In Kafanchan, Jema’a Local Government Area, and Zaria City, all in Kaduna State, are two graduates of tertiary institutions who became roadside mechanics and would not trade the profession for anything else.
Aliyu Saleh joined a mechanic workshop as an apprentice at the age of 16 and has never looked back. Soon after his secondary education, the now graduate of Mechanical Engineering from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria said he wanted to learn a skill before gaining admission into the university, so becoming an auto mechanic came to his mind.
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Four years into his apprenticeship, he developed passion for the skill, and with the encouragement of an uncle, he sat for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination and secured admission into the university.
With the practical training he obtained from the workshop and a degree in a related field, Saleh has become a force to be reckoned with in the automobile industry.
With over 10 years of experience, Saleh, who graduated from the ABU in 2016, said he was looking to develop his expertise in new areas of specialisation, especially tie and bolt and vehicle maintenance.
The indigene of Kaduna North Local Government said he would be willing to learn new trends in any well established automobile company—government or private.
He recalled how friends and colleagues often teased him on account of continuing as a roadside mechanic even after graduating from the university. “This is discouraging, especially as it is coming from our youths. However, if I had a second chance in the university, I would still go for Mechanical Engineering for my master’s degree,” he said.
The 32-year-old Saleh said he specialised in Honda, Toyota, Datsun and Peugeot brands. He advised Nigerian graduates to acquire skills and passions that would make them productive in the society, in addition to their certificates.
“In Nigeria, there is no automatic employment for graduates, so I decided to continue my work as a roadside mechanic.
“I believe that government alone cannot provide jobs, but they should at least empower the youths, especially in skills and through startup capitals. This will help in efforts at tackling insecurity in the country. This is because poverty and unemployment are among the major causes of insecurity in Nigeria,” he said.
Advising the youth to find ways of earning a legitimate living, he said, “That you have a certificate should not make you feel superior. In fact, acquiring academic knowledge is not for the purpose of employment, it is meant to prepare you to weather the storms and challenges of life.
“After my youth service I moved back to my workshop to continue my job. And this is not something I can leave for any other business.
“I think the government should encourage skills acquisition among Nigerians, before and after university education.”
Also, at 26, Abubakar Abdurrahman, a graduate of Administration and Planning from the Federal College of Education, Zaria, which is affiliated to the ABU, wouldn’t trade his job as a roadside mechanic for anything else, not even a well-paying government job.
Born in a poor family in Zaria, Abdurrahman became an apprentice at a mechanic workshop at the age of 11, hoping to secure a bright future.
He told Daily Trust Saturday that he celebrated freedom from the workshop seven years ago.
Abdurrahman, who now has a temporary workshop at Kofar Doka in Zaria, said he specialised in cars of all brands and models.
The young man, who is now a father of one, said, “I am proud of my profession, which has assisted me in achieving tremendous success in life. This skill has enabled me secure admission and obtain my National Certificate in Education. It also financed me to complete my B.Ed in Administration and Planning.”
From his earnings as a roadside mechanic he now sponsors the education of his siblings, as well as takes the financial burden of his aged parents. He also got married from the proceeds of his profession, and it has been sustaining his family and relatives, he added, saying, “The job is profitable. I have bought different brands of cars and a land for future development, as well as assisted many of my friends in several ways.”
He said his foresight and entrepreneurial skill as a mechanic helped in putting him academically ahead of other students. “I was like a king in my circle of friends in school because of my financial status,” he boasted.
He further said that as an automobile mechanic he was close to his lecturers who became some of his major customers.
“Due to the nature of my job, I get money on a daily basis. And I am used to it, to the extent that I cannot imagine working for government, where salaries are only paid monthly,” he said.
Abdurrahman, who is the chairman of unit 6 of the Mechanic Association in Zaria, said many of his customers had offered to assist him to secure a government job immediately after his NCE, but he always thought twice about the offer.
Asked how his academic area of specialisation is related to his entrepreneurial skill, Abdurrahman said mechanic work entailed adequate and meticulous planning, which is part of what he studied in school.
Like Saleh, he also advised youths to engage in entrepreneurship as the surest means of survival. He added that from the situation of things on the ground, government cannot employ millions of graduates produced annually by universities and other tertiary institutions.