Pelumi Ayodele Moses and his friend, Towoju Joshua Idowu are young serving Corp members in Nassarawa who determined to seek knowledge and experience beyond their PPA. They heard about the exploit of a young Nigerian innovator, Engr Chukwunonso Osakwe who singlehandedly designed and constructed electrical vehicle and has also established a factory in Masaka, Nassarawa where he is gradually rolling out Made in Nigeria electric vehicle production with materials mostly sources locally.
The young Pelumi, and Joshua, through the Engicom mentoring, dubbed “Mentored by Mentors” platform decided to take up the challenges to see what Osakwe is doing and what they can learn. Below is their account as written by Pelumi Ayodele Moses, a graduate of Mechanical Engineering who originally hailed from Kwara state, Nigeria.
Having heard so much about Engr Nonso Osakwe,, one question that keep coming to my mind is how a young engineer could afford to, and also bring his project to practical stage of manufacturing in this country where we have very low support for our projects. I have been enthusiastic about doing something for myself despite the many challenges of capital and opportunities, but discouraged. I therefore saw it as an opportunity when I was advised by Isqil Najim through our mentoring platform to visit the factory and see what we can learned from him.
My original plan is to go with at least 10 of us, serving corps members to enable us all benefit from both insight and experience of this young man. But this was not to be due to many factors beyond our control.
Our first meeting almost came at a wedding of daughter of COREN President, AlI Rabiu in Lafia but fate will not have it as he left the venue before we could put a call through. So we decided to shift to another time. This came towards the end of our service year. Too late to mobilise 10 people, I set out with my equally excited friend, Joshua on the road to Masaka , having succeeded in getting connected to Osakwe through Isqil najim.
Our journey was smooth in this quiet environment with our mind and focus on future after the services. Nevertheless, we are still excited at the prospect ahead. A lot of things running through my mind but I am motivated by what I already heard and also the desire to push ahead. It was not long before we arrived at the factory and what an experience it turned out to be.
My friend, Joshua and I got to his factory around after 3 in the afternoon, we were given a very warm reception. after exchanging greetings and pleasantries. We initially did not know how to proceed but he cut through our thought and said with a smile on his face ‘Najim told me you guys are ambitious’. Immediately, we saw a man who is not only talented but also naturally friendly. Whatever thought we had about him being a total stranger evaporated at that instance as opened way for us to talk like we have been friends for age. I can see he has a very high emotional intelligence.
We took a tour round his factory to see various works. and the simple setup. We also were allowed to ask questions on anything while inspecting his tools and products. We had the opportunity of also riding in the first product which is now available for market. The Quadcycle with model name Quadcycle zero is an open vehicle with top speed limited to 60kph. Range is between 80km to 200km. Seats 5 persons. It uses Brush-less DC Motors, Lithium batteries, has regenerative braking, reverse view camera, entertainment system and gprs tracking system.
He went on to tell us about the company as well as their other products and future plan. He explained to us how he started from humble beginning as a fresh graduate and keep moving despite the odds. He said he is into solar installation with electrical engineering background and that he is into mechanical engineering already. He went on it within year and this is 3 years on the run.
Within this period he got married and has a son, but he was keen on getting result. He believed his idea is worth the journey and was never discouraged. He applied for so many grants with beautiful NGOs and few YES, he mentioned he got Tony Elemelu foundation grants among others.
He told is that what he is currently working on is full electric Automobile system unlike the two previous ones that were hybrid system. He has about three exhibitions already in this month and next. What surprised us most is is persistence and sacrifices in the face of rejections. Ironically, some of these rejections opened door for him at an unexpected hour. He shared some of such with us which i will prefer to not mention here. Needless to say, he was able to pitch his idea despite it being unexpected.
In this experience, I learned the value of preparation. And also the need to always pay attention to opportunity even when it appears things are not going our way. The world of innovation demand originality and persistence.
We spoke about how government policies have not been favorable. Yet in this same unfavorable government policies, he said lots of young guys are getting massive grants to pursue their ideas and dreams, especially ideas built around agriculture etc.
He advised us to take our chances and be productive, he said if we see opportunities we can also look for greener pasture abroad to acquire experience and knowledge. But that opportunity can be found anywhere, home or abroad. The most important thing is being able to spot them when they show up. And also being ready to take advantage.
We talked at length on how Chinese progress. It was the same strategy they are employing. The Chinese guys are already in the future according to him. He then went further to advise us: “please start something and now is the best time to start” He envisage a near future where many people will rush into the innovation industry and when that happens a lot of things would not be unique again.
He showed us sound his factory and permitted us to take pictures, and told us we can have free access to his workshop anytime.
At the end of our visit, I came to realize that it is indeed possible for people to start from where they are and still achieve something in this country. A lot of us younger engineers want to be productive, we want to turn our projects and idea to profitable enterprise. Some of us are frustrated by the lack of support while some of us have to deal with challenges of infrastructures and also lack of raw materials.
Engineering business is a capital intensive one. Even senior engineers feel it, how then will young engineers coming out of school not feel the struggle? I salute Engr Osakwe for rising up against the odd and establishing his factory within 3 years.
From our experience and sharing of his many challenges encountered, I can only say that he is cut out for the top. We are hoping the government at states and federal level will begin to pay attention to these young ones and also support in helping their products. This is only way we can thrive in the environment.
We talked about innovations and inventions. He has skills sets that are unique. He does a lot of things. We had a nice time with me.
For me, my take home was the simplicity of it all. He had an idea; he acquired knowledge right from school; he started the funding by doing something with his skills set in electrical installation even though his dream is a bigger one. He never stopped but kept moving despite plenty excuses he could have had to give up. He developed himself. He pitched his idea at slightest opportunity. This is enough motivation for me as a young engineer.
I have been challenged on the aspect of self development. Now that I am done with the NYSC, I will have more time to develop my myself. I intend to polish my design skills and others that I know are needed in my career path and start where I am with eyes on the future.
And while we had a nice time learning and sharing with him, we were even more grateful as led us out on our departure with his last words. “This place is always open for you, you can come any time for a visit or even guide.” What a man! And to say we met him for the first time. The sky is just the limit.
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The interview was worth the reading to its last dot. My only reservation is in the statement “Engineering business is a capital intensive one.”!
Engineering has many businesses rolled into a single word. We have:
4. Craftsmanship, and
One reason most engineering personnel finds it stressfull to monetize their practice is because they tend to be doing many things at a time. Each of these five components are businesses on their own and should be recognized as such by COREN.
The African mentality doesnt appreciate psychics but Arup and a few European firms have their strength and made their names from ingeniereing.
Those foreign firms that enter Nigeria to bid and collect contracts take them to such firms for ingeniereing and create designs. It only requires a high capacity RAM computer system, majorly, and a place to print or plot design documents.