It’s imperative that I start today’s piece with an apology. Last Sunday, I promised to inform the readers of this column of the latest developments in automotive technology that I observed in my just-concluded three-continent journey, which took me through London and Paris (in Europe), five states in the USA (North America) and Tokyo, Japan (in Asia).
The urgent and systematic drive of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to get many Nigerian youths (especially unemployed graduates) empowered with market-ready and self-enterprise enhancing skills sets brought me and my business strategy alter ego, Gbola Oba, to see the Director-General of National Automotive Council, Mallam Aminu Jalal. We wanted to defend a proposal on Massive Open Online Courses (commonly called MOOC) – in the distant learning and human capital development industry – to be complemented with in-built practical sessions spread across the six geo-political zones in auto-diagnosis and other auto maintenance/repair industry’s specialisations (see a 4-module test-run we did early this year on our website: www.automedicsafrica.com) that we had submitted some months earlier to the agency.
On the morning of Monday, November 17, 2014, Gbola and I met at MMA2 (Murtala Muhammad Airport), Ikeja, Lagos, to catch our flight to Abuja. I must say that he (who believes that it’s utterly time-wasting to invest valuable time and intellectual resource to marketing any idea or product or service to any stratum of government – local, state or federal) was not particularly enthusiastic to make the journey. But Kehinde Ekisola and I convinced him to make the journey because of his Aaronic ability to lucidly explain ideas/concepts lurking inexpressively inside a Moses-like mind of mine. He’s a gifted communicator.
On landing in Abuja at about 1pm, we headed for the Wuse 2 offices of the NAC, where the DG and some of his strategic officers warmly engaged us. At the meeting it was becoming quite obvious that the zeitgeist of President Jonathan’s administration for now is getting as many young persons as possible trained and entrepreneurially empowered to run their own employment-generating sustainable businesses.
My partner’s spirit was lifted a bit because of the seriousness he discerned in the bureaucrats that we interacted with. On leaving the NAC’s head-office, we stopped by our Abuja workshop, which was located inside the lube bay of the NIPCO Filling Station on Obafemi Awolowo Way, by Jabi Upstairs, and we couldn’t find our local partner, Joyce Longtang Daser. Longtang Daser is a young, female mechanical engineering graduate of Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, and also an alumna of our post-college market-ready skills-acquisition training programme. She became our franchisee in Abuja because of the YOUWIN grant she got about a year-and-a-half ago from the Federal Government.
And when I called her she said she was at the Presidency for a YOUWIN event. Later in the evening, when we retired to our hotel in the evening, and also heard in the news of the same presidential launch of the impactful programme’s latest phase, things started falling into perspective.
The following day, we were literally chaperoned by a senior NAC’s officer, Odetoro, on the instruction of the DG, to SURE-P’s headquarters in the Central Business District of Abuja, to see a “Tonye” whose name had gained some prominence in our previous day’s meeting at NAC. We later discovered the affable Tonye was the famous Mr. Peter Usele’s (the former TUC’s leader and a “Convener” in the agency) point-man. It was this shrewd gentleman who further validated the NAC’s chieftains’ earlier stated belief that the Technical and Vocational Education Training (T-VET) department of the agency would be the strategic assessor of the project. On our way out of the SURE-P’s HQ’s building, we ran into the dapper looking T-VET’s boss, Mr. Tshokwa. Although he couldn’t attend to us, he directed us to head to his agency’s offices somewhere in Utako.
I must confess that I was particularly impressed with two noticeable things that happened at the T-VET’s end of the proposed project’s deliverability verification process: One, the two engineers (the senior, Nnamdi Udoh, and the younger Obi) and their underlings who, according to Gbola, “stringently interrogated” us, were very thorough, tough and yet professional. These experts were so methodical they subjected me to a literal demonstration of some of the capacities I’d proclaimed to have in a nearby state-of-the-art workshop. To their positive surprise, some of the technicians there, including the auto electrician who’s Ghanaian, told them that they were my avid followers and distant occupational mentees!
Indeed, these two conscientious officers of state followed us to our Abuja workshop to verify the authenticity of its existence and chatted up our local partner, whose sustainably successful YOUWIN enterprise gladdened them greatly. They saw four of its seven employees – two of them, male graduates of computer science and history and international relations respectively, are also Automedics alumni–and they were very thrilled with the fact that its Automedics-mentored YOUWIN project is serving as an exemplary one consistent with the President’s aspiration for the programme.
Two, and I’m quoting Gbola here, “Kunle, tell me I’m not in Nigeria! All these inter-ministerial or inter-agency Nigerian bureaucrats doing their jobs as methodically as any civilised officials of state in any advanced jurisdiction, and yet the ugly face of the eternal-delay endemic in the machinery of the civil service is nowhere to be found? Somebody at the very top must be marking these guys to some evidential target. Egbon, mo ni ko gbabe!”