Who are Engineers? By Engr Foluseke A. Somolu

Undated Picture of Engr on site duty at NEPA assignment

This is the story of an engineer, a Nigeria engineer and power system engineer colleagues, the story of their succeeding generation, of their professional lives spent so that Nigeria may have electricity/ Where the story dwells on the author’s achievements, it can be taken as an example of what most of the NEPA engineers did or could do, and would do so that Nigeria may have electricity. The speaker is not claiming to be a lone star.

Who are engineers?

There are engineers, and there are engineers. This profession of ours, this profession of mine, is one that everybody would like to be. Thus there are those our friends who (you know who) did not attend engineering school but would call themselves social Engineers. Well unfortunately for them, the law in Nigeria only recognizes those who COREN (Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria) recognizes as engineers, has to put their put their names on its register, and given the privilege to use the appellation , “Engr” before their names. And there is no classification of “Social” engineers in COREN register.

Apart from the pretenders, there is also the difficulty in recognizing the real practitioners arising from the confusion which the English language introduces into people’s understanding of the profession. There is the loose use of the word “engineer” in the English Language that an engineer could refer to any tradesman, or locomotive driver etc. Then again, there is the confusion the word ‘engineer’ could causes, linking the profession to engines, in people’s minds. People immediately think of a muscular practitioner who can work in engineers, with oil all over him, working in dirty environments, with smoke and grime everywhere.

Apart from the pretenders, there is also the difficulty in recognizing the real practitioners arising from the confusion which the English language introduces into people’s understanding of the profession

However, when we reflect a bit we remember that the English word for the profession has the same Latin root as in all other European languages. The French word is “Ingenieur” , The German word is “ingenieure”, the Spanish is “Ingeniero”, the Italian word is “Ingegnere”. One can thus see that the profession is about ingenuity, i.e. finding ingenous solutions to man’s problems. Those who think they are deriding the Nigerian engineer by describing him as “air conditioned room engineer” are in fact saying what should be : the engineer could do with the comfort of an air-conditioned room to do the brain work that is needed to come up with ingenious solutions to man’s problem of living.

Also because the profession is about the application of brains rather than brawn, is the reason many women are nowadays in it while they can still retain their femininity. And women-in-engineering is not a Nigerian exclusive phenomenon.

The making of an Engineer

Engineers don’t grow on trees.

It all starts very early in life when the attraction for a practical rewarding career, full of interesting challenges, draws one into the profession. In the schooling process and the employment that follows, one very soon learns the discipline of orderly thinking, the excitement of creativity, the healthy stress of challenge and the euphoria associated with success.- Wallace S. Read,

According to Wallace Read, it takes special people to do engineering those who are naturally inquisitive, and who are gifted with the aptitude for mathematics and sciences and who derive joy from the stress of challenges and euphoria of success that followed from meeting the challenges. (We should remember the Archimedes and Eureka episode).

COREN thinks those specially gifted people whom the public and personal safety is to be entrusted, in the use of the structures, devices, and systems they create, should have a special appellation to distinguish them from others less endowed or who are not carrying as much responsibility for their actions. But the other Nigerians will not have any of that. So the Nigerian journalists both in print and electronic media (Minus MyEngineers of course.) would refuse to address COREN registered as “Engr XXX” insisting that he is just “Mr. XXX”

Apart from UK where the professional engineers puts a post-nominal “C.Eng”(for “chattered engineer”) after his name, and in North America (USA and Canada) where they use post nominal “P.E.” (for Professional Engineer”) all other countries of the world use prefixes before name “Engr” in Nigeria, “EuroIng” in Europe, “Ing” in France and Germany, etc/

The engineering method can be applied to any problem in any fiend with the same chances of outstanding success, thus making engineers the most versatile people

The Engineering method

The engineering method consists of a series of logical steps:

  1. Identify the problem to be solved
  2. Define the problem clearly in simple statements i.e in term of smaller problems making up the whole
  3. Identify what facts are known or could be deducted from what is known about the problem,
  4. Collect data relevant to the problem
  5. Process the data vice extrapolate, intrapolate, analyze, establish patterns to fill the gaps in the available data
  6. Make reasonable assumption where some things are not known
  7. Identify the scientific/mathematical principles applicable to the subject matter and or the situation
  8. Formulate the applicable equation or equations combining the known and unknown data and possible link to the solution to the original problem
  9. Solve the equations
  10. Build prototypes
  11. Test the validity of the results obtained
  12. Establish the limit of the validity as the assumption made vary, increasing or decreasing, incrementally or in big jumps etc
  13. Develop new technology or adapt existing technology where possible to actualize the solution
  14. Access the advantages over existing competing technologies (marketability, economic feasibility, safety, operability)

The tools employed by the engineers include

  1. The power of analysis acquired from rigorous mathematical background
  2. Deep knowledge of basic and applied science
  3. The power of visualizing abstract ideas acquired from the practices of engineering technical drawing, seeing 3D even in 2D drawings etc
  4. Familiarity with technology (viz collection of proven methods and processes that work in different circumstances)
  5. Strong ability t relate cause and effect.

The engineering method can be applied to any problem in any fiend with the same chances of outstanding success, thus making engineers the most versatile people. This we have lee Iacocca who revived and turned around Chrysler Corporation in early 1980w and Jack Welch who managed GE up to 2001 and reputed to be the greatest corporate leader of the twentieth century. Both men are engineers. Then also the nine members of the Chinese Politburo (the highest ruling Body) in China at this time that China’s economy is growing so fast and threatening to catch up with America’s, are all Engineers.

To be continued..

Adapted by Isqil Najim from “The Yesterday, Today and The Future of Power System Engineering practices in Nigeria…so that Nigeria May have electricity”
The Launching of FAS Foundation in honour of Late Engr Foluseke Somolu comes up at Afe Babalola Auditorium, at University of Lagos at 10 am on 13, December 2018. BE there!

Who are Engineers? By Engr Foluseke A. Somolu

Friends and Family members to Honour One of Nigeria’s finest power Engineers, Engr Somolu with a Foundation Launch


  1. This is the one I had been looking for! It’s English Dictionary that was the problem all along.
    However; @Isqil: This fight you have started, you must finish it oh.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here