Engineer Akin-George Fashola, Director, Lagos State Vehicle Inspection Unit, a department under the Ministry of Transport, studied Mechanical Engineering and Automotive Design.For over two decades, he worked in the automotive industry in the United States of America, United Kingdom and Japan after which he joined the Lagos State Ministry of Transport in 2014.
In this interview with Rotimi Asher, Motoring World Lagos Bureau Chief, Fashola did not only bare his mind on what his department is doing now that, the Lagos Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) are back on the road, he also revealed what to him are odd motoring habits exhibited by certain Nigerian motorists.
MOTORING WORLD (MW): Sir, being a Mechanical Engineer, what kind of car do you like?
FASHOLA: I like big cars. I like V8, manual cars, cars that are not so common and unique. I like cars that are big on torque but not necessarily horse power because torque determines the horse power. I will say I am much more of Sedan than coupe.
MW: Are you a car freak?
FASHOLA: Well, for 25 years, I worked in the automotive industry in the US, UK and Japan. I will say: Yes, I am.
MW: What kinds of extra gadget do you like in a car?
FASHOLA: Nowadays, a lot of vehicles made are aided by computer. It is necessary for controlling emission and passenger safety. So, a lot of telematics on cars now include things like blind spot, alert which tells you the car is in a blind spot, a lane keeper and also automatic headlight that comes on when it is raining. That’s a very good function, because in this part of the world.
MW:Having stayed abroad for more than two decades, what is your view about motoring culture on Nigerian roads? Do you by chance find anything odd?
FASHOLA: Yes. I observe that when it rains, people put on the hazard light which is the wrong thing to do. What you need to put on is your headlight not hazard. Hazard is for when your vehicle is in distress. The only reason I can think of you putting on your hazard is when visibility is absolutely below zero. If you put on your hazard light, you can’t trafficate. You can’t indicate whether you want to go right or left. They don’t work at the same time.
When it is raining, people put on their hazard light. You tend to wonder why. Just put on your headlight. It is your headlights that let the person in front and behind know that somebody is there. Putting on your hazard, you are telling that person that you have fault with your car. I think we will address that through drivers training and technical session we give during training.
We do our safety awareness. We go round and tell people what they need to do; how to be safe when they drive. You have to understand also that driving is not just moving a car from A to B. There is a discipline involved in driving because the road is a shared asset. You need to know how to communicate on the road and when to use your horn and when not to use it, traffic, how to keep a distance between the car that is in front of you. How to stay safe, how to observe speed limit, how to behave when weather changes, understand the rudimentary of how works.
MW: What does a car mean to you?
FASHOLA: Car is a means of transportation from point A to B. How you get to point A to B is the pleasure that is added into it. If you still do not understand the fundamental of driving, it makes no sense. Everything in a car is put there specifically for a reason. It is not afterthought. Some people don’t use a trafficator. Some use horn instead of a flasher or hazard instead of headlight. Some their wipers and tyres are bad, they still drive with it. They don’t do regular maintenance of their vehicle.
One key issue about driving especially in this part of the world is patience. You need to learn patience. You need to learn not to get aggravated because if you get agitated, you can have an accident. That is the truth.
MW: So, you don’t have bad experience with driving.
FASHOLA: I have had bad experiences in term of people not trafficating; people not keeping the ethics of driving but I can say this particular one.
MW: When did you begin to drive?
FASHOLA: I have been driving since I was eleven.
MW: Who taught you?
FASHOLA: My father taught me how to drive. One needs to understand the fundamental of driving and when I was old enough to get a licence, I apply for one at sixteen.
MV: Did you learn to drive in Nigeria?
FASHOLA: No, I learnt to drive over there in the United States. I did all my schooling there: primary, secondary, university even my Master Degree. Like I said, I have worked in the automotive industry ever since I left school. I worked with a motor company in California. I moved to Ford Motor Company and also Honda.
MW: Please tell us a little about your background?
FASHOLA: I was born here in Lagos moved to the US when I was very young and stayed there all my life. I used to come and go when I was younger. I think I moved there finally at the age of eleven.