Sandra Aguebor, is the first female mechanic in Nigeria to blaze the automotive industry making difference in what many consider a job mainly for men. Today, she fixes fleets of vehicles in the convoy of the Edo State governor, government offices and has trained many young women to follow her pathway. PATRICK OCHOGA (Benin) writes.
any years ago, it was unthinkable to imagine a woman delving into a profession extremely considered exclusive for men. Today, women have taken up the challenge from their male counterparts by not only competing with the men but even excelling in many other difficult professional endeavours.
The story of Edo State-born Sandra Aguebor, arguably Nigeria’s first woman auto mechanic to have broken the jinx and the negative narratives about women making it in a male dominated field, is on the rise.
Her exploits in the automotive industry came with many challenges from the onset but her desire and passion to excel and also impact on the lives of many other women kept her dreams alive.
Aguebor, whose career in the industry started in the early 90’s as officer in charge of maintenance in the defunct Bendel Transport Service recalled that her sojourn to do something different was in fulfilment of her childhood dream of becoming a lady mechanic.
Against all odds her determination to make a difference also got the support and backing of her father who according to Sandra was inspired after visiting the United States many years ago and saw how women made a success in professions reserved exclusively only for men.
Having distinguished herself in the industry and attained global recognition outside her home state, little did she know that her services will be needed at home to empower other women especially those with the mentality that traveling to Europe is the only sure way to success in life.
How she caught Edo government’s attention
Governor Godwin Obaseki, on assumption of office in 2016 met hundreds of broken down vehicles which littered the government house and ministries in the state. Some of the abandoned vehicles were said to have been dumped at government garages waiting to be replaced with brand new ones by the new administration.
In 2017, the woman mechanic initiative was one of the biggest public appointments. The belief that women of Edo State can be the best they can and contribute to the growth and development of the state motivated the governor to offer her the rare opportunity to solely fix all vehicles belonging to the state government including his own official vehicles.
This responsibility among others has also led to the creation of more than 250 direct and indirect jobs for women of the state
It is worthy to note that the lady mechanic initiatives has offered countless of opportunities for many young girls who had hitherto engaged in prostitution and some deported from Europe and Libya a new list of life.
The special assistant to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy explained that what informed the governor to entrust the repair of government car into her care was not unconnected with her exploit in the industry.
He said, “The governor had since realised that the woman had made her mark and cut her teeth well in automobile industry in other parts of the country and in Africa. We felt that since she is from Edo State she would be a good case study to bench mark empowerment for women.
“You know that the governor is an economist so he looks for the most efficient way to maximise resources rather than going to buy new cars. Of course, you know there are many government cars that are broken down so it makes a lot of sense to engage her and to create opportunities for other girls to work with her. She has earned income and the government have saved a lot of money as well, so it is a win-win for all side.”
As she presides over the Lady Mechanic Initiative (LMI) honour again came the way of Aguebor from the most unlikely quarters.
This time around, the National Association of Polytechnic (NAPS) came knocking on her doors with a leadership award from the student body in recognition of her contribution towards national development and for empowering young girls to be self-sustaining. The award is coming after several others awards.
The awardees are representatives of the leadership association of NAPS from Zamfara, Benue, Bornu, Niger, Imo and Lagos states respectively.
The entrepreneur who was honoured at her workshop in Benin was full of appreciation for the honour and promised to continue to empower more girls in the country.
Speaking on the award she stated: “This is a great surprise to me and my trainees. When we got the letter I asked myself what was the award for? If it is for the job I am doing, my selfless contribution, it is part of me. It is part of what I have been doing for 35 years now. I have been running these LMI for I5 years.
“I have been empowering women to be skilful and competent, women that do not need certificate to look for jobs rather increasing the bottom line of companies immediately they are employed and that I have been doing it for 15 years now. The Lady Mechanic Initiatives have given birth to a whole lot of graduates who automatically fall to the Association of Female Mechanics of Nigeria.
“Today, I welcome the NAPS members for honouring me, for remembering the woman called Sandra Aguebor, the first lady mechanic of Nigeria. I never knew anybody would appreciate me this way. Thank you for taking out time from Niger, Borno, Benue, Imo, Lagos, Zamfara and Kogi states to leave your busy schedule to present this award I really appreciate you.
“I want to assure NAPS that this award you have given me has propelled me to do more, that henceforth, if I was accelerating at 500 I should be accelerating now at one million. It shows to me that students appreciate what I am doing.
“I also want to use this opportunity to tell you that where you are today was made possible by the effort of Governor Godwin Obaseki. He knows that women have a lot of potential and realised that there is need to exhibit such potentials and that is why he gave the maintenance of vehicle to women so that women of Edo State and outside will know that it is not all about prostitution. In addition, this has helped to change the negative narratives about our girls in Europe. Today, women traffickers are now mechanics and they are doing well.”
Some of the trainees also expressed satisfaction with the initiators whom they described as a true mentor and a role model.
Joyce Jimoh, 24 years old and a graduate of Business Administration from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), while speaking on her choice on being a mechanic stated, “I love the job very much. I don’t feel that I am in a male-dominated job. It is the passion I have. At first, my friends were disappointed but my family were proud of me and they supported me.”
Omoke Osaose, an 18-year-old Libyan returnee said, “I chose to learn mechanical engineering because I don’t like hair dressing like other girls. I came back from Libya in February 2017 when I was deported. I made up my mind to be a mechanic because. I know from here I can provide for my family. My family are very proud of me today.
On her part, Faithful Ubochi, a 17-year-old also stated: “For me it has always been my desire to do something unique, something that people don’t think is good for ladies. I don’t want to learn tailoring, makeup and all that because there are a lot people in it. I have seen people who have made success of being a mechanic so that is why I am in it. I have been here close to a year. Now, I can do some things on my own. Sandra is a builder and has affected my life positively. Skill acquisition today is the way to go.”
President of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) Mohammed Emoji, who was represented by the Chief of Staff, (NAPS), Comrade Oluwasegun Taiwo, explained that the award was bestowed on her because of her professionalism and empowering women in the country.
He said: “We are here today just because we believe where there is light darkness disappeared. We believed that merit must triumph over mediocrity, we are happy to identify with you and by that we are identifying with performance. NAPS are the second largest student union body in Nigeria with over 21 million students studying across the Country and abroad.
“As NAPS, we promote leadership, unity and development at all levels of our institution. We are here to present our NAPS icon award for leadership to you which is to serve as an impetus to encourage individuals or institution who have contributed to development of the nation. This award is for leaders who can serve as an example to others.”
Giving further reasons for the award the student union leader added: “Your confirmation took into consideration high level of professionalism. Before now, women did not have time for this but you have changed the narrative. You did not lobby for this award, it was purely based on your contributions. We are here to celebrate with you on all your achievements.
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