Care for Kilishi? Meet Arzika, father of 30 children, who is the ‘godfather’ of Kilishi business

OLAKUNLE MARUF writes that Kilishi business in Sokoto is a family trade handed down from one generation to the next. Though the claim in Sokoto that it produces the best variety of the snack is arguable, there is no doubt that it is a big industry there.

CALL it cracker meat if you like, but the name that people from all parts of the country could easily relate with is kilishi. Widely produced in the northern part of the country, it has become a souvenir of sort for travelers to that part of the country to bring back home to friends and family.

It is a popular belief that the best kilishi comes from Sokoto State and though this is contestable, the array of producers of kilishi and the huge business that it has become lends credence to this belief. It is a business that puts food on the table of many families and also provides a means of livelihood to a large number of youths who hawk the product all over major motor parks, hotels including the airport.

kilishiSulaiman Bayonle, a civil servant from Ondo State, who was born and raised in Sokoto, told Arewa Live that at every opportunity of visiting Sokoto, he always buys kilishi in large quantity to give to his friends and colleagues at work in Ondo town.

My brother, though I was born and brought up in Sokoto here, I never knew the importance of this meat until I left Sokoto for Ondo to work.

“Imagine, almost all my colleagues in my office often ask me to get kilishi for them each time I inform them of my intention of coming down here, they hardly request for anything else apart from kilishi,” he revealed.

Also speaking, Adeola Marufat from Lagos State, a youth corps member serving in the state also described kilishi as something she cannot joke with since she was posted to Sokoto to serve.

According to her: “Before I was posted to Sokoto to serve, anytime any of my family members comes to the North, the only thing I and my siblings ask of is this kilishi.

“Imagine that I am now fully in the north and Sokoto for that matter where you see the best of kilishi in Nigeria; I don’t joke with it as I hardly spend a day here without taking it.

“My major concern now is how I will cope when I go back to Lagos. In a way, I am addicted to kilishi,” she disclosed.

Arewa Live met one of the major producers of kilishi, Alhaji Arzika Sarkin Fawa, the proprietor of Arzika kilishi ventures, located under the popular “Alu flyover” in Sokoto. Arzika is a man of means with three wives and 30 children.

In fact, about six of his children were working on the meat being prepared for the business of the day when Arewa Live called at his shop.

He disclosed that kilishi business is more or less an inherited family business that has transcended three generations, from his grandfather to his father and to himself.

Arzika, a native of Jangebe village, where his family remains very popular till date because of the kilishi business said: “Everyone in Jangebe town knows my late grandfather and father with this business; in fact, I can categorically tell you that by extension, in our local government, Denge-Shuni Local Government, everybody knows us to be the most prominent family producing kilishi..

“Allah has blessed all our family members with this business, which almost all my male children are also into. That is why if I am not around, my children are available to serve our respective customers very well.”

“Despite having been in the business for so long, I have never for one day thought of quitting or retiring from the business”

Arzika disclosed that many of his former apprentices are now big names in the business. Some of them he identified as Shagalinku, Achida University of Kilishi and several others who spent one year under him and later set up their own kilishi businesses.

Arewa Live was also at Murtala Muhammed’s shed where he sells kilishi.on Emir Yahaya road, Mallam Abubakar has been in the business for about 30 years. While Arzika inherited the business from his own father, Abubakar was Arzika’s father’s apprentice before starting his own thriving kilishi business.

“My kilishi is all over the place, it is being hawked by youths who come here daily to buy in large quantity and take it around on bicycle. I am sure you must have come across some of them either on the road or mostly at motor parks.

“I love dealings with those boys because it is another way of creating employment for them.  Some of them are family men with wives and children whom they take care of through the business,” Muhammed said.

Asked if he is fulfilled doing the business, Muhammed said: “I give Allah the glory for what I have been able to achieve through this business. I am going to be ungrateful to God if I should say anything otherwise. It is from this business l got my wives and over a dozen children.

“The same kilishi business has offered me opportunity to go to Hajj and build two houses for myself where I live happily with my children,” he explained.

All the kilishi traders spoken to were united in their voices in calling for government support by way of providing soft loans for them so as to enable them meet up with the demands of their customers in different part of the country.

Arzika specifically appealed that government support for the business was imperative and it could even be a source of revenue generation for government.

The kilishi producers also asked for an enabling environment including provision of modern equipment, the effect of which is more job opportunities for the teeming number of youths in the state.

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