Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Okene to Lokoja township on a Tricycle, an exciting adventure

By Ismail M. Kabir

The day was bright; a heavy downpour was imminent as the cloudy weather shifted northward. It was few minutes past eight this morning, Tuesday June 17th 2014. To me and my team, the time was right for another exploration but this time we choose the wrong transport, a tricycle popularly called Keke Napep.
Me (left) and the pilot, Abdulsalam
The day was bright; a heavy downpour was imminent as the cloudy weather shifted northward. It was few minutes past eight this morning, Tu

Ignoring the disappointment that may arise from other members of Ebira Youth Explorers, a group that explores Ebira tourism potentials, upon their discovery of my selfish exploration, we left Okene town for the long and risky journey.

Riding at a maximum speed of 60km per hour, Abdulsalam, our Lagos based pilot who arrived home the previous night pumped the throttle to declare the journey started. Ahead of us laid a dual carriage highway notorious for its daily armed robbery operations. On this road, we would travel for over 150km.
Speeding ahead..
At about 8.45am, we made the first stop along the old toll gate on Okene-Ajaokuta road.
Cab drivers have parked along the lane where steaming boiled corn was just getting ready for highway travelers. The price was next to giveaway so we bought enough corn to last the journey.

The highway was mostly deserted except for few shuttle buses that occasionally sped past our rickety transport. Breathing in the cool breeze from the roadside bushes excited AbdulSalam, our pilot, whose endless jokes cracked our ribs.

"This is my first journey along this route, I wish it never ends" he remarked as we enjoyed the scornful gaze from farmers heading for the morning clearing.

Buying corn at the old toll-gate
Within an hour, we approached Eganyi community. It was obvious that the villagers were sighting a Tricycle for the first time as they gaze in disbelief at the little vehicle speeding past their community. We noticed some youth making mockery of our rare transport, this heightened our excitement as we munched our corn along.

In Adogo, the headquarter of Ajaokuta Local council, just about 50 meters ahead of us was a fallen truck which has thrown its goods on the road. As we got closer, the picture became clear.

The Lagos bound truck fully loaded with tubers of yam oblivious of the potholes around the spot had sped right into a ditch. Youths in the area offered help as we met them rearranging the yam tubers in heaps. They were fascinated by the unique appearance of our tricycle which they acknowledged as an uncommon vehicle along that route.
The fallen truck
As I took pictures of the potholes, one of them hissed at my action.
"Different people have been here with cameras, we are yet to see a difference", he retorted. I simply reminded him that we were not the government.

The damage on the road particularly around the Adogo axis is enormous. Vehicles diverted to the next lane every now and then to avoid potholes. The trip only got smoother after about 1km drive from Adogo junction.

Most regrettably, the damaged parts of the road extended to the frontage of the residence of their federal representative who the youths said has failed to use his influence as a lawmaker to get the road repaired after many years of its dilapidation. They said that they are more disappointed after voting the so called lawmaker into office for the third term.
Bad section of the road
Bad section of the road
We departed Adogo for Ajaokuta Township almost immediately. The Geregu Power Station could be viewed from a distance but we changed course and turned towards the township by-pass enroute Lokoja as our phones ran out of battery.

Children staring at our 'rickety' vehicle
The trip to Lokoja wasn't as interesting as we could no longer take pictures. The lane was a single one; we had to jump off the road often to escape collision from speeding trucks.

It was a great adventure.... And we arrived Lokoja at exactly 18 minutes past 1:00pm.
See you next time!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ebira Personality Profile: Dr. Ibrahim Salau

Dr. Ibrahim Salau is a US-based, world-class aviation expert

This is the inspiring story of a highly acclaimed Nigerian from the North, Dr. Ibrahim Salau, a world-class aviation engineer.

He has a vast reservoir of knowledge and skill that is comparable to the best aviation engineers in the world today. He is well regarded and well sought after by top aviation companies of the world. It is my pleasure and privilege to be able to share the story of this humble unassuming man, an Aviation Engineer, who is an expert in the design and manufacture of the best helicopters and airplanes in the world. Dr. Salau’s dream is to be able to share his expertise with his home country, Nigeria to help or literally fly us to the level where we rightfully belong.

It is indeed very exciting to relate his story and experience. As an aviation engineer he has worked for such aviation and related industries as B/E Aerospace in Jacksonville, Florida; Delta Airlines in Atlanta Georgia; Sikorski Aircraft in Connecticut, Atlas Air in New York and now Bombardier Aerospace in Montreal Canada. While in this position he has worked on Boeing 727, B737, B757, B767, B777, Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters as well as the Bombardier all new CSeries aircraft. This plane is probably the most advanced and sophisticated in the world. It goes without saying that only exceptionally talented and meticulous engineers like Dr. Salau are allowed to work such broad range of airplanes. Nigerians should also be aware that to be given such an opportunity, in the US, you must have a background of sound moral character, without any blemish in your social and employment records.

While Dr. Salau worked for Sikorski, he also was an engineer actively involved in upgrading the Blackhawk helicopter into a higher-grade machine. It should be a pride to Nigerians when they read about engineering marvels like the Blackhawk to know that Nigerian hands were involved in this innovation. In addition he was also involved in the design and manufacture of the Seahawk helicopter, the helicopter that is used for medical evacuations in times of war and disaster. Other helicopters in whose design he took part include the CH53K heavy lift helicopter. Dr. Salau is not only involved in the Design and Manufacturing support of some of these equipment, but also in testing of the end product to ensure adequate structural integrity.

Currently Dr. Salau works in Canada for Bombardier and has just completed work on building the Bombardier C-Series 100/300 aircrafts in which he has been involved from the design and analysis to the mechanical engineering perspective. Full production of these aircraft is ongoing and a lot of orders have been placed for the aircraft worldwide. He also has an impressive record, working as an engineer with Delta Airlines, one of the largest in the world. In this capacity he was involved in maintaining and repair of the fuselage, the Thrust Reversers and aircraft engines of different type capacity planes. As we think of the excellent safety records of the US aviation system, we never really realize that there are our fellow citizens who are at the forefront. When we take our Nigerian Airplanes abroad for maintenance, we hardly know that our own people exist who have these capabilities.

To add to his wealth of experience, Dr. Salau has also worked with B/E Aerospace, a company that designs and manufactures aircraft interior systems: everything from galleys and closets, the refrigeration systems testing and other essentials. He has about 20 years in the Aviation Engineering Industry and has been fortunate to have extensive exposure to design and manufacture of helicopters and planes as well as maintenance and repair of long haul jets. His abilities should be understood that at his level of work he is at the top echelon. There are no other level of aviation engineers beyond his level in his field. 

Dr. Salau was born in Eika-Ohizenyi in Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State, to Hajia Fulani Salau and Late Fache Salau Ojo. He attended Igbira Local Government Authority School after which he proceeded to Federal Government College in Ilorin where he was exposed to Nigerians from other states. In this environment, he felt like a complete Nigerian. There was excellent blending among members of all ethnic groups and religions and he never felt a need to belong to any region. In this school he learnt the valuable lessons of tolerance and integration. He attended University of Lagos, worked for Ajaokuta Steel Industries and with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation LNG Project before proceeding to France where he obtained a Doctor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nancy. He then moved to the US to work as a Research Assistant Professor in the then Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department of University of West Virginia in Morgantown WV, after which he joined the aviation industry.

Dr. Salau is currently President of Zumunta USA, Inc. a non-for profit, multi religious organization that uses the strength of Northern diversity in the Diaspora to improve living conditions in Northern Nigeria. He is very passionate about Nigeria’s growth and development. He also has an interest in the development of drones to promote peace and improve security and stability in Nigeria and would be willing to assist in this regard. He prays that Nigerians will look more to those in the diaspora as patriotic citizens who want to work hand in hand with those at home. He wants to remind us all that our purpose is not just to repatriate dollars but to share valuable lessons learnt from different experiences. He also feels that aviation engineers should be more involved in the Nigerian aerospace industry because of their great understanding of the dynamics of aircraft function.

In closing I would like to state that there will be other profiles of people from Northern Nigeria who have excelled in the world and who can serve as technology bridges between the developed world and Nigeria. It is an open secret that many of the Asian countries extensively tapped their successful nationals living in the West to assist in developing their countries. These are my words, for Dr. Salau himself is not boastful but he understands the need to share himself for the sake of national development. He is a very down to earth man, a father of three who loves Ebira music and misses the cultural diversity of home. I hope that the Nigerian Air Force and our booming Aviation industry as well as the new drone industry will engage this man of substance whenever the need for such level of expertise arises.

Source: Weekly Trust

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