Hadi Usman was born in 1953 in the town of Azare in Bauchi State but grew up in Gombe, having moved there in 1955 with his father, Alhaji Shehu Azare, a religious scholar who emigrated with his family. This self-taught “engineer” has single-handedly built a helicopter, a radio station, a water stove, among many others over the past 47 years.
VSand describe your background?
I am Hadi Usman, I was born in 1953 in Azare, Bauchi State, but my father moved to Gombe in 1955 when I was just two years old, so I grew up in Gombe and have Lived my whole life here since arriving when I was two years old to date. I am about to turn 70.
I studied the Koran with my father. And after finishing the recitation, I went to Maiduguri to study more other Islamic books. Also, when I returned, I continued to study my father’s books.
How did you find yourself as an inventor?
I have had several jobs in the past. I sold traditional incense, which I used to buy in Kano and sell here in Gombe. Then I started selling second-hand clothes.
However, my journey as an inventor began in 1971, when I started working as a technician for the Vespa motorcycle here in Jekadafari, then moved to the Sabon Layi district of the metropolis. It was while working as a Vespa technician that I created a mini two-seater helicopter. Unfortunately it crashed during the test and my dad discouraged me from pursuing the project.
I gave up on the project and left the Vespa workshop because it was the craft that resulted in the creation of the helicopter that crashed and angered my father.
Later, I started working as an electronics engineer and opened a workshop for repairing devices like radio, television and others in 1972.
In 1975, I started thinking about mounting a radio that would cover my immediate surroundings.
When I started, a lot of people showed interest in the project, so I upgraded the station to cover about 45 kilometers of the station. I employed 35 people to work at the radio station, although about 28 of them worked on a voluntary basis without receiving a salary.
I called it ‘Hadi Radio Station’ and it ran for about nine years until 1984 when financial constraints forced me to close the station. At the time, the little money we got from selling greeting cards and jingles wasn’t enough to run the station; that is, paying for electricity, powering the official Peugeot vehicle purchased specifically for the station and paying some of the staff who worked around 18 hours at the station.
After closing the station in 1984, I moved to Kano State where I also opened an electronics repair shop and also operated another mini radio station in the Fagge district of Kano where it became the “first private radio station in Kano State”.
Where did you study engineering?
In fact, no one really trained me on how to repair electronics/electrical devices. All I know is that I used to visit an electronics repair shop and every time I see how a particular function is performed, I learn it instantly. This is how I became a radio mechanic without really receiving any formal or informal training.
What is your level of study ?
Apart from the Quranic education I received from my father and other Islamic teachers in Maiduguri, I never acquired any western education in any formal school, even for primary education. I taught myself to read and write in Hausa by reading Gaskiya Tafi Kobo.
When I realized later that I couldn’t do my job as a technician properly without understanding some level of English, I again forced myself to learn the basics, especially the technical language used in electrical electronics.
How did you create the radio and how did it work?
I set up the transmitter, studios and all the technical parts of the radio station all by myself, without any kind of assistance from a certified engineer. In fact, when I created the station, I had never visited any radio station and then there was no google to look up the direction.
We played commercials, jingles and read greeting cards. However, the authorities have banned us from broadcasting news and other current affairs. According to them, even if we do it for entertainment, members of the public will take everything that is broadcast on the radio very seriously and act accordingly. Therefore, we never broadcast news, only entertainment and other soft programs.
The radio was on the air for seven years, between 1977 and 1984 when financial constraints forced us to close.
There was not enough money to run the station, let alone staff salaries and transportation allowances for volunteer staff. So we don’t get any money to run the station and we don’t profit from it.
Why did you move to Kano?
I have three hobbies: travelling, learning and teaching. When I turned off the radio, I decided to change my environment to learn new things. I know people can learn a lot while traveling. So I decided to visit Kano. I arrived in Kano in 1990 and opened a repair shop for radios, televisions and other electronic devices, in addition to training people. This is how I opened the “first private radio” in Kano State.
And the radio station was opened by accident because when I arrived in the Fagge district of Kano metropolis, I found Kano too big and it will be difficult for people to know that a new electronic technician is in the city. Therefore, I spent six months in my private room setting up the station through which I announced to the people of Kano that Hadi Usman, a new electronic technician had arrived in Kano.
I spent a week announcing my arrival and people rushed into my workshop with hundreds of devices that I couldn’t manage.
What other things have you invented or built?
I’ve invented many things, and the Water Stove is the 77th invention. From 1975 to date, the stove is item number 77 that I invented. Some of the items I’ve built are rechargeable and solar-powered lanterns, a stove that uses a computer battery, and more.
And recently, I implemented a security and control system for my house. From there, I can control all the electrical devices in the house. From switches to fans, light bulbs, televisions, etc. It also controls the CCTV camera mounted from the four directions of my house, from where I can detect anyone approaching my house from 200 meters from all axes. I can also save the footage to a flash drive which can be viewed later.
Does your job pay you?
Most of the items I have built are not related to electronics, although it is by repairing electronics that I still support my family of a wife and 11 children and other daily activities of the House. But I made up several items that are not related to electronics that I sell in the market, which also makes money and improves my economy.
How do you find inspirations for all of this?
A scientist always puts his mind to explore his imagination and create new objects. But for me, being an untrained scientist, my inventions are based on trial and error. If what I intended to do works, I write the procedures down on paper for future use.
During all these years, how many people have you trained?
I have trained several people in this trade. And they are now established as electronic technicians, repairing electrical appliances and doing well in their respective fields. Some also invented objects. In addition to Nigerians, I have trained others from other African countries like Niger Republic, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
Also, all of my kids are trained and also invent/build things. My children start attending my workshop as soon as they are enrolled in primary school. After school, instead of roaming the streets, they come to the workshop to learn a thing or two.
For example, my eldest son built the motorcycle he currently uses. The second is handmade shoes, which are sold in shops as foreign shoes. My daughter makes women’s handbags that are selling like hot cakes in the market.
Has the government offered you any help?
From 1975 to date, there has been no form of assistance from local, state or federal government. They just visit the studio, admire my works and leave.
What are you currently working on?
The water stove, which I created more than two years ago. I even forgot about the project until recently when a journalist sparked interest and reported it.
I hardly tell people my next project until it’s ready to be presented to the public because when I was working on the radio station and other inventions, people were calling me all kinds of names. Some said that I am a crazy person to say that I can do such articles. Therefore, I stopped telling people about my next invention until it was ready, so that people would practically see it and the question of laughing at me would not arise.
What kind of help do you need from the government?
I need several forms of help from the government, but the most important is to have a large workshop where I can keep my objects and other inventions in one place, and where I can also train people to that when I’m gone, the workshop will continue where I left off. Thus, my ideas and my inventions will not accompany me.
What is your advice to young people who are still waiting for a white-collar job?
My advice to young people is to persevere in any vocation, even without government assistance. They should not be discouraged.
Additionally, people should keep three things in mind if they want to succeed as inventors. First, you should never be afraid of losing your money, second, you shouldn’t be afraid of getting hurt, and third, never be afraid of spending a lot of time on a project.