For many living in the Agege-Iyana Ipaja axis, Sarafa Odunlami perched on his unique bicycle like a bird resting comfortably in its nest has become a familiar sight. Not so much as a result of the young man but as a result of the ingenuity behind his very tall and one-of-a-kind bicycle.
An indigene of Imala, a town located after Abeokuta in Ogun State, the young man told Saturday Telegraph: “I reside in the Iyana Ipaja axis of Lagos State and I have been riding this bicycle since I finished it sometime last December.
“I was inspired to create this particular bicycle because I wanted something different, I have another bicycle that I was riding at the time. Instead of two wheels, one in front and another at the back; it has just one wheel with the seat on top of it.
The manufacturers abroad usually produce it small but I recreated it into a size 20 because it was too small for me so I made it big. As someone who also repairs bicycles, it was from there that I started thinking of something like this, finally getting it ready in December.”
On which vocation he set out for in life, Odunlami said he was not trained as a bicycle repairer but started training as a battery technician, better known in this part of the world as battery charger.
“The vocation I set out for, is that of a technician better known as Battery Charger but working as a bicycle repairer is what has provided me with a means of survival in the last few years. I am yet to hold the graduation ceremony from my master in the area of working I do repairs for now.
“I have been repairing bicycles since 2008 but I started learning to be a battery charger in 2007, rounding off my apprenticeship in 2011 and taking my leave. What is left now is just taking things to him and receiving his blessings. My master’s shop is right at the popular College roundabout in Ifako Ijaiye but I carry out my bicycle repairs at Iyana Ipaja where I reside.
Many people come to me to have their bicycle repaired, some companies even come with up to 40, 50 pieces for me to work on immediately they are offloaded from the container.” On his evolution as a boy fascinated by bicycles into one living his dream of creating exceptional ones, Odunlami said the bicycle is set apart as a result of its height, shape and size.
In fact, he says the bicycle is of the same height as the buses attached to the Bus Rapid Transport scheme of the Lagos State Government.
“When I am riding this bicycle, I can put my legs on Danfo buses while the bicycle itself is as tall as a BRT bus. I started with a one-roller bicycle as I said before and I have taught many people how to ride. I decided to improve on that with this one. “People are always enamoured with the bicycle no matter where I go.
In my area, many people would just start recording it as they drive past me. Some ask for my numbers which I usually give them. Politicians also call me to be a part of their rally, just as others call me for similar processions. I am currently building another bicycle that will be as tall, if not a bit taller than this one but it has three tyres at the back.
One tyre in front and it can carry three people conveniently. It can also carry five people but the speed will be limited with that but you won’t feel anything with three people on it.” According to the young man, who lost his mother as a two-year-old and his father four years ago, he currently works from home but is open to expanding his space if he gets the opportunity as he said he can work both as a battery charger and bicycle repairer if he is able to get some money to set up a workshop.
“My work space is in my residence, the house belongs to my paternal grandmother. My dad is late, he died four years ago while my mother died, as I learnt, when I was barely two years old. I am my mother’s only child but my father had other children, three in all with one of them older than I am but the other two are younger.
My mother was the first wife but my step-mother and her children now reside in my father’s house at Toll gate in Ota but I don’t go to my father’s house for obvious reasons tied to inheritance issues.” “My paternal grandmother is still alive, so I have a room in her house where I stay with my family.
I am married with two children to my wife who works as a hairdresser. Both are boys, with the first being a three-yearold while the second is around one,” he added. Without mincing words, Odunlami, who noted that most his work experience is tied to Lagos State here, with Oshodi and Surulere as the furthest locations he had gone to work, said: “This work, by the grace of Allah, can sustain me as I have realized in the last few years.
In addition, I plan to have a shop where I can combine the repair works with working as a battery charger.” The appeal of his bicycle does not end with civilians and everyday Nigerians; he said many privileged people have had to stop and talk to him in the past when they encounter him moving about. “People are in the habit of stopping me, including policemen who often make a show of their fascination with the bicycle, same with LASTMA officials and many others.
The Task Force officials at Oshodi were so taken with the bicycle that they stopped vehicles on a lane as they continued to record me riding it when I went to Oshodi not long ago,” he offered. With many bringing bicycles to him for fixing and remodeling, the Ogun State indigene is surely another Nigerian creating a pathway for himself using his skills while depending on no one but the attention of fellow Nigerians.
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