By Oyeniyi IwakunEngr. Ronald Ajiboye is an outstanding Multi-talented Scholar, one of the youngest CEOs in the Nigerian Aerospace & Automotive industry, who rose to a Director Position in a multi-national company at the age of 25 years. In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus Newspaper reporter, he tutored us on the basic things required of a person who intends to become a successful Pilot or Aerospace Engineer in Nigeria. Excerpts:
As a Chief Executive Officer in the Aerospace industry, tell us about your Organization and Career?
I am an Aerospace Engineer and the CEO and Founder of McRonald AutoDrone Centre, one of the leading and foremost indigenous Aerospace & Automotive Company in Nigeria. The company is currently owned by a United Kingdom trained Aerospace Engineer, Johnson Ibok and me. Our services are bifurcated into two sessions; Drones and Automotive services. Our drone services include, Full system objective maintenance and repairs, customized design and manufacturing, Propulsion system optimization while the Automotive services include full range maintenance and repairs, fleet management, sales, performance tuning, professional training and Advisory services in Drones and Automotive . Basically, we solve influential problems using tech-related approaches. We currently produce customized drones for the purpose of precision Agriculture, Aerial Photography, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and harmful material sensing. Meanwhile, in the Automotive, we are working on a project that is capable of making eighty (80%) percent of car users in Nigeria to become a mechanic of their own in the next four years. It is an integrated automotive centre on the go, with mobile facility and trusts me we have got credible experts on board globally.
What motivated you to study Aerospace Engineering?
Yes! When I was young, I wanted to go for an excursion at the Ilorin International Airport during my primary school days but I wasn’t able to make it simply because I couldn’t afford the required fees. Then, I decided within myself that I have to see an aircraft one day, not just seeing but go extra mile with it. That was my only motivation but I wished something better could have motivated me. Probably to have seen someone who made a conceptual design of an aircraft or a drone then. Sincerely, that would have been a good motivation to start with. I remember that my parents wanted me to study Medicine so that after I became a medical doctor, they will have a specialist in their house who can treat them all when they are sick, not like we are sick in our house oo.(smiles) But even at that, those are not enough excuses. They are not even enough motivations. We must be challenged to know exactly what we can do. Like today, I found myself in the classroom and I was asking myself “is this what I really want to do?” because what I was being thought in the class seems like some kind of magic. And that is why if I dabble into your profession, I may never have gotten the grade you got because that is not what I am good at doing, similarly you may not come out well as an Engineer if you had also studied my course because your expertise is in another field.. Everybody has an area of strength. That I have an honor in Aerospace doesn’t mean I am going to have same classification in political science. I may not be able to help it because my expertise is in something different. We must be able to understand what is good for us and where we can effect the desired change. Parents and environments should be cautious of their actions and not impose decisions on the growing ones. We must understand that education is key to freedom. I am not referring to academics here but orientation as to mental development freedom.
What steps are necessary for intending Aerospace engineers, Pilots & others?
First, it is important for you avail yourself with the economy. Then you must search for some couple of areas in Aviation and Aerospace that Nigeria still needs and will remain relevant in the future. In other words, you must try to forecast and understand the economic outlook of things whilst meeting the unmet needs. Don’t look at the nomenclature of the course like Astronautic or Aerospace, look at the relevance. Anyways, that is for people that haven’t gone into it yet. (Aerospace / Aviation studies)
As for people that have gone into it (studied Aviation courses), what can they do?
We must first of all be able to evaluate their status before we can give advice on what can be done. We need to know what they studied, check if they are employable because employability is also important when trying to get recruited. We shall also scrutinize properly in order to ascertain the veracity of the person’s grade to be sure whether he graduated with a poor grade; possibly he didn’t graduate from an accredited institution or never graduated.
After the assessment, on a usual note, I advise that they should try and diversify, because of the limited opportunities Nigeria offers in the Aviation industry. There are numerous things they can still do especially if they are not being noticed in their field.
Again, as an individual you have to begin to evaluate your strength with sincerity. Ask yourself, do you like the job? Can you defend your certificate if you are to be employed? (This may be the reason you are rejected at various interviews), do you have the right skills and Are you prepared for an opportunity? Please if you cannot defend it, leave the sector and go to areas you can be confident of what you are bringing onboard. I always say that it is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not having one than to have an opportunity unprepared. The aviation sector seems to have been over crowded. Supplies are more than demands when it comes to recruitment, so I want to encourage people out there to start considering being an entrepreneur. The only thing, you cannot do as a fresh graduate is consultancy because it’s expected that you must have had about ten to fifteen years of experience before you can be a consultant. A consultant is expected to know more in that field of his consultancy. Consequently, it’s not expected that a fresh graduate runs consultancy firm. If what you studied is not practicable in Nigeria, you can diversify as there are so many other things you can do. As for me, I am currently at the department of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, KWASU and also carry out my entrepreneurial duties. The Federal government is giving out grants to startups, please enjoy the benefit. I am cognizant that some people don’t possess entrepreneurial skills, Yes that’s true, for those ones, I might have to see them one on one, ask them questions before I can advise them on what to do on individual basis. On a final note, if you know you cannot defend what you are doing please leave there for what you can defend.
What are your observed problems in the Nigerian Aviation sector and suggested solutions?
The main problems I have observed are based on unfavorable policies, economic problems, and management. For instance, my recent comparative analysis of Aero-Contractors Airline and South Western Airline in the USA shows that South Western Airline was sometimes the best Airline in the USA based on customers review despite Aero-Contractors starting before South Western Airline and with more facilities at startup. At the moment, I realized that poor management has overtaken us in Nigeria and Government is not also helping. The kind of aircrafts we use in Nigeria are outdated and the maintenance cost is very high, the cost of aviation fuel Jet A1 for example is on the high side, we have no indigenous MRO that can do comprehensive checks instead we outsource with huge dollars yet we have thousands of jobless Aerospace Engineers. So Airliners are not generating enough revenue compared to other businesses ventures and sectors. Underpayment of staffs is also another challenge, we rather pay the expatriates more and pay the local lesser.
My candid way forward is related to the recent executive orders by the acting president which I believe will greatly improve airports and the entire aviation sector. A national career must be encouraged while favorable policies must be introduced for compliance & regulatory bills and introduction of subvention could be embraced whilst allowing investors and some level of privatization. The recruitment process must be reviewed for fairness so that professionals or qualified persons and people that truly deserve the job are employed. This will add credence to the Aviation industry at large. Our aircrafts must be sound and updated to meet international standards and most importantly, government must proffer solutions to the high rate of unemployment among Aviators and Aeronautic Engineers in Nigeria.