Mal. Buba, a son of Borno, is the founder of Buba Shoes Enterprise which was established way back in 1980. His shoe-making business is among the few businesses that defied the rigors of Boko Haram terror. Mafoni, where Buba Shoes stands, was during the peak of the crisis, virtually the command and control centre of the insurgents. However, Buba Shoes, in this interview, confidently says that they ‘have survived it and stronger’!
Who is Buba Shoes?
Thank you very much for this opportunity. My name is Buba Aminu, but people call me Buba Shoes and it is obvious why. I was born February 2, 1955, in Uba, Askira local government of Borno state. After going through basic education, between 1971 to 1978, I went to Kano state where I learnt how to make shoes in Nigerian Leather Works Limited which was established by Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto in 1962. My training exercise as an apprentice began under a Lebanese Russian designer in the factory, who is also the general manager of the establishment at that time. I then went to Kano State Polytechnic to further my education. Luckily, after my graduation, a shoe factory was created in the northeast region, Northeast Shoe Factory, situated in Borno, where request was made to those of us in the region from Nigerian Leather Works Ltd to come and work.
There, I was appointed as a supervisor where I trained different people for few years. Having however worked for few years with some good experience, I felt the need to open my company, to serve my people in a better way and a larger scale. That was the beginning of ‘Buba Shoes Enterprises’ in 1980.
Over time, I realised it was necessary for me to learn more modern ways of the work and had to therefore travel beyond the borders of Nigeria, I have gone to places like England, Italy and others to learn more.
What inspired you to go into this career?
Well, before one will go into any hand job to be an occupation, he/she most like the job first, and considering the fact that I grew up with passion for craft works, I find shoe making most suiting; besides my father is a local textile designer. I also needed to help myself and others. So, that is what I do for a living and I love my work. What are the type of products you make? We specialize in slipper shoes of different sizes. We make leather works ranging from football shoes, sandals, military boots, buskins, bags, gloves, belts and etcetera.
What are the materials you use and where do you get them?
We get materials from different parts of the country, but mostly from Maiduguri, in view of its abundance of livestock. Then also Kano and sometimes the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology and where I worked with, Nigerian Leather Works Ltd. Both factories produce leather for our use. As for other materials, like gum or glue, thread, rubber, etcetera, we buy them from importers in Lagos and Aba.
What is your production capacity?
For now, we don’t work full capacity, as a result of daunting security challenges and as well as resultant breakdown of our machines and inadequacy of some important modern tools. But notwithstanding, if we could get little funding, we can produce 200,000 and above pairs of shoes per annum, besides bags, belts and other things.
Who patronizes you?
My clients and customers flow in from virtually all over the country and neighbouring countries like Cameron, Chad, Niger, especially during the period before the advent of Boko Haram. What is special about your product? We give high emphasis on indigenous creativity and originality, and that, I believe, makes our work so unique. More to this, we are open to individual preferences. Tell us the type of product you want, we will do it for you. But most importantly, we don’t take the case of quality lightly, we don’t compromise it!
You didn’t mention affordability…
We are as affordable as you can imagine. That is why we are open to individual preferences.
What was your market situation at the hike of Boko Haram crisis?
It was, as everyone knows, a really difficult time for everyone. A situation where lives of people, who are either your workers, customers or even yourself, is at stake, is not good for any business. You may recall that this whole axis was more-or-less the command centre of the Boko Haram insurgents. We all thought it was a matter of time for our fate to meet us. But we kept faith with God and we were resolute at that. We lost customers. Our markets literally crashed as was the case with all businesses. Roads were closed, sources of our raw materials were shrank and many other things.
We survived it!
So, what is the situation now?
It is assuring. Things have begun to fall back in place. There is about five times improvement. And the truth is, we have been never more hopeful. We are confident things will re-emerge and we even hope to be better.
Thank you very much for your time.