The Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, finally put their seal of approval on the engineering genius of Azibaola Roberts on December 7, 2021, in Abuja when they conferred on him honourary Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, FNSE.
Quiet, simple, unassuming and precocious, Roberts is an enigma. Called to the Bar as a lawyer, he is not arguing cases in court any longer; he has swapped the wig and gown for an engineer’s safety vest and a hard hat. Law is his vocation, but engineering is his call. He has spanned the spectrum from civil to mechanical engineering, which he says is the core of national development.
He started with Mangrovetech in the Niger Delta, and moved to the national scene with Kakatar Engineering, both civil engineering outfits. Now he has phased into mechanical engineering with Zeetin Engineering with which he is working hard to fabricate the first made in Nigeria automobile engine.
He is working to manufacture electric cars, heavy duty trucks, and allied machines that Nigeria currently imports from other countries as his contribution to national development.
Born in Otakeme community of Bayelsa State on February 13, 1969, Robert is the chief executive officer of high-tech engineering firms: Mangrovetech, Kakatar Engineering, Oneplus Holdings Limited, which handle sophisticated designs and engineering projects with 100 percent Nigerian crew.
After inspecting his high-tech installations at the Idu Industrial Park in Abuja, and considering all the feats he has achieved in engineering, the NSE honoured him as a Fellow. Goodluck Jonathan, former president, and his cousin, was on hand to also honour him at his Abuja residence.
What is driving Robert? “I just want to use my brain and resources to invent something that can add value to Nigeria and Nigerians even though I am a trained lawyer. In history, there are people who create things and leave behind their marks on the sands of time and I want to create a niche so that in the near future when I am no more, the invention will continue to speak for me. What I am pioneering now is not about just making money, but leaving a worthy legacy that others can benefit from. That is all my desire and ambition.”
His love for Jonathan is well known and has not abated with all the trials he faced after his presidency. He told his guests: “By coming here to honour me, you are honoring Goodluck Jonathan, because he is my mentor, my brother. And I say it any day and everywhere; the Bible has given us a lesson – lesson of Jesus and his disciples, namely – those who follow should not deny their master. So for me and Jonathan, it is till death do us part; today, tomorrow, and forever. And there’s nothing he will do to me that will make me forsake him.”
On his foray into engineering, he said, “I’m grateful I started this journey, and the journey has just begun. I started a revolution and this revolution is about the technological development of Nigeria. I will produce a car engine for Nigeria. Nothing gonna stop us now because that is the bedrock of engineering. I’m not denigrating the civil engineers; but the truth is that the country develops through imputes of mechanical engineers. What we have today is that we have given emphasis to some aspects of engineering without focus on mechanical engineering. We need to do something that will make Nigeria great by producing the engines, spare parts, and all the things we need to move the country forward. We have the intellectual ability to do that.”
Of Jonathan, he further said, “He is an exceptional worker; a workaholic. In Goodluck, I find somebody that I aspire to be; someone who does not hold grudges. He does not know how to be angry at people. Anybody who comes around, whether you are hurting him or not he accepts all as brother.”
He gave a brief insight into the Jonathan psyche: “But one thing is that the man loves too much perfection. He feels that whoever he gives appointment must be perfect fit for that position. The consequence is that those of us who are his relatives and brothers suffer for it. So if you go and meet him for something and you say there is this appointment or job that your brother needs ,the next thing is that he snaps, ‘Is he qualified?’” The next day you go to him that so, so person needs so, so, and he is your friend, the next thing you hear is, ‘Is he qualified? He had a mind of being a pace setter in Nigeria, so, after a while, we started calling him ‘Is he qualified? He did know his second name. With a sense of nostalgia, looking back, I see a person who genuinely wanted to do things the way it should be, and he tried. You know humans can make mistakes. I make mistakes; everyone makes mistakes. This man genuinely has the interest of all of us, including the unborn generation at heart and fought all the way through to become the greatest of the greatest.”
Jonathan was amused at the nick name his kinsmen gave him, which he only knew of that night. “Barrister, Engineer. I was a lecturer; I know I had a name, but as a politician, I didn’t know I had a name! My coming this evening is to join my younger brother to appreciate the Nigerian Society of Engineers for honouring him. I have to also congratulate my younger brother because it is not easy.
“When he was in secondary school, he was more of a science student; there are a number of people that way. I know of people who read mathematics and turned journalists; became book writers like the late Elechi Amadi who had a degree in mathematics and physics and became a literary giant. Society is that way; that sometimes, you are gifted in one way or the other. You read a different course because of peer influence, parental influence, and so on. But it is always good to go where God has asked you to come and do some work on earth.
“Same applied to great thinkers and philosophers like Aristotle whose influence cuts across. And today, you see that knowledge is converging because of IT. So, separation of knowledge into these compartments of engineering, Civil, Mechanical Engineering is almost going; IT is now converging everything again. Knowledge is knowledge. My belief is that the degree you have is like atomic energy, and you can use it for good or bad depending on where your mind takes you. So we have example of someone who has a degree in law, and now making inroads into the field of engineering. And I believe so many young people will use him as a role model; a mentor, kind of. So I have to thank sincerely the Nigerian Society of Engineers because if they did not recognize him and honour him, we wouldn’t have been here today.”