A Roadside Vulcaniser’s Dream

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Oyeniran Paul Oyeyemi is a roadside vulcaniser whose ambition of becoming a pilot was truncated by poverty. Determined to succeed, he re-awakened his childhood dream and enrolled in a polytechnic where he just graduated with a Higher National Diploma. As he prepares to further his studies in a university, he tells Funke Olaode that his ambition to get a white-collar job is becoming a reality

He operates as a vulcaniser under the scotching sun at Oke-Afa bus stop in Isolo Area of Lagos State, where he tends to luxury and exotic cars of his numerous clients. He appreciates the importance of education as the only liberator from the shackles of poverty and he too desires to be like them. Oyeniran Paul Oyeyemi, native of Ogbomoso in Oyo State and father of three, has this ‘can do spirit’ which is what a determined heart needs, to succeed in life.

Born into a polygamous home with several wives and many children to fend for, Oyeyemi’s dream was to be a pilot but poverty truncated that ambition. Oyeyemi later found solace in vulcanising. Rather than wallow in self-pity, in 2008, Oyeyemi re-awakened his ambition of acquiring western education. He enrolled at the Lagos State Polytechnic for a Diploma which he successfully completed in 2011. He rested for a year and enrolled for a Higher Diploma in Marketing which he completed in 2015.

Basking in the euphoria of achieving his lifelong wish, Oyeyemi is planning to go to university for a post graduate diploma and probably study for a masters degree. For now, his next target is to work in an office, which is a more comfortable environment.“I didn’t lose that vision even in the face of adversity. I looked at what I could do that would fetch me money and decided to pitch my tent with vulcanising, the vocation I have done till date. I am married with three children but I realised I don’t really belong working under the scotching sun. I would have loved to work in an office.”

For motorists who are familiar with Oke-Afa in Isolo area of Lagos, his face will always greet them very early in the morning and probably bade them goodnight at the close of work every day. Diligent, hardworking and polite on his job, Oyeyemi is a vulcaniser with a difference. At a glance, you might think he is one of those artisans you come across on the road, but at a closer look, he is intellectually sound, a discovery that prompted this reporter as far back as July 2013 to want to know this vulcaniser who can discuss anything from politics, to football and happenings across the globe in a clean English.
A date was fixed and he was waiting for this reporter at his small office at Oke-Afa bus stop. Unveiling who he is, Oyeyemi opens up. “I grew up in a polygamous setting at a village called Bolorunduro near Ikoyi-Ile in Ogbomoso Area of Oyo State. I began my primary school at Bolorunduro Community Primary School. I later proceeded to Ogbomosho High School for my secondary education where I graduated and I had almost seven credits.

My parents were cocoa farmers and my father had many wives and several children. My mother had eight children with six boys and two girls. I came to Lagos after my secondary education to chase a greener pasture. I wanted to further my education but I didn’t have financial backing that could make it easy for me. While I was in secondary school, I had a lot of ambitions and one of them was to be a pilot. I like the way aeroplanes were being flown in the sky. And each time I went to the airport I always admired captains in their white uniform and smartness.”

His hope was raised when two out of his mother’s siblings went to the university and acquired degrees. But they were still struggling with life then. “By the time I wanted to go to school they hadn’t found their feet. When the ambition of being a pilot was truncated I decided to take my destiny in my own hands. I summoned up courage and decided to learn vulcanizing. I spent three years as an apprentice along Ago Okota Road here in Lagos. Immediately I graduated from my boss, I established my own shop,” he recalls.

After Oyeyemi had worked for four years and even got married in the process, there was a vacuum in his life that needed to be filled. Of course, there is this urge to fulfill his childhood ambition. “I struggled with it and when I looked at my life I realised I don’t belong here but it was the circumstances that pushed me there.”

His first move was to enroll for General Certificate in Education (GCE) at Offshore Tutorial College in Okota in 2003/2004 where he got all his credits in 2004, which he believed had secured his future education wise.

“In 2007, I enrolled for a part-time programme at Lagos State Polytechnic for a Diploma in Business Management, which I successfully completed in 2010. I rested for a while and registered for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Marketing which I completed in 2015. I opted for marketing because it is easier for me and also help me to relate well with my customers. I just prefer to be a marketer”, Oyeyemi said with a tone of accomplishment.

Working as a vulcaniser in the day and a student in the evening, Oyeyemi says it is by God’s grace and support from his wife and children. “It has not been easy. I can’t do anything without the support of my wife, Mosunmola Oyeniran. She is a very calm, cool and contented woman who is not materialistic. When the journey got tough she supported me. I am grateful to her for making life easy for me. I am fortunate to marry a wife who is God fearing. This woman has been giving me a lot of encouragement. It is not easy to cater for the family, my business and at the same time go to school. It is a weekend programme. During the week I will be running the business and go to school on weekends. Determination, consistency and perseverance have been keeping me going though I can no longer be a pilot but my life is treading the path of someone beyond tyre repairer.”

At LASPOTECH where he had his Higher National Diploma, Oyeyemi met both young and old as classmates. How did he relate with them especially his children’s age. “I am unperturbed. When I resumed school I met young students and my contemporaries. But age is not a barrier in pursuing education. My background also helped me to cope well. Each time we had lectures our lecturers would ask us what position are we occupying in our office I would simply tell them that I am a vulcaniser and not a banker or civil servant. So I got a lot of support from my lecturers. When I had my ND I felt on top of the world and that thing pushed me to embark on my HND. Even with the HND I still feel inferior and still want to go ahead. I want to go for post graduate diploma and go on to do masters.

Is Oyeyemi going to quit his vocation totally? I ask. “Not really. I know God will help me. I am not going to quit the business; I will modernise it and make it bigger. But I am hopeful that I will have an office job that will take me away from staying under the sun tending or amending punctured tyres.”
How does his children react to his quest for education? “Initially, when I started they used to laugh at me. And when they saw me reading in the middle of the night they would query me that ‘Daddy, why are you disturbing yourself?’ But I became an inspiration to them as it gingered them to read their books day and night that if I can do it, they too can do.”

With his HND in marketing in the kitty and a post graduate degree in view, Oyeyemi’s is worried that with the Nigerian situation, if one is not connected, it is difficult to get an office job. But he is optimistic that Nigerians are very compassionate and he knows that one day they would fix him up. “Honestly, I will like to work in an office. Vulcanising is hard labour. I too will like to dress in a suit and sit under air-conditioning in an office.

Is there any lesson Oyeyemi has learnt from his life trajectory? Looking into the space as if searching for the right answer. He spoke gently. “I think it is my determination. When I started many people laughed at me that ‘you ordinary vulganiser what are you looking for?’ What are you going to do with education again? That after all, I have a means of livelihood.If you attach education to your job as an artisan, sky is your limit. To pump a tyre costs 100 Naira while to patch is N300. For me, l believe l cannot run away from destiny and I am happy that I am fulfilling it,” he concluded.