My name is Abdulfatai Adeyemi and I am from Ila Orangun (Ila. for short) in Osun State but I was born here in Otukpo, Benue State.
My father, who died on 2 February 2021, trained as an electric welder in Ilesa, also in Osun State. His name was Adeyemi and his father's name was Gbadamosi. I adopted his name as my surname.
My father told me that after he completed his apprenticeship, he moved to Ile Ife, still in Osun State. It was while there that one of his friends told him that they could go out in search of their fortunes in another part of Nigeria.
That was how he came to Otukpo.
I am aware that he got married to my mother, who is still alive, back in Ila..
I was born in the seventies, the third of my parents' children.
I first attended Army Children's School, Ojira, Otukpo up till Primary Three. Then my father built his own house around the place called Pipeline and I started all over again at LGEA Primary School.
When I finished there, I told my father that I was done with schooling and would want to learn a skill, to be a motor mechanic precisely.
Indeed, even while in primary school, my mind was always in acquiring a skill. I can not put a finger on a reason for this. I just know that from childhood I was fond of making cars from cans. Whenever I visited my dad's welding shop I did not just watch him, I also tried my hands at welding.
My father objected to my stopping school at the elementary level for any kind of skill acquisition. He wanted me to further my education. I insisted that I would rather be a motor mechanic.
Eventually, I agreed to take the common entrance examination for admission into a secondary school, held at St Francis Nursery and Primary School, here in Otukpo. If I remember well, it was in 1989.
My dad was the one who welded the gates of the St Francis Secondary School and the school authorities had told him that I was sure of a place in the school, even if I did not do exceptionally well in the examination. My older brother attended the school before he went to complete his secondary school education in Ile Ife.
But, my name appeared on the admission list of St Paul's Secondary School.
My father got school uniforms made for me to attend the school. But I was adamant that I would not go.
I stood my ground.
My dad did not relent either; he would beat me over and over maybe I would change my mind. But I was not moved.
This issue caused a friction between my parents because my mum, obviously tired of the beatings, advised my dad to abide by my wish as this may just be God's plan for me, but he was not going to hear such an admonition.
My mum reminded my dad that it was a struggle for me to finish primary school as my mind was more on learning a skill than going to school. That I was always given money as an incentive to go to school.
When I stayed at home for about one year, it became clear to my dad that I was not going to change my decision to not go to any secondary school, not even St Francis that had an automatic slot for me.
Eventually, in 1990, my father took me to a man named Jewel from Oju Local Government Area of Benue State whom he had known while he (the man) was an apprentice at a workshop on Otukpo's Okokoro Road, where he (my dad) had first worked when he first arrived in the town. My dad believed I would be in good hands. If I was going to be a mechanic, then I must be the best I could be and this man was going to make it happen, reasoned my dad.
There were at least twenty-six people who were my seniors when I joined. The second day after I joined, six fresh trainees joined. So, you can say that my dad chose the right place for me.
It was also because of my dad's thoroughness that I spent five years as an apprentice. But, by the second year, some of Oga Jewel's customers had started asking him when I started to learn because of the way I tackled their challenges. Believe me, this is not a boast.
I trained mainly on Peugeot and Land Rover vehicles.
I remember that we had one customer who was a staff of the defunct Okada Airlines in Lagos, who hailed from the same place with Oga Jewel. He once came to our workshop with a problem which did not make his Peugeot car start. When I solved the problem, he asked my master how long I had been an apprentice with him. My master said, 'This one, it was not even up to one year that he started that he had been displaying superb competence.' The man now asked my master if he could not open a branch in Lagos and send me to hold fort there; that I knew more than even many mechanics with more years of experience. My master said, it was not going to be possible because I had only just spent two years out of the five that my dad signed me up for. Anyhow, whenever that man came to Otukpo, he insisted that I should be the one to service his car and if there was any problem I was also the one to fix it.
Again, this is not a boast here, but if you go into town and ask around, those who know my worth and are sincere would affirm my competence. I believe that God gave me the brains to handle vehicular problems.
I shall cite a few instances, if you allow me.
There was once a time when employees of the then NEPA (National Electricity Power Authority) came to Otukpo from Osogbo for some assignments. They came to our workshop to fix a problem with their Land Rover. When I fixed the problem and was test driving the vehicle, I found that the steering wheel was shaking. I offered to fix it. They said I should not bother; that they had tried many times to fix the problem without much success. But, I insisted.
They agreed to return with the vehicle the following day.
They did and I went to work, brought down every part associated with the steering wheel and made all the necessary adjustments and coupled it back. In short, I fixed the problem to the disbelief of those NEPA men. They saw everything I did from the beginning to the end.
I will try to explain how I solved the problem. You see, the common steering for that model of Land Rover was the steering box. The wheel also had an auxiliary. There is a part of the vehicle called swivel. This was what represented its ball joint. Once that swivel and the tie rod have a clearance, then the steering would be shaking and the vehicle becomes unstable when being driven. I had seen Oga Jewel fixing a problem with the steering of another Land Rover. I saw what he amended at the swivel. The swivel has a major function in the balancing of a wheel. I had seen him insert a coin there before coupling it back. The problem was solved. I was not just attentive watching every step of the processes when he worked, I also asked him questions where I did not have an understanding of what he did. So, I asked him what was the function of the coin and how did he know it was a solution. He said that the coin was to replace a brass in the fiber once it had become slack. Of course, that came handy for me in fixing that NEPA vehicle. I did some other things in addition which are my trade secrets.
The NEPA people had come to Otukpo to trace some problems with the high tension transmission lines. They came back after two days of their forays in the bush and reaffirmed that the problem with the wheel had been permanently solved.
You know what? Their supervisor, after learning that it was my third year of apprenticeship, requested to see my dad. When I took them to my dad, the supervisor pleaded that he should allow me to go with them to Osogbo. Of course, he refused; that I must complete my five years of apprenticeship. He told the NEPA people that his own father insisted that he learnt his skill for ten years.
I completed my five-year training with Oga Jewel.
Then, my dad said I had to train under another man called Paul. An engineer, he later worked at Benue Breweries in Gboko, makers of More lager beer.
After my initial refusal, I went and enrolled as a trainee with Mr Paul. After about two months, the man said I should work on the engine of his own personal six-cylinder sport car which brand name I have forgotten; that the top gasket was burnt. The car's overhead camshaft controlling the tapet valve was atop the engine. He asked if I could set the timing. I told him I would do it in no time. He told me to go ahead. When I was done, he asked me what I set the timing to. I told him. He also asked me what the rotor point direction was, I told him. He asked me if the car would work if I coupled it back. I answered in the affirmative and I added 'God willing.' I did a couple other things and coupled the engine back. I ignited the engine, it started, I tuned it and did whatever else was necessary. After that, he asked me how long I had trained for before being brought to him. I told him. He then wondered what my dad brought me to his workshop for; that I was already competent and should be running my own workshop.
Apparently, my dad had wanted me to also learn how to work on heavy-duty vehicles which was Mr Paul's specialty. But, as far as Mr Paul was concerned I was too small in stature to handle such vehicles. He went and met my dad that there was no point in me being his apprentice rather he should help me establish my own workshop. My dad insisted that I continued with the training.
I went for a while and irregularly too. Whenever I went there, I worked more like a foreman and Mr Paul always remunerated me. Then I stopped going. Later, some of Oga Jewel's customers started bringing their cars to me to fix and I worked on them in front of my dad's house.
Nearby lived an elderly Yoruba man called Alhaji Rasaki Orire who was a dealer in Japanese cars. His mechanic named Ade used to come to the front of our house to also work. One day, Ade called me and said he knew that I would need help with lifting engines, and that he would be available to help and I should also be ready to help him whenever he needed to lift engines. I agreed to the arrangement. What I did not realise then was that he and my dad had hatched a plan that I should be training under him. But with time, Ade found out that I was even more competent than him in fixing many problems. Yet, I gave him ample respect because he was my senior in the profession.
As time went on, Alhaji Orire began to give me some of his vehicles to fix this and that. Later, I did jobs mainly for Alhaji Orire. Much later, outsiders began to brings jobs and more jobs.
I became like a son to Alhaji Orire. I even lived in his building. He guided me aright. He helped to smoothen my rough edges. He tempered my habitual furiousness. As he spared no rod with me, he also was never tired in admonishing me to be of good behaviour. He made me to become a better behaved person. I started owning my own property from the monetary compensation he offered me for the jobs I did for him. Still, he provided me free breakfast, lunch and dinner. He bought me clothes and gifts during Muslim festivals. And, there were many others like me who were not his biological children who lived in that compound and he showered us all with part of what God blessed him with. May God continue to reward his kindness.
In 2003, I moved to a three-room rented apartment on Audu Adejoh Close and set up my workshop on the premises.
I may have been trained on Peugeot and Land Rover but I am thankful to God that I am able to handle the problems in all the vehicles brought to me.
I count among the first people in Otukpo to handle turbocharged engines. I did not learn it from anywhere. I cannot stop repeating that God blessed me with the brains for this job.
One of my customers while I was still at Alhaji Orire's place was the recently deceased Mr Simon Ohiaeri - I hope I got his surname correctly, but his company located at a place called Roundabout in Otukpo was SCOA Motors. He was so fond of me and lavished me with money. If I did a job worth one thousand Naira, he could give me three thousand Naira. He said he appreciated my commitment to his jobs.
Mr Ohiaeri had told me that he was interested in buying a turbocharged Nissan Urvan bus but he was concerned about its acceleration. I told him to go ahead and buy it and bring it to me. That if I could not find a solution to it, then I would forge it to a carburetor engine.
Mr Ohiaeri went ahead and bought the vehicle in Kano. It was white. He drove it straight to a car wash facility around the old Railway Station owned by one guy called Luku (Lukman). The bus was washed thoroughly. Then Mr Ohiaeri drove to my place in his Toyota Crown to inform me that he had brought the vehicle and it was now my turn to do the needful. It was the Saturday preceding Easter Sunday in 2000. He said he would come back in the afternoon to take me to Luku's place so that I can pick up the vehicle as he said he did not want people to know he owned it. He returned around four O'clock and we went to Luku's place. I collected the vehicle and drove it to Alhaji Orire's place where I still lived.
On Easter Sunday, I began to work on the vehicle. I could not determine what the exact problem was. But I sensed that if I could dismantle the engine, I would find the solution. Being my first time working on a turbo engine, I had to be extra careful so as not to damage anything. So, it took me almost two hours to remove the engine and pieced it apar carefully up to where the two pins which aided its acceleration were located. That was where I now concentrated my attention. I cleaned the pins thoroughly. I acknowledge God's guidance in this "operation" and assured myself that once I coupled it back the acceleration would be back to near factory default. And, yes, it was as I found out during the test drive. When I accelerated, I watched the meter move from one to seven and to red. That was all the proof I needed. There was no mobile phones then. And, Mr Ohiaeri had said I should not, under any condition, bring the vehicle to his house. Anyway, I found my way to his house to tell him I was through.
He did not believe that I had fixed it although he said he knew I could.
He instructed me to take the vehicle to a filling station then called Prince Eno and that he would come over there in a jiffy.
I picked up the vehicle and he got to the station before me. I simply drove in behind him. He came out of his vehicle and said loudly in pidgin: 'Dis motor fine o. I like this motor. Who get dis motor?' I played along and replied also in pidgin, 'Na somebodi get am.' He then said: 'Tell me who get am. I go buy the motor. Today na Easter o. I go buy fuel for this motor make you carry am go rock dis town.' I could not laugh out loud. So, as soon as he bought fuel for his car, he said the attendant should fill up the tank of the bus. He paid for the fuel and also gave me ten thousand Naira to 'go and enjoy Easter.' Because I was not too sure what the money was really meant for, I could not spend it. I test drove the vehicle again along Enugu Road. I fired the engine up to 160km and it was smooth. I turned back at Eke village and drove back to Alhaji Orire's place. I then went to Mr Ohiaeri's house purposely to ask him what to do with the money he gave me and what next. He said I should go and spend the money to make merry as he had said. He then added that we should meet at four O'clock at a hangout called West End. I went back home to dress up for the occasion, after all it was a festive period. Within five minutes of my arrival at West End, Mr Ohiaeri walked in. He ordered isi ewu for the four of us that he met there. He said we should eat, drink and be merry and everything was on his bill.
You would not believe that the vehicle was with me for one month. Yes, one full month. Thereafter, he called to ask which driver he should hand over the vehicle to. I recommended one driver named Sunday whom I respected; he too is late. He was leaving behind Alhaji Orire's house. He agreed and said that I should hand over the vehicle to him by myself once he finished discussing with Mr Sunday. That was how that went. Not long after, he went to buy the same Urvan, and yet another. He bought three in all and I worked on them. I had some other experiences with him when he bought some vehicles which ran on diesel. I cannot forget Mr Ohiaeri. He gave me the opportunity to learn on the job to fix vehicles which I was not trained on as an apprentice.
That has stood me in good stead till today.
I can confidently say - and, again, this is not an empty boast - that I can detect most vehicles' faults without reading a manual or using a diagnostics scanner. Need any conviction? I am available at my workshop opposite Ujor Memorial Secondary School, Otukpo, or you can please call me on +234 806 113 3563 or +234 339 4240.
I have some renown in this town.
My wife is from here because it is my preference to marry someone I know than someone brought from somewhere because we share the same ethnicity. I married late, just about four years ago.
Before my father died, he spent one year in Ila Orangun. I hope to visit there more and spend quality time with the people, and, at some point, live there with my family.
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