Elnathan John: How to be a Nigerian mechanic

If you finish fixing a car in the evening, never call the owner. Try all you can to make the car stay overnight. Especially on a Saturday. Especially when Sikirat, the daughter of the woman selling agbo, who is your new girlfriend has told you of this gbedu she needs to attend.

Life is nothing without you. People may run away from you, despise you, but in their hearts they know, they need you. You are the one who saves the day: the woman stranded with an overheated car in a hold up, the lover whose car threatens to truncate his hustle, the transporter who needs his cars back in the road to make money. You get the desperate calls, you see their worried faces. You arrive and gaze like a prophet into the engine. You spend more time than it actually takes, but you get it done. Like magic, the car comes back to life. People don’t think about you unless they are in trouble. I am here to give you the prominence you deserve and teach those who intend to learn the trade just what they must do.

You need to appear dirty. A mechanic gains nothing by having presentable work clothes. How else will the car owner know you have worked on his car if he doesn’t have grease stains on his seats, steering wheel, dashboard, everywhere?

As a mechanic, you must prefer women. Not the restless, jobless ones who pretend to be men and try to truncate your hustle by coming to sit with you in the workshop and ask, ‘this one, na wetin; that one na wetin; show me wetin you change’. Not the ones who want to follow you to where you bought the spare parts. Those ones are bad market. You must avoid them like a debtor avoids his creditor. When they come tell them you are busy. The women you must prefer are good trusting women who call you to take their car. Those ones call to monitor progress only asking: ‘dat one na how much?’ And that is all you need to hear, ‘how much?’  That is what puts a smile on your greasy face. That is when you invent parts and problems that do not exist and inflate the prices of the ones that do. This is not wrong; your conscience must not judge you. She is only paying for the ease with which she does business with you. After all do people not go to hotels and buy a bottle of beer for as much as 1,000? Why don’t they complain? God will judge those who sit in their offices and say bad things about you.

The people who come for regular checks or servicing, these ones are not your main target. You do not make much from the engine oil and oil filter. People who are very careful about their cars like that are usually stingy. But you need that steady flow of money, so keep them. However there is a way to deal with the really stingy ones. Just notice a problem. Tell them that, it is not so serious, but in the near future it will need to be worked on. Even though you have told him that it is OK for now, you have already planted the seeds in his heart. Forget to tie some bolt or tie it loosely. In about a week it will come off and his car will stop on the way. He will call you and describe the problem to you. This is when you will remind him that you had mentioned it before. He will feel guilty and foolish. And when a stingy man feels guilty, he temporarily stops being stingy.

If you finish fixing a car in the evening, never call the owner. Try all you can to make the car stay overnight. Especially on a Saturday. Especially when Sikirat, the daughter of the woman selling agbo, who is your new girlfriend has told you of this gbedu she needs to attend. You need a car for this. The customer will understand when you tell him that you do not like to rush your work. The problems of the car were so much that you had to ‘drop engine’. He may grumble, but Sikirat will get driven to her gbedu and will show her gratitude afterwards. Try not to bash the car or forget Sikirat’s things in the back.

Spare parts are where to make a killing. Nnamdi your favourite spare parts dealer knows how this works. He knows that you have certain customers who always demand to see receipts. He knows to ask you how much to write, or even give you a blank receipt. Nnamdi and his boy Emeka don’t care as long as they get paid. You laugh when the receipt-demanding customers stare hard into the paper to make sure they have not been cheated.

When a customer complains about how expensive the spare parts are, tell them, if they like they can go buy it themselves. Tell them where they can get it- all you want is to fix the car. Say that in fact if he buys the spare parts he will lighten your burden.  Most people will be satisfied that you are not trying to cheat and just give you the money. But some are stubborn and will visit the spare parts dealer. Don’t panic. Nnamdi and Emeka know how to deal with those ones. They will have so much problems that eventually they will realize that they were kobo wise Naira foolish. You don’t like Nnamdi and Emeka, but they understand the business and you get along fine.

To keep a new customer, especially the ones you think will not be stingy, you must impress them. Fix their problem quickly and tell them that in fact you noticed that three bolts were missing which you replaced. Tell them the implication of those missing bolts. It is God who made them come because it might have caused bigger damage. But you are not charging for the bolts, just being a good mechanic. As they struggle to count the cash, tell them how some mechanics are shoddy like that, forgetting to put back bolts and all. You are not like that. You take your time and solve both seen and unseen problems.

When a customer comes the first time and you want to keep them, never tell them how much your ‘labour’ or ‘workmanship’ is. Tell them, ‘Oga, just gimme anything’. He is bound to be grateful for all the extra things which you emphasize you did for free; for saving him from his last evil mechanic. He is bound to be generous. Even if he isn’t, you have already made a killing from the spare parts.

As you work, I pray that God will intervene in your greasy hustle and bless it, immensely.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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