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A textile trader in Kano

The “Buhari effect” in Kano

A Kano-based businesswoman spoke to on how the comatose state of the economy was affecting her business, her customers and many of the poor in her community that relied on her for financial support.

The woman is a major dealer in textiles, such as “lace” material and other printed fabrics that many Nigerian women favour for special occasions, in what is for centuries northern Nigeria’s commercial capital and biggest city. She said business has been incredibly slow, with precious few customers, apart from the occasional rich people that order stuff for weddings.

As a result of the downturn in orders, many of the people that hang around her shop and earn their keep from heavy lifting of orders, delivery and so on, have had very little to do and have had to rely on begging. The trader said that most of these people supported President Muhammadu Buhari during the (s)election last year. She claimed that many of them threatened those that were thinking of voting for then incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan with death.

The businesswoman said she would occasionally shout “Sai Buhari”, as the odd-job folks loitered outside her shop with nothing to do, occasionally begging her for money. “Sai Buhari” (“Only Buhari” in Hausa) was a popular chant among Buhari’s supporters, particularly in the north. Now, the reaction to that chant is very negative. Her hangers-on now respond: “Mummy, please no, don’t mention that man to us, we don’t want to hear his name. We are suffering. We are dying from hunger. We don’t know what Buhari is doing. He doesn’t know what he is doing”.

She said there was always poverty and unemployment in the north, but the people around her always seemed to find something to do to earn a little for themselves and their families. But now, she has never seen it this bad. She said the current level of poverty is “serious” and there is little she could do to help all those relying on her because she is living off what she made in the good times and doesn’t know when things were going to pick up.

The current economic crisis in Nigeria has been blamed on falling oil prices, the Buhari government’s strict foreign currency controls, the acute shortage of petrol and chronic power shortages increasing the costs of doing business.

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