By Chinyere Akataobi
I grew up in Lagos and the name Aba was just not a place my parents called their hometown, it also represented the fake shoes, bags and clothes I and my friends wore (even if they were made elsewhere).
Aba was for us a manufacturing heaven for substandard products and a place famed for the worst form of imitation. Looking back at what I know today I laugh in no small way at how naïve I was,
I have grown to appreciate the industry and drive of the average Aba shoe and bag maker, I have grown to admire the tenacity and creativity of the works of their and the standard products of their labour despite little or no help from government in the various areas and environment manufacturing is carried out.
The Aba story is a story of triumph of an economically oppressed section of our economic society over the incompetence of government and its numerous negative policies with its resultant effects.
There is enough literature online to support my current praise of the manufacturers in Aba so I will not spend this piece extolling the virtue of manufacturers in Aba.
My reason for writing this piece is my concern at the de-marketing being done to the current MADE-IN-ABA campaign conceptualized by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, driven by the private sector and supported by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu through his aide Mr Sam Hart.
When MADE-IN-ABA is mentioned online there are a certain group of online commentators who have made it their jobs to talk about how the campaign is all hype and no substance and i really get confused at how a certain section of these commentators seem to have chosen not to understand the promotional essence of the whole campaign or appreciate what it has achieved.
While i agree with them 100% that more should be done concerning the improvement of critical infrastructure, i will also commend what is being done to promote the products which the manufacturers have made despite the lack of a friendly economic and infrastructural environment.
I see the made in Aba campaign as a bold step towards proclaiming to all of Africa and indeed the world that in the midst of the grueling conditions the manufacturers have found themselves they are still making products that can hold their own among the very best.
I see the MADE-IN-ABA campaign as one that has brought the public attention to the leather slippers my friend Rachael Abiriba of the RAE Store makes at one of her outlets at Opobo road.
I also see the MADE-IN-ABA campaign has one that has promoted MADE-IN-NIGERIA products and have gotten De Okechukwu of Okeyson Shoes the kind of patronage he has not had in a long time.
I see the MADE-IN-ABA campaign has one that has put more income in the pockets of the manufacturers and has the potential of generating employment when these manufacturers expand due to improved revenue.
I can only draw positives from the campaign inasmuch as i will urge the current government to accelerate their steps in creating the enabling environment for manufacturers to improve beyond their current capacity, the exposure that has been gotten by these manufacturers in Aba through the current drive should not be taken for granted and I can boldly say that it is not just hype.