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The Head, Aftersales, Elizade Nigeria Limited, Mr. Oluwasayo Oluwaniyi, relives his journey into the world of automobiles, in this interview with TOBI AWORINDE
How did you discover your interest in cars?
Omo Ijesa, the village in Ilesa, Osun State where I lived with my grandmother as a young chap, was along the expressway and I could always see cars plying on the road. From that time onwards, I wanted to own one of those cars. I started using unconventional materials like milk tins to fabricate four-wheel vehicles. That was how my interest in automobiles generally developed. I must have been between five and six.
What were your favourite subjects at that age?
I was very good in Mathematics and I am still very good at it. That has been my favourite subject. Even in my undergraduate days, there was a particular course in which I scored 100 per cent. That propelled the lecturer to want me to study his course. I have a flair for any subject that has to do with calculations. It did not necessarily influence my career choice. I didn’t study engineering, for instance. I was fascinated by what I saw people around me do, especially driving. In fact, save for God’s guidance, maybe I would have been a driver. Any time my uncle parked his car, I always liked to get in and imitate him. Whenever I saw mechanics working on cars, I also felt like going under the car like they did. When I grew up and learnt a few things, I began to wish I had been an engineer or an auto designer. I studied accounting and became a chartered accountant. But the interest in automobiles never left me. So, I did some private studies in auto engineering.
What is the most important lesson for an entrepreneur in the auto industry?
The industry is quite challenging, especially in Nigeria where things don’t work the way they should. Somebody who will succeed in the automobile industry must be tenacious and focused; he must have a vision carved out for himself. What an entrepreneur needs is to have a final destination in view. If he knows where is going, he will succeed, like Chief Michael Adeojo, the owner of Elizade Nigeria Limited. He read Business Administration at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and he developed an objective right from the outset to become an entrepreneur who would succeed.
How early did you start displaying entrepreneurial traits?
About 10-15 years ago, when I was about 40 years old, I discovered that for me to succeed, I had to be an entrepreneur and I have been working towards it tenaciously.
Who taught you how to drive?
I taught myself how to drive. This was almost 40 years ago. In Lagos State, you can do anything. I watched my uncle drive his Peugeot 504 and when he was not around, I jumped in. He was the only one who I can say taught me, but actually, I had started without his input. One day, he saw me in it and he said, ‘Let me help you.’ Then we took it to Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Ikeja. It was a lesson of not even one day, but one hour. And I started driving; I didn’t even use an L-plate. In hindsight, it was a dangerous thing to do, but I succeeded.
Did you try anything outlandish as a young driver?
I didn’t do anything outlandish. I have always kept the rules. To date, I have not been caught for any traffic offence—no driving against the direction of traffic or anything of like that. In fact, I am a Special Marshal. In my school days, we studied quite a number of subjects, including Civics. We were taught road regulations even before we ever came out of primary school. So, the question of people not knowing what to do did not arise.
What are some of the things you look out for when you are buying a car?
First, one must look out for a brand that is popular in his environment and that can be supported adequately through aftersales. This is very important. One must not just buy a cheap car. One must talk about durability and aftersales service. If one buys a car that is cheap but the aftersales service is not cheap, he will end up paying more than what he didn’t want to initially. Secondly, one must look for a car whose parts are easily available. Another factor is a car that can be disposed of at will. All of these factors are important. For instance, I bought a car, used it for 11 years and still sold it for N1m. In fact, it was a small car and when the buyer saw the state of the vehicle, he had no choice but to pay what I was asking for. In essence, when buying a car, in addition to the size of your pocket, in relation to the car you want, one must consider the aftersales facilities available. Those are the factors I consider very germane to acquiring a new vehicle.
Have you ever used public transport?
In my days, the molue was an all-comers thing. Then in Lagos, one could not say one had never boarded a molue. In a molue, you would meet all kinds of people—the old, the young, the foolish, the wise, the clowns, all kinds of people. I was always amused whenever I saw the hawkers and vendors selling their products. In most cases, they would tell you the product could cure 2,000 ailments. You would see all sorts of characters on board; the conductor, whose customer you were, would abuse you for tendering a N200 bill for a N50 bus fare. He could even abuse your father and mother just for giving him N200, instead of N50. Those are funny experiences I have had in the past in molues. I rode molues a lot from 1980 to 1984. But from 1985, I stopped boarding them because I started driving my car.
What is your most unforgettable experience, riding on an okada (commercial motorcycle)?
After one close shave I experienced while riding on an okada in Lagos, I vowed never to ride one again; I can only ride one while on a visit in my village. On this day, I was late for church and I wanted to catch the bible study. My driver was driving me, so I told him, ‘Let me board an okada so I can get to church in time. Please, meet me in church with the car.’ I never knew that the chap that gave me a ride could understand neither proper English nor broken English. At Pen Cinema, we were to cross the railway line and there was a heavy truck coming from the other side. Everybody was already shouting because he almost gave my left leg to that truck. Only God can explain how I narrowly escaped being fatally injured by that truck. Since that time, I vowed, never again in my life would I board any okada in Lagos for whatever reason, not even in the remotest part of Lagos.
In 20 years’ time, do you think okadas and danfos will still be a staple in Lagos?
I want to pray and hope that by God’s grace, they will never exist. If they are going to exist at all, okadas should be in the villages. A lot of havoc is being done. Have you ever been to the National Orthopaedic Hospital recently? If you have been there, you will never pray for your worst enemy to be a victim of an okada accident.
What is your most memorable experience on a fuel queue?
The last time I queued (for fuel) was in 1994 or 1995. I remember that allowances were made for people who wanted to shunt, but because I didn’t want to behave like a typical Nigerian, I stayed put in my spot in the queue. But by the time it was about two or three vehicles to mine, the filling station attendants said the fuel had finished. By this time, I had wasted a whole day! After that, I told myself that in the future, if I could not get fuel, I would stay at home, instead of wasting my time, my life and my energy queueing for fuel. That was a very terrible experience that I will not like to be repeated.
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Source: Punch News