Bounce Exclusive: 'My Father Beat Me Until I Learnt How To Repair Watches'
'Aminat Horological Service Center' is made up of a zinc roof held up by planks, a bench and a large cupboard.
She smiled nicely at me, looked up and said "This is where I work, I have been doing it for many years and I have no regrets'.
Her stall is located close to Ali Oloko Mosque in Idumota area in Lagos. She has miraculously survived several attempts by state authorities to relocate traders in that area.
Her most recent battle has been with nature - especially when it rains.
"This is one reason why I need a shop, see I have to remove my bench and move my things back because of the rain", she said.
I watched the self-acclaimed horologist work meticulously. She hardly flinched or blinked when she held those tiny fragments of the time piece. Time appeared to stand still while she worked with her head bowed and back bent.
I could tell she had learnt to enjoy the pain that came with working on a tray with both hands at the same time.
"I have trained all my children from this tray. See, my first born is now in secondary school. he younger one will soon join her and I do not plan to retire anytime soon.
"My eyes are still clear and I can relate with the changes being introduced in these modern times. Things are hard now but I am not scared. Like my father used to tell me, as long as people are alive, they will continue to tell time and we will continue to be in business", she said looking candidly at me.
Her father forced her to learn the trade. She does not deny it and remains grateful to him for guiding her along the right path of hard work and patience.
“My father use to beat me, and I will run away because I did not want to learn the trade.
“I know the work very well, I know all the instruments very well and all the parts of a watch. I only need a helper, who would assist me in establishing the business to get a shop. As you can see it is raining, and no customer is coming", she said in Yoruba.
Aminat, who is in her 40s, cannot speak English fluently but it has not affected her trade as her customers rely on goodwill interpreters within the area to serve as middlemen. But they are usually surprised at how quickly she can provide a diagnosis without any prior knowledge of the fault.
"Most of my customers do not understand Yoruba. They come in based on recommendation and I always satisfy them. At first, it was difficult and my co-traders around here come in to easy the difficulty when I barely understand what the customer is saying.
"But it is all different now. We communicate in pidgin or I simply examine the watch and tell them what the problem is and how long it will take to fix it", she explained.
Aminat realized that this was the legacy her father wanted to leave for her, so she went ahead to learn in a place called ‘Baba Itafaji compound’. After learning, she went into the business full time, and moved to her present location.
The mother of 3 children is willing to learn more about wristwatches and get more equipment to develop her craft. She says she has learnt to see only opportunities and no limitations in the male dominated profession.
"A lot of times people don’t want to give me work because I am a woman, but once they have tried me and they are satisfied with my job, they bring more work for me.
"I would advise any woman who sees a job she enjoys, even if it is a male dominated occupation, to do it. She should ask for God’s grace, be honest in her work and learn how to pamper customers. Especially men, they are just big babies.”
Aminat has been pushed beyond the call of duty. She has been forced to become the breadwinner as her husband's business was close due to the economic recession and new regulatory policies being introduced by the government. She says she shook off her despair and embraced her reality. There was no time to cry.
"I have no other job except this one. I use it to shoulder the responsibility of the family and assist my husband. Where there is government or not, we the people must learn to survive and that is what I am doing. There is no helper anywhere or gold coming from anyone. So, it's best to keep fighting for myself."
Mrs Adeboye who has known the watch repairer for more than 10 years, says she always directs people to Aminat.
“They always tell me; she is a woman, can she repair it?’ but at the end of the day, they always come back because she does an excellent job” Adeboye said.
Bukola also corroborated what Mrs Adeboye said.
“She can repair watches very well, I only pray that she gets a shop and moves out of here".