Industry Interview

Interview: Though I don’t have legs, but I make shoes for people with legs, Mr. Aondofa shares his story

By Samuel Prince-Nnaji

Paramount in the minds of the Nigerian youths both at home and in diaspora is how to make a living from a paid job or own establishment. However, most of those who fallout of legitimate use of their youthful potentials, and rather engage in illicit acts, were either not in touch with a guardian, lost hold of their common sense or they were overwhelmed by unknown debasing forces. 

The youths are unarguably the strength of any nation, reason why the Nigerian government must at all-time accord them the primacy they deserve and also create an enabling environment that will impact their lives positively.

On this online median edition of ABR’s The Youths in Perspective, we are beaming our search light on the North Central, focusing on a young Nigerian who via an interview with Samuel Prince-Nnaji, told an inspiring story of how he turned his physically challenged state to a ‘disciplined life. “Though I don’t have legs, but I make shoes for people with legs” the very elated entrepreneur said.

  Today, this young man is now one of the renowned footwear manufacturers in Nigeria, managing a very huge customer base and with that he is also helping others to become better persons in the society.

Excerpts..

May we know you sir

My name is David Aondofa also known as Big Dreams. I am from Gwer East local Government Area of Benue State, I’m 29 years of age, I got crippled at age 7 as a result of polio, so I am physically challenged.

What was your growing up like especially when you have to face the disability?

My growing up was really tough, you know I became crippled at 7 years old and I lost my mum at 9 years that prompted me to go live with my grandmother. I was with her until I became 15. One day she woke up and said that she is really tired of me, that she didn’t give birth to children to suffer her, so she practically rejected me and chased me out of her house because I was physically challenged, it was really tough on me, but it only disciplined my life. I see that as a discipline to my life in working hard. It’s also what helped me to be where I am today. If I had relaxed in the comfort of her (grandmother) house, I wouldn’t be in this position I find myself today.

Each time I go out I do see a lot of persons challenged like me begging on the street, but when that happens, it gives me courage to discover that it is good to have handiwork. I suffered a lot, but out of the suffering I learnt discipline.

Talking about begging; you didn’t take to begging as a way of life, instead you went to learn how to make shoe, what was your motivation.

Actually what motivated me was the fact that growing up with disability was difficult, sometimes even if you want to beg, but because you don’t have anything, you don’t have anybody to help you. When you go out to beg, sometimes you’ll receive series of embarrassments. For me as person, I don’t have passion for begging. Going out I could see people with legs working to achieve their life dreams, I realised that it’s not all about legs or your physical appearance. That was when it occurred to me that I was supposed to learn a skill and not engage in begging. Then I also saw elderly men, some in their 50s, they still push wheel barrow. Even though they had legs and physically fit, they were still struggling in order to achieve. The footballers play with their legs, but it’s not their legs that think on how to control itself, it’s their brain that does the thinking. So in a situation where you don’t have legs, it doesn’t mean that your brain has stopped working.

When did the dream of becoming a big footwear manufacturer started even with the name BigDreamFashion.

I started shoe making in 2010, I learnt it for two years and graduated in 2012. I started my own officially in 2013.

Aside footwear production, are there other things you do.

 

Apart from the shoes, I am also into the business of counseling people, giving them ideas that will help grow their business and I am also a gospel rapper, I rap very well. I’ve been signed with a music label (Oase music), one of the very best gospel music studios in Benue state.

Mr. Aondofa presenting one of his finished product (shoe) to HE Samuel Ortom, Benue State Governor.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your line of business.

The challenge I normally face are machines, I don’t have lots of machines, so each time I want to do a mass production, I travel down to the east were I learnt work and it usually cost a lot. But if I had those machine, I will be able to produce with ease right there in my shop. I’m always travelling, like 6 to 8 times in a month because I don’t have the machine. Lots of my customers love my work (they love my shoes) it normally look like the foreign products, I do dedicate time to do my work very well and also ensure nice finishing. So I do have customers, but the problem is the machine.

Do you also train young people on your kind of skill

Yes, I train people as well, in my office I do organise training for shoe making, some time I do get invitation when entrepreneurship events is organised, I go there to train people in shoe making.

A product of bigdreamfashion

What has changed from when you started and now

There has been great improvement because since I started I did not relent. I’ve been working so hard and I have passion for what I do so I improve every day. God is helping me because through this work, people know me all over Nigeria and outside Nigeria because I’ve been consistent with it. There has been great improvement more than when I started.

What you are doing is transmuting the knowledge you acquire into its tangible form and also train the youths thereby taking them off the street; but have you ever seek support from the government to enhance your trade.

Yes, I’ve asked for assistance severally, but all I’ve been receiving are packs of promises.

What would be your advice to the youths especially those who don’t know what to do with their life right now considering your story.

My advice to the youths is very simple.

They should believe in their God-given talent and try to achieve it. You discovering your dream is very simple, think of what you know how best to do best and focus on how to develop it. Enough of depending on the government to do things for us, it is very important.

Shoes made by bigdreamfashion

Look at the foreign countries, the wealthy people are not the politicians, but talented people who have gift and focused on developing their gift.

They are the billionaires. So it’s better we focus on our God-given talents rather than focusing on our politicians. They should focus more on developing what they have than depending or spending their time to talk about politicians that are spending our money. If they keep on saying it, nothing will change, but the only thing that should change is them changing their mindset.

Let assume that I have a handiwork, i am very important in the society which I know I am (I’m not trying to brag) though I don’t have legs, but I make shoes for people with legs. How did I do it, I spent time to develop it, so if they spend time to develop their own, they will become important in the society even the politicians will be patronizing them for their services.

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