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All hail Aminu, the undergraduate ‘shoe shiner’


A cursory look at Aminu Muhammed may not immediately reveal his potentials. But he is a budding primary school headmaster. With a lithe but seemingly frail gait, Aminu shares many physical attributes with former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, but you are not going to see him anywhere near army barracks or a military recruitment centre waiting for enlistment.

No, not at all! He is cut out for chalk, not for gun. He wants to teach and he wants to be a headmaster at the end of it all. A tall ambition for a cobbler, a ‘shoe shiner,’ an aboki! as Nigerians living down South know them? Not so. In fact, with his studentship at Jigawa State College of Education, you will not be faulted if you say he is already on his way to achieving his life ambition.

Calm but calculating; humble but ambitious and nomadic but organised, Aminu’s encounter with Education Review is a confirmation of the fact that dynamite, indeed, comes in small sizes. It is all about the compelling story of a nomadic cobbler who is also a farmer and an undergraduate student. Artisan with a difference Aminu plies his trade in Ojudu area of Lagos and Akute in Ogun states.

Unlike his other colleagues who keep themselves untidy and disorganised, Aminu goes about his business in decent attire even as he comports himself as a cobbler with a difference. “You are not the only person who is telling me this,” Aminu retorted when this reporter remarked about his neatness, comportment and the difference he observed in the way he goes about his own ‘shoe-shining’ (commercial shoe polishing).

“So many other persons have commended me on the way I am doing this business. In fact, one big Alhaji ‘dashed’ (gave me a tip of) N1000 (one thousand naira), after observing the way I was doing things. He said I am clean and intelligent, and advised me to work harder.

The first thing that attracts you to this Jigawa State-born artisan is his life of solitude. He does not move in groups with his fellow cobblers. “I have observed that moving with others slows me down,” he answered when you raised the issue.

“Secondly, moving in group does not favour me much because jobs are shared when you are doing work as a body. You understand what I mean – you cannot do this, do the next and still do the third job in a row even if you are the one getting the work. Others have to share from the jobs you are getting because on the day you do not get enough, you will equally share from the ones your colleagues get. “But I do not enjoy this sharing formula because it favours the lazy man against the hard working.

This is why you see me working alone most of the time but I am not talking down on my brothers and colleagues,” he insists. Aminu also stands out from the other cobblers because of his high level of professionalism.

He does his job diligently and virtually every customer he mends shoes or sandals for ends up commending his sense of craftsmanship. “My happiness is that people usually commend the job I do for them and most of them have collected my contact so that they can call me to do some home jobs for them,” he noted. Asked how much he makes in a day, Aminu said: “On week days, if it is not raining, I make between N800 and N1000. But on weekends, it is about N1, 500. I think my best day is Sunday.

So many people polish or mend their shoes on Sundays.” His articulate use of the words like “weekdays,” “weekends” “if it is not raining” “I make between,” his correct pronunciation of them, tells you that you are talking with someone of a higher mentality, of a more polished character than you used to meet in his other ilk in this trade.

A little further probe and your feelings get confirmed almost immediately. You are talking to an undergraduate. No wonder everything about him appears to be different. The difference that being educated makes! You will surely get to meet it somehow, sometime, somewhere no matter how hard they try to hide it! Even so, armed with such knowledge, it only increased your curiosity to know a bit more about the young man sitting before you and giving your shoes a perfect shine while you engaged him in small talks.

But try as hard as you want, you couldn’t quite reconcile the fact that he is a student with the menial job he is doing at the moment to eke out a living, a job you’ve either rightly or wrongly, come to associate with people of low mentality. Aminu, the cobbler, the student Sensing that you have your doubts about his claims, Aminu, proudly but politely dips his hands into his pocket, brings out a plastic object and flashes before you. It turned out to be a school ID card. On it were these details: Jigawa State College of Education. Number: Edu/12/26114. School: Education. Combination: PES D/M. Exp Date: 2013.

“Like I earlier told you, I am a student of the Jigawa State College of Education,” he said, as he made to put back the ID card from where he brought it out. “I have been there now for about two years. I am reading Primary Education because I hope to be a headmaster of a school in future. I am not an ordinary shoe shiner, I have a vision and I have a dream for myself.

I am here to make money to enable me pay my school fees, buy books and do other things.” In the course of discussion, he revealed that his relative, a High Court judge in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is the one encouraging him to read.

“I am a lucky man,” he adds. “You know, when I see how he is being respected in the society ahead of his peers who cannot speak passable English, I then realised that education is the key and that is why you see me work harder, trying to make ends meet. Honestly, education is the key because it helps you to be free and bold.” Jigawa farmer One peculiar trait about Aminu is that he speaks both English and Hausa fluently.

Describing himself as “a farmer in Jigawa and an artisan in Lagos,” Aminu remarked: “Let me quickly tell you that this is not all that I do to help myself. Back home in Jigawa, I am a farmer and the farmlands belong to me. I cultivate farm produce like guinea corn, wheat, beans and groundnuts etc. You know this is not farming season. In the next one or two months I will go back to Jigawa to start work on my farms. I only do ‘shoe-shining’ job during non-farming period.

I am a farmer but a small-scale one. Of course, if I were making big money I would not have come to Lagos to do other jobs. It is since I started school that I found the need to combine farming and ‘shoe-shining’ jobs so as to raise money to pay my school fees and to buy books. I hope you know that the average Northerner is a farmer.

Even those who have retired from public services still go back to farming in one way or the other. Some do poultry farming; others go into animal husbandry while the other groups either go into cash crops or other forms of farming.” Family man “I have a wife and five children – a boy and four girls,” Aminu further reveals. “It is my wish to work harder to give my children the best of education.

Look at me, I am now 40 years and yet, waiting to get my first degree in a country where my age mates are in the presidency, Senate and state houses of assembly. Really, I would not be happy if my children do not do better than I am doing. Today, I have just one wife but I will marry more wives in the future if economy improves. I hail from Maigatari community in the Gumel Local Government Area and, by the grace of Allah, it is my dream for my people to remember me as one who did all he could to set a standard and improve the lots of all those around him.” Jigawa College of Education Your discussion goes back to his school and it is really amazing how Aminu discusses it with effortless ease, telling its history and what it offers generally. “I think they said the college used to be in Kano until Jigawa State was created,” he tells you.

“Luckily, Gumel where the college is situated is my local council, so I now asked myself: why would I not afford myself this great opportunity and enrol into the school? I made inquiries and I was told that those who want the direct NCE programme must pass their Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE) or GCE ‘0’ level with credit passes in five subjects and they said English was compulsory, so I then went because my papers are okay.

There are other courses in which a credit in Mathematics is compulsory if you are going to read them. Other qualifications include Grade II Teachers’ Certificate (TC II) and others I cannot remember now. It is said that candidates who want to get admission must write JAMB. This is all I know about the school’s admission process and there is no wuru wuru (hanky-panky) about it.”

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  1. Maxnovo Of Uyo February 15, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Kudos to Aminu…….may God strengthen u! Amen!!!

  2. Rev Sr Ngozichukw Njoku March 3, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Aminu my br, don’t lament d late ‘education’. My Igbo ppl hv an adage dt, ‘Mgbe onye jiri teta ura bu ututu ya’ (‘when one wakes from sleep is hz own morning’) i.e. it’s neva 2 late. U’re a beacon 2 others. Ds is real educ. If only d whiteman had givn our ppl d right orientatn 2 educ, d issue of joblessness & crime wud’v bn minimal. However ur dream of acquiring more wives may slow d pace of a better educ 4 posterity. Saalam alaikun!

  3. RichardAA March 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Aminu, i must confessed, you motivate me to go further in life, i love your courage, i really admire your zeal, let me rekindle your hope, sky is just the beginning, one day, you will certainly get there.

  4. WISEONE March 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm


  5. Dinosours March 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    A shoe shinner to the core! shine the shoes! shine your pennis to shine the many wives!!

  6. Dinosours March 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    A shoe shinner to the core! shine the shoes! shine your pennis to shine the many wives!! Isha alah!…

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