“When I was a kid I loved helicopters,” says Abdullahi. “Whenever I saw one in the movies, I used to ask ‘how does this thing work?”
Years later when he told his college friends of his plan to build one, they laughed. “Only whites can build things like that,” they said. His response was to build a bright yellow helicopter with push-button ignition, an accelerator lever and a joystick for thrust and bearing. It was powered by a 133-horsepower engine salvaged from a Honda Civic.
Unlike the flying machines of many other amateur aviation innovators, Abdullahi’s contraption actually flew, although never above a height of 2.1 metres (7ft). But it did earn him international recognition, a TED Global Fellowship and a scholarship to study aircraft maintenance in the UK.
He now has a well paid job working for an electronics manufacturer in the UK, but dreams of starting his own aircraft company. He reflects that he got little support from the Nigerian government, and says the barriers faced by people like him result in a tremendous “waste of talent” in Africa.
These stories beg an important question
Here’s what’s common knowledge: Nigeria is a land with immense human and natural resources and a fertile ground for investment. Its citizens are highly intelligent, the country is home to some of the brightest minds around the world and so on and so forth.
When come up with bright ideas like Mubarak did, the first human response is discouragement. However, we Nigerians cannot afford that. We need every idea, every talent to be harnessed; provide answers to the question, “how can Nigeria better encourage and harness the talents of its citizens?” Let’s build Nigeria.