Mr. Emmanuel Adebamijo, a maritime artisan also known as Baba Aiyetoro within maritime clusters in Lagos was a go-to person for many who sought to fix their ship engines. He is doubtlessly one of the few left of a fading older generation of maritime artisans in Nigeria.
Until he recently left Lagos on a self imposed retirement, Emmanuel, now 70 years old, was sought after for the repairs of marine engines, maintenance and fabrication of some engine parts. For weeks, TNMN watched clients scramble for bits of his time and attention. He seemed worn out from work and was not able to meet up with the demands but clients were willing to wait.
Baba Aiyetoro as he is fondly called told TNMN his father taught him to work on ship engines. His father was the founder of Aiyetoro Community Technical School, a marine school in Ondo, in the Old Western Region, Nigeria. The former Western State of Nigeria was formed in 1967 when the Western Region was subdivided into the states of Lagos and Western State.
“My Papa nah im train me. E be get school for Aiyetoro. The name of the school nah Aiyetoro Community Technical School. Nah marine school… “, he began as he responded to our questions.
Emmanuel Adebamijo is the first son of late Pa Odi Adebamijo, founder, Aiyetoro Community Technical School, in the Ondo area of the Old Western Region, Nigeria.
Pa Adebamijo, the school proprietor had been a beneficiary of a scholarship programme initiated by Chief Pa Obafemi Awolowo, the Priemer of the Old Western Region. Through the programme, he was trained and retrained in Germany, and returned as one of Nigeria’s first marine engineers.
Odi Adebamijo was the first within the region to obtain a Diploma in Marine Engineering. Passionate about what he had learnt, his son says he returned to his hometown, fired up and willing to impact everyone who wanted to learn with knowledge. He established a school, which specialised in training artisans in all areas in the maritime sector.
Baba Aiyetoro says his father’s passion for marine engineering was contagious. He (Emmanuel) soon caught the ‘bug’ and was trained by his father in the aforementioned school to become a marine engine artisan at age 15 . He disclosed that as days went by, he yearned to be more like his father and soon after his training; he worked with his father until he rose to become one of the Practical Instructors at the school.
He tutored other artisans for 15 years before journeying to Lagos in search of greener pasture. He tells TNMN that the lack of funding and support affected the school grossly and it barely managed to survive years after its establishment.
He mentioned that his father’s dream was to establish a marine engine fabrication and assemblage centre in Nigeria but sadly that dream never came to fruition. His father lost over ten instructors who left in search of greener pastures and soon it was clear that the school could not fund it self without interventions. Then, the Ondo State government took over the school. Baba Aiyetoro fondly remembers that quite a number of the nation’s Naval officers and Marine police officers were trained at his dad’s school and he is glad for that lasting legacy.
Upon arrival in Lagos, he began to work as a contractor on vessels in Kirikiri and Apapa areas of Lagos. Baba Aiyetoro was working on a locally built fishing trawler when he spoke with TNMN. Unlike his father, he had not been privileged to attend any formal training home or abroad except for that one which being the son of his father accorded him.
He frowns at government’s disposition to artisans especially those in the maritime sector and did not mince words in urging government to step in and salvage the situation with the establishment of an artisans academy in the maritime sector. He added that financial aids for those trained would do a great deal for the sector.
Baba Aiyetoro survives through fishing when he isn’t fixing engines.
* Emmanuel Adebamijo is now retired and lives in his village in Ondo State, Nigeria.