As the saying goes, a man is the architect of his fortune and misfortune. This is one of the reasons people sometimes consider change of location, job, idea and position to secure a better future.
So, the case of Mr. Cadgetan Nwafor is no different when less than a year ago he considered an alternative to living. The Enugu-born battery charger was once a business man in Onitsha. But, according to him, instead of seeking a path of dishonor as the next line of action, he decided to yield himself to apprenticeship, which many within his age bracket would consider rather condescending.
But, six months down the lane, following his apprenticeship that lasted one and a half years, he has good stories to tell, not just that hard work pays but also that there is dignity in labour.
Meeting Mr. Nwafor at his workshop located at 33,Mile 2, around Ikoku extension is a delight. He is a workman who exudes warmth. With his ever cheerful mien, he goes about his daily business with confidence, even as people go in and out of his workshop to either service or repair damaged batteries.
In this piece, our Correspondent, OLAWALE LAMINA, shares this encounter, as our source opens up on his life experiences with excitement, even while working on a damaged cell battery. “I have been working in this place for about a year now. That is after learning on the job for a period of a year and six months at Diobu - No. 1 Aderegu Street in Port Harcourt here”, said Mr. Cadgetan Nwafor
Speaking about his job and the prospects, he said:” For those looking for job and what to do in life, this job is good. You can use it to manage yourself and take care of your family. It can help a poor man to feed his children and do many other things for himself. It can also make you rich. One thing that is very important is for you to calm down and learn the job properly.”
Being proud of his specialization in battery maintenance, sales and repairs, he said that batteries thought to have been dead and may easily be disposed of are revived and useful again when brought to his workshop, close to popular Ikokwu spare parts settlement in Port Harcourt. This he proved with a dead battery he revived and the proud owner went away excited.
Based on his work experience, he believes that no battery is too bad to work on, even as he pointed out,” those who have money can still buy new batteries, but if you want to manage, you can come for us to work on it. When I do maintenance work on it, it can last for a period of six months to one year again. If you look inside the shop you will see many of them that I have worked on. We service car batteries, including inverter batteries.
“Like this one I am working at, see the way I tore it, I have worked on it and everything is okay now. The owner can use it for the next six months before thinking of buying another one,” he said.
Delving into his past, he recalled how he started with the sale of car motor parts, especially importation of copper wire before relocating to Rivers State from Enugu in 1996. But his business suffered a setback which he blamed largely on exchange of naira to dollar and, in turn made it difficult for him to weather the storm at the time.
The Enugu-born battery specialist is also not in business alone ,as he ensured that his last two boys are also committed to the same occupation. The two boys were seen at the workshop, either helping to fetch water for the job to move on or assist in one way or the other while learning from their father who now assumes the role of a 'master'. He said: ”I believe that my last two boys should get involved in learning the job. Now the school holiday is about to end, they are here full time . But , when school resumes, they would start coming and returning here after school hour. At the end of the day, if they decide to continue with this job, it is okay and if they decide to go on with their education, that will still be fine. I believe they need to have something doing at any stage in life.
And , like any other business, his has its own peculiar challenges, which includes poor power supply, forcing him to rely on generating set and lack of enough parts. If you want to do a standard business, you must have a standard generator. Part of the challenges is also getting to know how you can import cell and buying a new cell into a battery. According to him, this aspect is the most important, lamenting that Lagos and Onitsha remain the only location this important materials can be sourced easily
Another challenge for him, is the inability of a would- be apprentice to stay focused. “Sometimes, they come and tell you that they would like to learn, as you tell them the financial commitment of about N20,000, which is not much they stop coming,” he reasoned. For those who already have little experience, Mr. Nwafor said, such a person will require a year or two of apprenticeship, while a starter will require a period of three years with endurance on the job. He expressed worry about the inability of some youth to endure the learning period and concluded, that is the reason some of them learn for a very short period and they feel they have learnt enough.”If you learn well, people will see your work and find you. Like in my own case, many people come from different places and they look for me. I am well known here.
The battery charger also has words of advice for the youths who are yet to find their feet: ''Any youth who can endure to learn handwork will not regret it in future. As I am here, I am able to feed my family. I have been doing this job and I was able to do many things with it, including buying my own car within the six month or so.
Like any other jobs, he said there are risks inherent in handling vehicle batteries. “This is a job one needs to be careful in handling. Some batteries can explode with acid inside it, you saw that happened here. You need to be focused and careful. You also need to be safety conscious when you do a work like this.”
He took time out to also comment on car battery theft which was on the increase at a time:”As someone selling and repairing batteries, I can identify stolen batteries easily. If somebody comes here now telling me he wants to sell a good battery, I suspect such a person. I will tell the person that, I only work on dead batteries and charge the weak ones. I sell old batteries that I have already worked on.
Okafor story is one of a challenging adventure, having to learn another occupation at a well over middle age of his life.