There might be all sorts of issues with Nigeria and Nigerians, but no one can ever deny our ingenuity and our ability to succeed under any condition.
Mubarak Muhammad Abdullahi is a 24 year old physics undergraduate student who has built his own helicopter. He used scrap metal and the engine from a Honda Civic to create his 'wheels'. He built it over a period of 8 months and has flown it 6 times.
This is home grown talent that can be developed for the benefit of Nigerians. Some serious investment in Mohammed and others like him could lead to an incredible change in the face of transportation in Nigeria. I just visited Omohemi's blog where she noted that road transportation is next to impossible. Imagine if we used helicopters to get around the city? This could happen all over the country. It would simply require private capital to create the system and of course, capital would be needed to improve on Mubarak's helicopter and build more of them. I know, the concern is safety, particularly in light of recent air crashes in Nigeria. That is an understandable concern, but I believe that if a private enterprise attempted to provide helicopter traveling any city, they would have to rely on a serious safety record to maintain clients.
He hoped -- and still does hope -- that the Nigerian government and his wealthy compatriots would turn to him and stop placing orders with western manufacturers.
So far, however, government response to his chopper project has been underwhelming to say the least.
Although some government officials got very excited when they saw him conduct a demonstration flight in neighbouring Katsina state, 's Civil Aviation Authority ( ) has so far shown no interest in his aircraft.
"No one from the NCAA has come to see what I've done. We don't reward talent in this country," he lamented.
Helicopter travel within cities like Lagos would alleviate fears over theft and other forms of violence against individuals. This is a system that could be implemented over the next 3 years with development and manufacturing of such helicopters possible in even less time. Imagine the jobs it would bring to various cities? Students of manufacturing and engineering would have local businesses in which they could intern and develop skills before moving on to the market place!
Despite my optimism, something tells me that some foreign country/business will scoop Mubarak up and sponsor his education and career outside Nigeria. If and when that happens, it will be a shame for Nigeria. But, obviously, a positive for Mubarak.
Thanks to Fefe for the Yahoo article.
Read Pharrell's blog (yes, that Pharrell from the Neptunes/NERD) for comments from Western observers on this issue.