cobbler has always been poor and for 10 years, he could measure the range of his lack. These days, he is left uncertain as the trickle of livelihood he once possessed seems to have evaporated into thin air.
While speaking with HumAngle, he reminisced on the good pre-COVID-19 past. On a good day, Kaura could make 1,000 Naira (2.55 Dollars). On days where business was slow, he only made 700 Naira (1.79 Dollars).
On those days, he learned to peg his personal costs at 600 Naira (1.53 Dollars) supporting himself, his wife and four children, including a newborn.
Presently, with the partial lockdown, business is slow and nonexistent. Without soliciting business, he cannot fend for himself and his family.
Since the outbreak of the virus, more Nigerians are staying inside, leaving the markets empty and people in need of business in economic distress. He said, “Even when there was no lockdown, I hardly earned 500 a day for three days.”
With the recommended health precautions for social distancing, Kaura’s profession faces a challenge.
His vocation involves close contact with patrons and their belongings, he is used to touching the items customers bring but is now worried that he will contract the virus from work. These factors have caused him to feel a sense of defeat.
Rather than worrying about his own life, his preoccupation lies with his ability to provide for his family.
“My major concern is not for myself but the family because children and women do not understand these situations. They have to eat, drink and bath. My wife gave birth four days ago. I’m afraid,” Kaura told HumAngle.
Kaura urged the government to support small business owners and supplement food costs to alleviate the financial strain. If no assistance is given, he and his family could starve to death.
It is clear that the cobbler has pride in his achievements that comprise a solid business and growing family. His hope is that he will be able to sustain a huge economic blow during and after the lockdown.
Kaura openly called on the Nigerian government for support. He said, “honestly, so many things are going wrong. The government should support people with small businesses. I can tell you that any person with a capital of 10,000 Naira will not be able to come back to business if we stay two weeks indoors.”
Small business owners are left to choose between suffering financially or compromising their health. In news reports covering COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable communities in Nigeria, many wage workers are choosing to feed themselves and their families at all costs.
The hope is that the best expressions of human nature emerge from such an unprecedented time. If those in power can support rather than punish those struggling to make ends meet, a new relationship of trust between ordinary Nigerians and the government could blossom. The government has an important choice to make.