Abiola Way located by NNPC Mega Station Road in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, seems busy on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in February, unlike other days. It is understandable since the Obasanjo Presidential Library is situated in this quiet part of the Abeokuta metropolis. One would think the entire edifice is all about books, but a first visitor may be wrong. There is more to the library than meet the ordinary eye.
Adire and African Fabrics Centre of Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) Foundation, among other Adire fabrics, is determined to put the Adire, Tie and Dye fabric on the world runway. Its production, training and marketing of the fabric have been redefined to accommodate modern styles and glitz in accordance with international fashion standards.
Adire and Fabrics Centre of OOPL is at present taking up research and studying people’s fashion tastes and desires as well as a studying the mechanisation of Adire processed textiles, garments and accessories production with a view to produce in large quantity.
Adire or traditionally-crafted fabric is an age-long traditional fabric, which arguably has its origin from the people of Egba, the present people of Abeokuta, where Adire is produced with superb craftsmanship, though manually.
The production of Adire or tie and dye fabric had in the past generated lot of jobs and revenue for the Egba people, who used Adire predominantly as clothes, and still generating jobs and revenue for a very large heterogeneous population in Africa, mostly Nigerians, thanks to modern craftsmanship and advanced research.
Although, Adire was crudely crafted in the past, it used to have large patronage from the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria and some West African countries like Ghana, Ivory Coast, Republic of Benin, Togo, Mali, among others, who had seen Adire as a day-to-day clothing material suitable for special outings and routine wears. But, just before now, the patronage of the fabric nose-dived due to the uncontrolled importation of foreign wears coupled with abnormal taste for foreign products, including Western wears that had replaced wants for African products, especially made-in-Nigeria goods for Western or Asian made semi-finished and finished goods.
Also, government policies seemed to had favoured the importation of goods in the recent past, as Nigeria was turned to dumping ground for all sorts of unwanted and economy-troubled products, which had dealt seriously on the nation’s economic growth, leaving the level of unemployment on the rise, while the country wallowed in abject poverty.
But, despite the harsh government policies and abnormal taste for foreign goods, especially regards the production and patronage of Adire fabric or tie and dye fabric, Abeokuta, which is the home of Adire is waxing stronger as many Adire and African fabric outfits are springing up and can be found at almost every place in the city, apart from the popular Itoku Market that is origin of the craft.
Modernisation, creativity and professionalism have now been added to the production and marketing of Adire, leaving room for the production of Adire crafted products such as garments, bags, shoes, slippers, sheetings, pillows, among other valuable products, that have subsequently created jobs for teeming unemployed youths. The centre presently partners Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) on the production of tie and dye and other basic chemicals used in the production of the Adire fabrics, and also partnering the office of the Ogun State first lady, Olufunsho Amosun on training and acquisition of skills on Adire and African fabrics production. This is in order to sustain and improve on Adire fabrics production, generate employment and create means of livelihood for Nigerians.
Speaking with BusinessLife, Tony Eke, production manager, Adire and African Fabrics Centre of OOPL, disclosed that the location of the Presidential Library in Abeokuta, the homestead of Adire fabrics, and the love of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to promote African tradition, culture and fashion, propelled the former president to establish a centre that will promote Adire and African fabrics through massive production, effective training and employment opportunities.
Eke said although it was not an easy task persuading people to patronise Adire fabrics due to abnormal adoption of European clothing and fashion, the centre and the fabrics were now getting appreciable patronage going by professional and modern techniques adopted in the production and marketing of processed textiles, garments and Adire accessories.
“There are lots of potential in the area of Adire garment itself, processed textiles, just like Adire production, fashion accessories and skills acquisition. We are making every effort to perfect those things. Although, it is not an easy task having been adapted to Western way of dressing, we are therefore doing some research to make it widely accepted.
“On Adire fabrics production and fashion designing, we have made contact with FUNAAB on how to go into research and development of some plans. One of the basic challenge about Adire production is the dye and other chemicals we use for production. What we now do in partnership with FUNAAB is to see how we can develop a centre that will be producing dye, chemicals and materials we use for Adire production.
“We are also making contact with the wife of Ogun State governor, she came here sometime ago, our centre will be used as one of the vocational training centres for her pet project, for the training of unemployed youths across the state. In fact, there are lots of potential in the area of garment itself, processed textiles, just like Adire production, fashion accessories and skills acquisition. We are making every effort to perfect on those things,” Eke said.
The Centre, manned by Tony Eke, who has so far trained over 150 fashion designers across the country, produces in commercial quantities and engages in wholesale supply of Adire products with annual capacity of 80,000 units of finished Adire garments, thousands of other accessories and uniforms backed by an effective sewing laboratory and a vocational training centre.
Giving an economic impetus to Adire production and marketing, the Federal Government, through Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC), has distributed four metric tons of cotton seeds, pesticides and sprayers to cotton farmers in the South West under the auspices of National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) targeted at improved cotton production, which will in return increase the local production of plain fabrics used for Adire and other locally-made fabrics.
As a follow-up, the Ogun State government has also rehabilitated the only gazetted cotton market in the South West located at Iwoye-Ketu in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area and cotton processed factory located at Ibara-Orile in Abeokuta North Local Government of the state, with a view to help increase production of cotton and plain fabrics.
But, Adeoye Dacosta, another Adire and African fabrics manufacturer in Abeokuta, said government could do more in promoting Adire and African fabrics if it could include the Adire and African fabrics production in secondary school’s curriculum and also make it compulsory as uniform for primary and secondary school students.
Dacosta opined that the inclusion of Adire in the school’s curriculum would awake Adire and African fabrics consciousness in Nigeria, generate more employment and create more revenue for government and the people.
RASAQ AYINLA, Abeokuta