The buzz behind the acquisition of new skills as an artisan has become louder with the advent of new technologies. The need for it has always been there just that it existed in varied dimensions before. Tradesmen sharpened their career skills, focusing on either formal education or informal skill acquisition. These days, more young people are being encouraged to pursue formal education and acquire skills as well.
Abdulazeez Bashir Olawale, A.K.A. Auto 1, chose to hone his mechanical craft by acquiring new skills in modern automobile technology. He is the technical director at Young Bashy Autoland Mechatronics Automobile & Diagnosis Centre. Born and raised in Osun state, he started learning this vocation from 1987 and graduated in 1992.
“I learnt work from my oga who specializes in fixing only Nissan and Toyota brands but I was determined to do more,” he said. He went on to improve himself in the knowledge of automotive technology by learning special skills from an Oando sponsored training at LTV Ikeja in 2018. The six-month long training was so intensive that he could rank formally trained auto service engineers in competence. He explained that “from my training, I learnt how to work with mechanical gadgets like the phone and laptop and high-speed electronic devices which help me know the fault in different types of vehicles. It is no longer as difficult as it used to be for me to run checks.”
Apart from learning from a teacher whose speciality was Nissan and Toyota cars, Bashir had undergone certification programmes which afforded him the advantage of developing the expertise to fix other car brands. Being an undereducated Nigerian did not keep him from pursuing his passion with vigour. His doggedness earned him a slot to train with Oleum Academy and become a certified Automotive Mechatronic Technician.
He is a part of the few under-educated people who have moved away from the raw traditional method of diagnoses and repair of cars in Nigeria, loosening nuts and bolts before being able to detect faults . His phone and laptop are now his major work tools, which help speed his work rate. With his software-laden machines, detecting faults and fixing them has become quicker and easier even as it could be difficult to figure out from time to time.
“My work has been my only source of income for almost 30years now and it favours me. From this work, I got married and raised a family who are able to afford more than their basic needs. My children are in the higher institution, while my sixteen-year-old son has developed interest in the work and has stayed with me for the past two and a half years, learning this business.”
“I started learning this work in 1987 and I graduated in 1992. I started my own company almost immediately and I thank God for how far I have come,” he said.
Bashir is grateful to his parents for allowing him to acquire the skills of a mechanic and pursuing the line of automobile repair.
According to him, “My people did not waste time once they saw that I wanted to be a motor mechanic. From my primary school days I always told them that I did not want to learn any other trade”.
He lost interest in continuing formal education after primary school and announced his intention to fix cars. He, however, did well to pursue his education up to senior secondary level but dropped out without getting a certificate and plunged himself into motor repairs. On first contact though, one would assume that Bashir was a graduate as his comportment and command of the English language belied his lack of formal schooling.
He recounts with excitement how his craft has taken him around countries in Africa. “This dirty job that I chose over learning how to fix refrigerators and motorbikes has taken me across Africa. I have been to countries like Benin Republic, Ghana, Togo and Kenya to fix cars and consult for different workshops. People like to work with me because I am very sincere with my clients.”
He keeps touring regions in the continent as more people seek him because of his honesty where most of his contemporaries choose to be cunning.
Since his journey into becoming a certified and well-travelled mechanic was borne out of passion for the skill, Auto 1 has made it a duty to accept apprentices who are more passion-driven than money-driven. A focus on money is a distraction to learning.
According to him, “Money eventually comes when you do your work well and with all your heart. You are supposed to do something willingly. If you want to learn this work, you have to make up your mind that it is not just because of the money because the money will eventually come.”
Although he started his mechanic trade when he was only 15, he has taken up apprentices who are as young as 12. In the past 30 years, he has trained about 25 auto mechanics, most of them encouraged to acquire the skill while pursuing formal education.
There was not exactly a role model for him while growing up. His basic interest developed from watching action movies with a lot of car racing and fast and furious driving. He had thought about the fate of a driver in danger, if his car developed a fault. That single thought motivated him into learning how to provide car solutions.
When asked why he did not consider fixing bigger vehicles, he gleefully shared that he had a really small and frail stature while growing up,
“I didn’t see myself as someone with enough power to handle big vehicles because at that time, I was too small.”
The fear of undertaking far more than his size could manage, made him settle for vehicles he considered his size could handle. This had him working different brands of saloon cars and jeeps, which he taught the younger generation of mechanics.
One habit that is common among artisans in Nigeria is that of having a beer or two when work issues become a bit complex. Some smoke to ease the stress.
Bashir declared, “I neither drink nor smoke. I do not relax with alcohol or cigarettes because the best way to relax when the job becomes overwhelming is to observe a moment of rest.”
He explained that knowing when to rest and actually resting has helped him stay focused and as such, he hardly ever considers quitting his job due to pressure.
Auto 1 is gradually and steadily raising a generation of automobile mechatronic engineers who, as may be expected, imbibe his moral code. They are at liberty to go to school and reach for the stars in whatever dimension they deem fit.