… Says Mariam Omowonuola Qassim (Lady Mechanic)
Beautiful, but looks smallish in stature, however, she is a lady that have gone round vocations before settling down to have a go in a male-dominated industry and she’s proving her worth.
NATA News Editor-in-Chief, Samuel Oloyede Oriowo recently engaged her in a long online chat.
NATA News: Can we know you please?
Mariam: My name is Mariam Omowonuola Akanke Qassim. I was born a Lagosian on 31st of March, 1989 in Lagos Island to a mother, who hails from Ikorodu, also in Lagos State, Nigeria.
NATA News: How about your educational pursuit?
Mariam: I attended Saint Hope Nursery and Primary School, Mushin, Lagos between 1993 and 2001 for my elementary education; after which I attended Ransome Kiri Memorial Grammar School, Yaba, Lagos (2001-2007) for my secondary education.
NATA News: So, what happened after your secondary education?
Mariam: I engaged myself in series of handworks such as bag making, shoe making (both for males and females), beads making and catering. I also laid my hands on making Ankara into accessories, bangles, earings; among others.
I later enrolled for computer training and completed it; even I worked as a Computer Operator to survive for some time.
NATA News: Really?
Mariam: I was trained by so many people, for various vocations. I learnt Computer and Graphics Design under a relative in Papa-Ajao area of Mushin, Lagos, while my training in bag making, bead making and Ankara accessories was under one of my cousins, Khadijat Abimbola Ogungbayi Qassim, a Law Graduate from Lagos State University (LASU). She was residing in Egbeda area of Lagos State then.
NATA News:Under whom did you learn the rudiments of making and shoe repairs?
Mariam: My training in repair of old shoes and making new ones for both men and women was under a local cobbler, called Mr. Akeem.
NATA News:Which period was your training covered?
Mariam: All the journeys of the trainings were undertaken around year 2009 to year 2012. I actually started my Computer Training at ABJ Computer & Graphics Design Company, located at number 8 Oshifuye Street, Papa-Ajao, Mushin, Lagos State around October, 2007; that was immediately after my secondary school education.
I completed it in August 2008 after which I worked as a Computer Operator in 2 different Printing Shops.
NATA News: How did you get into vehicle repairs as a profession?
Mariam: My cousin who had been a kind of guiding Angel introduced me to the Lady Mechanic Initiative; powered by Ms Sandra Aguebor (NPOM, MFR).
Then I just finished writing my Nursing Admission Examination in 2013 into University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan and was waiting for the result to come out as I wanted to go and study Nursing at UCH then.
I tried engaging myself in all those training activities as I was looking for admission into the university.
Though I had earlier been given admission in 2012 to read Medicine in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), but then my dad suddenly died on 2nd July, 2012 and there was nobody to sponsor me.
Unfortunately that same year, then Lagos State Governor, His Excellency Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was the Visitor to LASU increased the fee payable by students in Faculty of Medicine to up to half a million Naira.
The fee was so high and I couldn’t afford it, so painfully, I had to let go of the admission and the course.
However, my cousin knew a friend’s younger sister who knew much about the Lady Mechanic Initiative project and who was also one of the alumni.
The lady told my cousin about the Initiative and gave her a handbill which stated how interested persons could register to participate.
She came home with the intention to give the form to my younger sister, but I showed interest and willingly filled the form too.
NATA News: Which year was that?
Mariam: July, 2013.
I started in July, 2013 with the Lady Mechanic Initiative and was posted to Babs Animashaun Mechanic Village to start Practical Training there. I graduated from Lady Mechanic Initiative in 2016.
NATA News: How did you find the training?
It wasn’t so easy at first.
My first day at the Mechanic Workshop was inspired by a lady called Chiamaka Asueze. She had been in the Lady Mechanic Initiative project before me and was already in the garage before my coming there.
She welcomed me into their midst. And to my greatest surprise, it was just very easy for her as she went under a car and started losing bolts and nuts and working under the car with all pleasure. The car was a Hummer Jeep; owned by Comrade Akanni Olorunwa, the erstwhile NURTW Chairman, Lagos State Council.
I was so surprised and overwhelmed. Honestly, Chiamaka Asueze inspired me. It was on the spot that I said to myself, that if she can; then I can.
From that moment, I looked up to her, despite the difficulties, I never gave up. Sometimes I felt tired. At other times, I felt it was too hard for me. But along the run, I started falling in love with what I did.
Whenever anyone passed-by and saw a lady doing mechanic works, they watched with their mouth agape. Then I start having confidence in myself and kept doing it with so much passion. I fell in love with cars repairs day after day. And my love for cars knew no bounds.
NATA News: Was all this happening in Sandra’s Workshop?
Mariam: No! Not in Sandra’s Shop.
Sandra doesn’t train all the girls. She looked for vehicle repair workshops closer to the girls’ location and asked them to train us.
Those workshops then somehow come under her initiative where she could send girls to for practical training. Then we have a theoretical class, where we girls met every week to learn like a school. Lecturers came in to teach us and we sat for tests and examination after every session.
Let me clear this, I met Chiamaka Asueze Jacinta in one of the Babs Animashaun Mechanics Village Workshops and not in Sandra workplace.
However, we are great colleagues and friends now. We turned out to be Best Graduating Student of our time at Automedics Training Course.
NATA News: On which types of vehicles do you specialized on?
Mariam: I was trained on Japanese cars in Babs Animashaun Mechanics Village. And getting towards the year I lost my elder brother, Abdul Tawab Aderiola Qassim which warranted us to change location from Mushin, things was so hard for me; as that was also the next bread winner of the family after my late father. Then the responsibilities now lied on me.
Unfortunately, one day I had a misunderstanding with my boss, Mr. Rauf in Babs Animashaun Mechanics Village, and besides I saw myself as not really getting much knowledge again and we had to change location.
So, I left Babs Animashaun Mechanics Village on my own free will without telling Madam Sandra. I found myself another workshop to complete the training.
We were 4 ladies then with him. When I left, the other 3 too left one after the other; including Amaka. We all found ourselves new workshops without letting Madam Sandra knew about it. Besides the other girls were so hurt for what my boss did to me.
We all left around December 18, 2014 and 2nd January, 2015. It was then that I started a new life in Ayilara Street, Ojuelegba, Lagos State learning the rudiments of Mercedes Benz repairs/maintenance.
NATA News: How about your theories?
Mariam: I had to go to Classes in Sandra’s Lady Mechanics Initiative at Jakande every Thursdays and Wednesday for the theoretical class to receive lecture.
One day, as I wanted to go and greet a neighbor, whom we both lived in the same area of Mushin, Lagos, I ran into a secondary school mate of mine, Mr. Olamide Odusanya in Ayilara Street, Ojuelgba who was working on a Mercedes Benz. Then we talked at length and he suggested that I could join them in training. He later introduced me to Mr. Abolore Bello, his master who specialized in vehicle electrical.
Within the workshop at Ayilara Street, there were 4 bosses; each specializing on a different aspect of vehicle repairs/maintenance.
Mr. Abolore Bello specialized on electrical in cars. The other 2 of them were mechanics, while one was a Panel Beater. I ‘put my face’ everywhere. If my main boss was less busy, I worked with the mechanics and sometimes watched what the panel beaters were doing. So, I trained under every one of them.
So, that made me to have the knowledge in Electrical, Mechanical and even Panel Beating.
NATA News: What’s your specialty now?
Mariam: I specialize on Benz cars as I used lots of my time in training on big exotic Benz cars. I know much about Benz Mechanical, Electrical, Programming as well as Coding; because I later furthered my training course in another workshop for about a year plus from what I spent in Ayilara, Ojuelegba, Lagos.
I went for Industrial Training in a workshop, Auto Solution Garage located in Costain area of Lagos where they were very advanced in the Electrical System of Benz. They specialized on Benz only too. So I went so deep in Benz cars.
Interestingly, the IT was supposed to be for only 3months, but after completing it, the owner of the workshop, Mr. Femi Popoola refused to let me go. He urged me to start working for him on a salary basis and I agreed.
Apart from Mercedes Benz, I worked on other cars too and also have the opportunity to work on luxurious cars like Bentley, Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Range Rover, among others in the workshop.
I stayed for about one year with Mr. Femi Popoola before he introduced me to the current workshop that I am working at.
NATA News: He willingly introduced you to another workshop?
He sent me out for a job to fix a vehicle’s Brain Box and start a Benz car in the workshop, Eax Auto Repair located in Lekki area of Lagos State. The workshop was owned by a Lebanese called Ellie Dabooul.
When I got there and fixed the Brain Box, my master, Mr. Femi Popoola and myself, the car started. The man told my boss that he needed someone that was like me who could handle System and Programming for him. My boss never wanted to release me to work for him, but promised that he was going to find him someone else.
Few days later, another car had issues that we needed to go there to fix. Then my boss instructed me to go and do it. I went and fixed that alone myself without my boss following me.
Then the man said it again that he needed someone. Later, my boss said I should go and meet him. And that was it. Thereafter, the man asked me to come and present my Xbox and Certificate to him. And I later started work with him.
But before then, I left Mr. Femi Popoola for a while to train in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. It was in Burkina Faso that I called the white man that I have furthered my Electrical System in Burkina Faso for all cars, and that I couldn’t afford to buy the System then and that I wanted to work for him until it would be good enough to go solo.
The man was so much eager to have me work for him. He called me in Burkina Faso and told me not to go back to my former master again once I returned to Nigeria, that I should come to him. That was how he got me from my boss, Mr. Femi Popoola.
I started with him last year March, 2017 and it was there I got the privilege and the opportunity to handle luxurious cars.
NATA News: What type of car do you ride?
Mariam: Benz 164 Model
NATA News: Do you have other experiences?
Mariam: I took part in Pandora Training. I am also an Automedics Alumni. I also once worked in a logistics company, TSL along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, by Cele Bus-Stop in Lagos.. We work on their trucks. I was in the Diagnosis and Checking Point Department.
I was supposed to do one training at Automedics this year too. But due to a sudden sickness, I couldn’t meet up with the timing.
NATA News: Who is your role model within the vehicle repair sector?
Mariam: Well there is a little bond between me and MOMTAN Chairman, Comrade (Alhaji) Rauf Arowolo ever since he met me.
He just liked my attitude and intelligence quotient and always engaged me in any activities concerning automobile.
NATA News: What’s your ambition concerning this chosen career?
Mariam: My ambition is to have a full automobile highly-equipped workshop and to train ladies and also travel out of the country to know more about the main fundamentals of Electrical System in Automobile. These days, everything automobile is becoming electrical, and because as technology increases, knowledge also must increase too.
In 5 years time, mechanics will have little or no work to handle in automobiles if he/she doesn’t know about electrical and diagnosis. So I am facing the Electrical System and Diagnosis, Coding and Programming.
NATA News: How about marriage?
Mariam: Big question!
Well, not so fast or any moment from now. But I am looking forward to next year or in the next 2 years. There are still lots to be put together.
You know once married, there will be less privilege to handle things in your own way and how you wanted it. All the time, you start considering your marriage, location and other things like that.
But seriously; Germany is on my mind or USA. I wanna go through the automobile industry especially Benz manufacturing company in Germany. I wanna be in that plant.
NATA News: In a short sentence, who are you?
Mariam: Just being cool headed, loving, caring and being myself!
NATA News: Number of children you are looking up to when married?
Mariam: That’s personal o. But 3, 4 will be okay. Two boys and 2 girls!
NATA News: From where do you derive your strength?
Mariam: God of course!
Am not giving up! As long as there is strength in me success can be attained!