At the busy Ahmadu Bello Way, Ikeja, Lagos, Kehinde Obasanjo is found in a certain spot most times, touching, test-running, admiring and guiding jealously his brainchild, a prototype multi-purpose amphibian jet.
Borne out of his innate creativity and drive to compete vigorously with the known inventors in the world, Obasanjo resolved to put his God-given talent to test. He wants to be the first Nigerian manufacturer of amphibian jet which will have the ability to carry out multi-purpose functions and this he has set in motion.
“This is called ‘amphibian jet car’. I built it here in Nigeria. It is designed to move on land, on sea and to fly in the air. Out of the three operations it is supposed to carry out, I’ve achieved two; this one you are seeing here moves on land and on sea. It moves on the sea with a flying engine. I’m yet to complete it so that it can be carrying out all the three operations,” Obasanjo tells ThisDay.
Right from his childhood, Obasanjo has developed love for building and construction. At age six he had started constructing toy vehicles that moved forward and backward. Entering the university, he continued with what he believed was his God-given potential and kept on with it. This consequently, metamorphosed into a clean sample of amphibian jet.
“Before I gained admission into Lagos State University, Ojo, I’ve been doing this; it’s a natural talent. I started constructing things right from age six. Then, I used to construct toy vehicles that moved forward and backward. While in the university, I continued developing it and after my graduation from the university in 1995, where I studied Electronics and Computer Engineering I still continued up till this time.
“Although, it can move about both on land and on sea, it’s still a prototype waiting for the main one to be manufactured. I used about 70 per cent of materials sourced locally here in Nigeria to construct this jet. They include: plastics, fibres, bamboos, steels, aluminium, galvanised objects and many other things and I fabricated them to give me what I wanted which is the amphibian jet car,” he said.
Telling more about his transport brand, while gesticulating accordingly, he says “The jet can contain four people plus the pilot. It has steering like that of aircraft. It is computerised; if I want to start it I will press the digital gear system on the control box. It moves like a live machine on the sea. It can never sink because the material I used to build it is the same material that is used in building life jacket. You know if you’re on the sea and you put on a life jacket you can never sink,” Obasanjo explained.
According to him, he had built a similar but more sophisticated one earlier but that was damaged by some political thugs from Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State during the 2011 election in Lagos. That, he said, caught the attention of the American Government who sent delegates down to Nigeria to see him and his handiwork after they saw it on television.
“And this is not the only one that I built. There was a highly sophisticated one that I built before this one here. That has the ability to move on land, on sea, under the sea and to fly in the air. American delegates had come here to see it; they said they watched it on television and were amazed by the potential in the technology. That was the one I wanted to display to President Buhari as I did to General Babangida when he visited in 1990, but it was destroyed by some hoodlums from Ikotun and Igando of Alimosho Local Government during election.”
However, building the prototype of his intended brand is not the end of it all; it has to be transformed into main product. So to Obasanjo, there is one major challenge and that is, who to support or partner with him to fund the big, profitable project. He said he has been calling on the government, the corporate entities and private individuals to lend their hand of help to him but the more he keeps calling and waiting the more his hope seems dampened.
But how will a country grow and meet up with developed economies in the world if its government and corporate business entities cannot spot out and support citizens who have some talents and creativity to realise them.
However, realising that Nigeria is bedevilled economically by its over-dependence on foreign made goods, Obasanjo wants to use his talent to rewrite the story and contribute towards boosting the economy of the country. Against all odds, he is never deterred but remains resolute to seeing the project come to fruition someday.
“This one here is just a prototype; I use it for experiment. I have been crying for support to enable me transform it into the main machine, but no one has ever indicated interest. I don’t want this dream to die. I want to use my talent to contribute to the growth of our nation. All I want is support for me to succeed.
“This project has the potential to boost Nigeria’s economy if government and concerned corporate bodies can come in to support. If they assist me and it is developed into a marketable product I think the export base of the country will improve and more revenue will automatically be coming into the country’s coffers. It will boost our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Even the one that was destroyed was so sophisticated that the military can use it for their operations especially in combating crime on the sea.
“I keep asking these questions; does it mean we don’t encourage invention in our country? Those things that we spend huge amount of money importing from other countries can’t we support our own people to start inventing and producing them here,” he asked.
Going down memory lane, Obasanjo recounts how the former President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federation, Ibrahim Babangida heard about his creative work and came to meet with him and gave him basket full of promises but never acted afterwards till he left the scene of power.
“The former Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida has seen this project when he came here in 1990.Before he came; one former Minister of Science and Technology was the first to visit me to see the innovation. When he went back he invited President Ibrahim Babangida. And the President came, we met one on one and talked and I showed him the project. He was so surprised and he said he was going to do something about it but nothing happened,” Obasanjo noted.
He also said the immediate past governor of Lagos State and present Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who many believe is a lover of creativity and innovation had been informed of his project and he promised to send government delegation in that regard, but never send any delegate till date.
“During Governor Babatunde Fashola’s regime, I informed him and he said they were going to send delegates to come and see what I was doing. He said that they had been hearing about it. But I never heard from them again.”
According to him, even the present Federal Government has called on phone promising to invite him to Abuja for discussion but the invitation is yet to be received by him.
“Even this present Federal Government called me recently saying they would be inviting me to Abuja so I can see the present Minister of Science and Technology, but up till now I’m yet to see a follow up from them. All these things make me feel discouraged sometimes. If I had the money to fund this project by myself I wouldn’t be asking people for them to come and help me,” Obasanjo said.
To acquire the requisite knowledge and keep tab on latest trends in building technology, Obasanjo is also in need of engaging in capacity building programme abroad, but how to go about this is also a challenge as he cannot foot the bill.
“I intend to attend some programmes like school of aeronautic engineering or any such programme abroad, where I can get more skill, develop my talent and get more knowledge about the latest development in modern technology. But my major constraint has been lack of finance. If I can get support may be from the government or private individuals or corporate bodies I will really appreciate it.”
Although, he has a mini-research centre around the University of Lagos where he does research work for people and conducts workshop, the income generated from that is not sufficient to carry the project and at the same time sustain him and family.
“I have a research centre near University of Lagos. Most of my research work is being carried out in the school. I organise lectures and workshops for people and through that I sustain myself and family,” he said.