The story of 28-year-old Edo-born painter and craftsman, Legemah Blessing Osagioduwa, who withstood the pressure of being trafficked abroad for greener pasture is very interesting and an inspiration to other young girls in the country. Blessing quit a federal civil service job to overcome poverty and become a master of painting and creative craftsmanship, and, at the same time, teaching young boys skills, earning a decent income and living comfortably.
The 400-level student of the Department of Adult Professional Education, University of Benin, told Daily Trust that she had to quit the civil service job to embrace skills because she doesn’t want to wait for gratuity and pension that may never come.
“If not for the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU), I would have graduated. I have completed my project and only waiting for defence before the strike commenced.
Blessing said, “I am basically into art and creative craftsmanship work, I am also into interior decoration and painting. I am also into Plaster of Paris (POP), art and design which comprises painting abstract, realistic, nature and landscaping.
She explained that in the art work, the design has to do with creative works like wall decor, fittings, while the POP work could be in frames, flowers or any other pattern that gives a beautiful concept to the house.
“So, partially, I am into sculpture that has to do with interior work, furniture, among others,” she said.
She told Daily Trust that she started with painting and in the course of painting work, she learnt other skills with the help of friends she met on the job.
“I started with painting; which was something from my childhood, I met some of my family members doing. So, I can say it runs in our family. There was a particular painting job I got and I was paid huge sum of money, so I saw opportunity in it and I stuck to it.
Quitting civil service job
Blessing said she was a junior staff of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) but decided to quit the job in September last year on discovering that the painting job was more rewarding and profitable.
“I was a staff of the University of Benin, but I resigned from the job to embrace the painting work.”
She said, “I had to embrace the painting job because it pays well and also creates jobs for others. I was a junior staff, working with SSCE for over eight years and I had to quit because the salary wasn’t encouraging and not enough.
“My salary doesn’t even cover my transportation and feeding not to talk of other basic needs. And I just thought of the whole issue; whether to wait for pension that I may never get when I retire or exit from the job.”
She said after recollecting how pensioners are suffering, trying to get their pensions and gratuities that are not forthcoming, she decided to quit and face the rewarding job.
“Since I started this job, I can tell you that I have achieved so much and if I had not taken that decision, I would have still been struggling like other civil servants. While in UNIBEN, my salary was N23,000 and then rose to N28,000 before I resigned.”
Learning the skills
According to her, she didn’t actually learn painting under anybody but was able to attain perfection with the aid of her android phone.
“I didn’t learn painting; I was just watching my relations doing it and I started doing it on my own. When I got an android phone, I started learning from YouTube and followed them step by step, and that was how I perfected my painting skills.
“While on the job full time, I met good friends in Lagos who taught me how to do POP, casting and measurement and since then, I have combined all with painting. It took me about four years to perfect other skills. Those good friend were giving me jobs and also training me on other trades.
“In all, painting has been my life, the other aspect of the job took four years. It was in 2016 I got a big painting contract that changed everything.”
What one need on the job
Blessing explained that it requires passion to be able to survive on the job. “As a lady, it is not easy because most people see it as men’s job.
“It also requires strength, sincerity, dedication and perfection. People see ladies as weak but because I have passion for the job and seeing myself doing it already, I have to flow with it.”
She added “What one needs most is the skills because most of the basic things like roller, brush etc needed for the job, can be easily gotten before talking about the bigger items which you can get as you progress on the job.”
Experience on the job
According to Blessing, her experience on the job was very wonderful and interesting, as people didn’t believe she could climb the scaffold as a woman.
She said she almost quit the job but decided to stay put due to the prospect on the job
“At the early stage, people, especially ladies, used to make jest of me, telling me to leave the job.
“There was a day I was on the scaffold painting, and a lady passing by said to me, ‘my sister just quit this job, do you want to kill your self?’
“At another time, another lady said to me, ‘won’t you leave this job for men? The kitchen is your place’ and many other demoralizing comments.”
She said such comments used to weigh her down but the desire to succeed, coupled with her first payment encouraged her to move on. “Today, I am happy that I followed my intuition and conviction and didn’t listen to such comments.”
“Now that I have grown from that little painter to a bigger painter, moving from state to state, I need some technical tools for industrial jobs and I have not been able to get them. Getting the right tools for mega jobs is my biggest challenge now.”
She explained that the job is very encouraging and profitable.
“If I can leave a Civil Service job for this one, that means it is really paying well. I can say that my 10 or 15 years salary from the federal job is nothing compared to my one or two months profit in my current job. The gap is huge and very encouraging.”
Resisting pressure to be trafficked abroad
She said when her father lost his job and the going was rough for her family, one woman sold the idea of trafficking to her and her colleagues but she rejected it.
“When Edo line where my father was working was shut down, I had to drop out of school due to lack of fund. I was then helping my mum to sell in the streets and markets. My friends and I were always talking about travelling abroad because some of them that left were actually doing well. One woman called Mama G then always came to us with flashy cars, encouraging us to embark on the journey.
“She (woman) said there is money in Italy and that when we convert the dollars to naira, we would be rich. But I was scared because I heard that prostitution is what our ladies are doing there and I didn’t like that.”
She said though some of her friends left, she refused the so-called fancy life the woman portrayed to them. “Today, I am happy that I didn’t yield to her sweet talk,” she said.
On her love life, Blessing told Daily Trust that she is not yet married but will soon tie the nuptial knot.
She said, “I am taking my time. I have fallen victim twice and I think I have learnt from those mistakes. I have somebody already, and we are planning to get married. He has already seen my family and next year, by the grace of God, I will be married.”
Apprentices learning under her
Blessing said currently four persons are learning under her while about three had completed their apprenticeship.
She described the job as very lucrative, encouraging and profitable. “For those who are young on the job, they have to be patient and with time, they will make it.”
“When I compare the difference between five years ago and now, it is huge. Six years ago, I got one contract, five years ago, I had like four, now I can’t count the numbers of contracts I get in a year.
“So, it is lucrative. From the beginning, it is not easy but as you continue to sell your brand, patronage would come and I have gone almost round the country doing this job.”
Advise to other girls
My advice is that ladies should always be patient, listen to their mind, and take the opportunity within their areas to learn a skill or go to school, so long as it would earn them a decent living.
“For me, I took this decision then and I am happy for it. So, they should exploit opportunities within and outside their areas. My vision is to have an academy where I will train young boys and girls in skills, which is why I choose to study Adult Professional Education.”