Uncommon Stories

Changing Career: Losing Our Personality

Losing Our Personality: Years ago, as a student of Mechanical/Production Engineering in University, we shared the same space known as Wilderness with Electrical/ Electronics (E.E) Engineering students. In those days, we saw the students of E.E as lesser Engineers. There were nearly two dozens of girls in their class but Mechanical – the father of all Engineering courses – had just 8 extra-smart girls. But that did not mean that we, Mech. students, were more intelligent than our counterparts in E.E. In fact, one of the most intelligent persons I ever know is Obi Ikedina. He was young, smart, adventurous with slanty sleepy eyes.

If there was anybody that knew what he wanted to become, Obi was the person. He was that Engineering student every other Engineering student called ‘Engineer’. I first met him in Pre-Science Mbaukwu and even as a boy, he was very sure that the world would celebrate him.

Engineering, he said, would shape the country’s future and he had a lot of dreams: things he wanted to achieve.

In 2004, when he chose a final year project, the Solar system was his pick. He gave it his best and at last, he amazed not only us his mates, but the lecturers. It was a simple panel, his project; but I watched as he used it to lit a bulb, moved a toy car and played a ‘Sony WalkMan’ – a cassette player. He sourced every material locally, and the project was not fancy to behold.

He was going to be a success, all of us knew. And soon, this project of his would make him famous. He told me that a senior lecturer in his department promised to link him with the state government. The future was bright. I saw a feasibility study he developed and a copy he sent to the commission. I sat by the side and envied this brilliant genius knowing that with his zeal and hunger, nothing would stop him. That was the last time I saw ‘Engineer’ as a student, but, I met him again years after our graduation.

It was a minor issue that took me into an office on the first floor of Zenith Bank in Onitsha. Seated by the flat, glass desk in a black leather lounging chair was a plumpy man with thick lumpy shoulders. His suit was very smart on him, and he looked every bit of what he was – Successful. I wouldn’t have remembered him if not for those slanty eyes.

Meeting Obi again was a pleasure, we could not help but create a scene inside his office. He has become a father and a ‘big man’ in the banking sector, he was – in the sense of the word – happy, but that engineering dream was long gone.

What a waste! A big pity for solar energy system in Nigeria. The model Engineer is now counting other people’s money, and he looked so happy doing just that. He was not to be blamed. He was just a blind pawn of fate. His dream – and the dream of every great Engineering student in Nigeria – depends on caprice. Losing Our Personality is a norm.

I remember my school project; from the scratch, I designed a Central Air Conditioning System for the whole department. My friends Chris and Moore focused on Refrigeration; Minaj got a standing ovation when his Hot-Air Baloon was launched before the whole school.

I remember Joe’s ‘Yam Pounding Machine,’ and how Ifeanyi’s ‘Casket Lowering Device’ malfunctioned in front of the supervisors – he cried like a bereaved. None of these projects left the Department of Mechanical/Production Engineering. It started in the ‘Wilderness’ and ended there.

I took Obi’s number and promised to keep in touch. With his influence, my challenges were solved immediately. As I shook hand with the guru – before I took my leave – I knew within me that this lovely gentleman, this Obi, was the best Engineer I have personally known, and unfortunately, as the case was, that Engineer is dead.

Ozii Baba, a TedX Speaker, is an Onitsha-based storyteller and social entrepreneur. He works directly with children and young people.

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