How Much Is Your Salary? This Bicycle Repairer Makes 40,000 Naira Weekly
It all started when I got a bicycle for my birthday recently.
Basking in the euphoria of owning a bike in my adulthood, I rode into the Okada infested Okota road.
As I tried to turn at the corner of a bend, an Okada man made a swift move towards me and hit the rear wheel of my bicycle.
The rear wheel twisted into a figure 8 shape. It was that bad.
The whole thing happened so fast I didn’t have time to get mad at the Okada rider who had now climbed down and was apologising profusely with his passenger.
With his help, we were able to straighten the wheel, so it could even move at all.
But then it dawned on me that I never really thought about how and or where to repair it if it ever breaks down.
Since I have been in Lagos I have never really seen one - a bicycle repairer.
So, I first stopped at an auto mechanic workshop close to the scene of the incident and asked if they could help fix the wheel.
But they said they couldn’t and had no idea where I could even get help.
So, I kept moving slowly towards my house, about a kilometer from the scene of the incident. Then along the way, I met another cyclist who directed me to the only bicycle repairer within Okota road.
The workshop was situated inside an expansive auto workshop along the ever busy Ago Palace way.
The almost dingy workshop was unmistakable as one enters it.
It had several sports bicycles awaiting attention inside.
As I rolled my bicycle in, there were two other cyclists who were leaving with their already fixed bicycles. There were three other bicycles to be fixed as well before it could get to my turn.
It was a busy workshop, even busier than the car workshop that took a huge chunk of the large work space.
Two young men manned the workshop. I had expected the repairers to be old men who were hanging onto the vestiges of their old-time trade.
But I was wrong, the owner, Peter Okafor is aged 28.
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The Enugu indigene had acquired the skill on the insistence of his widowed mother after he left school about a decade ago.
“Left alone I would not have chosen to learn bicycle repairing. But my mother insisted, and I had no choice,” he told Bounce News in a chat.
He apprenticed for about 5 years before he could start out on his own, but it wasn’t until 2013 that he started the Okota workshop.
“People tend to look down on what we do. In fact, many people don’t even know there is any money at all to be made repairing bicycles. But I am happy my mother made the decision. I love what I do. And there is money in it. My oga (referring to his teacher) is a landlord in this Lagos through this bicycle repairing,” said Peter.
According to him, his teacher has been able to sustain a large family of 2 wives and 8 children, including building his own house in Ijegun Lagos, through the trade.
And he wants to replicate the success of his master because business is good.
*Mr. Okafor tests out the damaged rear wheel of this reporter after repair
On a typical day, he repairs between 5 and 15 bicycles. And on some days that they get contracts to repair imported bicycles for dealers, he fixes no fewer than 20 in 24 hours.
On the average, he earns between 30 to 40,000 naira weekly.
So, what is fueling the demand? Not many household own bicycles in Nigeria. Riding bicycle on Nigerian roads is quite risky as there are no infrastructural provision for cyclists.
In September 2017, Nigerian government floated the idea of a bicycle policy, but it could not see the light of day because of infrastructural challenges.
But according to Peter, the main users of bicycles are teenagers and sports cyclists. These constitute the bulk of his clientele and the importer dealers.
And because the street roads are in very bad shape, it requires constant maintenance to ensure safe riding.
*Mr. Okafor's dingy workshop with some broken down bicycles
But without a family yet, what has he achieved with the money?
“If not that I have had some setbacks from my family, I would have started building my own house by now,” he said, as the smile on his face suddenly disappeared.
Peter is a twin. He says he must support his twin brother and mother through his trade.
But that is not the setback he spoke about.
In 2016, his twin brother tried traveling abroad but they fell into the wrong hands and Peter lost more than 3 million naira.
“If I were just a trader in buying and selling, I would have gone back to the village,” he said, grinning as if the pain of that loss still ate away at him.
He has since bounced back and looking to invest his money.
*Camera-shy Okafor poses for a photograph in his workshop
About four young men have apprenticed with him and opened their own workshops in Lagos. His partner now is his last apprentice and would soon be free to go.
So, what does he have to tell young people without the opportunity to get education.
He said: “Nigeria is a difficult place. Even education doesn’t guarantee you a good life. The only thing that guarantees you a livelihood is skill.
“Today, many young people like me would rather do ‘yahoo yahoo’ (internet fraud) than learn handiwork. But I tell you my brother, nothing is better than handiwork.
“As long as you are alive, you will survive if you have handiwork. So, I always advice boys to go and learn handiwork.”
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