By Fred Iwenjora
You must have read that by 2020, normal mechanical cars in Europe and in world’s most powerful countries may be dumped for the quasi electrical models powered by a combination of mechanics and electrical and electronics.
However, just as the world is applauding this technological feat which will make driving much more fun in terms of fuel consumption and general operations, Nigerians in the diaspora especially in Germany are currently celebrating the successful passing out, in flying colours, of Edo state born engineer, Odijie Irabor from a German technical institute where he studied mechatronics, the new field that will take care of these vehicles.
Since it is a first of its kind course, Irabor becomes the first automobile mechatronic of Nigerian descent.
In a telephone interview from his base in the German city of Oberhaussen, Irabor explains in detail what is meant by Mechatronics and lamented the challenges and obstacles he encountered before picking up the proverbial Golden Fleece.
He also expresses his thankfulness to God for the realization of a set dream.
How does it feel to be called Nigeria’s number one mechatronic?
I don’t know of being number one but I feel thankful to Almighty God for his love for me because all glory goes to Him in fact. It is a dream come true for me as it was not an easy journey through out the three years course.
I do not know what else a village boy like me should be doing than expressing my gratitude to God for standing by me throughout the course. I had attended a village primary school and secondary school in Isua Arue Uromi, Esan North East Local Government area of Edo state before going to Benin, my first big city and later to Germany.
Mechatronics is a high sounding word for this village boy as you say….could you break it down to the reader of this interview?
Well, auto mechatronics is a new course of study which combines automobile mechanics with the electronics systems. The future of cars is in mechatronics as everything in a car is getting more computerized and into electronics.
So why did you, of all courses to study, choose this?
Well, I had studied auto mechanics at the Technical College Benin, Edo state Nigeria before relocating to Germany. I had also worked for Edegbe Motors Benin for about seven years as auto mechanic before my relocation in 2011. My plan was to further the trade but I soon found out that the future laid in mechatronics. Every attempt to work as a mechanic in Germany proved abortive because of the nature of modern day vehicles which are propelled by electric sensors and brain-box.
The vehicles of 1992 are no longer around. I was left with no other option than to go back to school as I reasoned that it is the only way to still be relevant in the future that was coming fast before the world. So I plunged myself into the course as I was lucky to have been awarded a scholarship. .
Now could you explain what you do as auto mechatronic for the layman to understand?
As auto mechatronic, I am a mechanic without borders and could be found anywhere in the world armed with a soft ware and immense knowledge and experience to handle all modern day vehicles. I am not trained to carry spanners in fact. You must have heard that Europe will be dumping all petrol cars very soon
How easy was it for you considering that your practical lessons were in German language?
It was a big challenge for me coupled with the fact that I felt discriminated against. All lectures were conducted in German language. I was the only African. Fellow students laughed at me because I couldn’t understand the language in those early days until I went to a language school.
The exam period is 40 hours divided into two parts of theory and practical. Could you believe that some of my exams were taken twice? They found it hard that a man with African skin could be excellent in such training that saw some Germans throwing in the towel and dropping out. I recall that when I passed my first exam the lecturers and students ganged up against me.
I won’t forget that experience in my life. I choose not to talk about that. I had heard about racism but saw it face to face during my early years in the institute. I rewrote that exam and scored higher marks and they were shut up. By the time the course had ended, I had acquired skills in automotive-specific mechanics, electronics, communication and advanced control.
What did you consider your greatest motivator during the course?
My greatest motivator was that I got a scholarship worth over thousands of euros for this study so whenever I remembered that I was on scholarship which wouldn’t have been possible for me back home in Nigeria, I was always left with no other options than to be more dedicated to my studies. God used some people to make me achieve this. The woman who offered me the scholarship is a big motivator just like one of my teachers who gave me extra lessons and always traveled to prepare me especially for exams.
Now you have been certified and qualified, do you have plans to return to Nigeria and practice what you learnt or ….
I leave my future to God. But I assume that if the field is barely new, I will practice my profession where it is better understood for now. Such sensitive cars with sensors like we handle are not yet in black Africa(hahahahahahah).
Many people who may have emigrated with you or even earlier than you have not laid hands on anything good..what is you advise to them?
My advice to young Africans in Germany is to ensure that they get certified training in any area of their interest because that will prepare them for a successful career in the employment market. There is no way you will be unemployed if you are qualified and well trained. You will always find a good job if you are certified specialist. Employers of labour both in Europe and elsewhere seek qualified persons.