David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
To say you are a radio, watch or bicycle repairer in Igbo society today will subject one to ridicule before his peers and many others who have the wrong impression that such trade would not provide sustainable livelihood or happiness in life.
But Pa Benneth Chukwukadibia Uchendu from Ebenesi Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State revealed a different posture about that means of livelihood that gave him job satisfaction up till his retirement.
He spoke to Daily Sun at his country home, having officially retired as a radio ‘mechanic’ last year after over 60 years in the vocation which he practised from Warri now in Delta State and at Nkwo Alor, his home town.
With five male children; a female and grandchildren, and living in his own house, Uchendu ordinarily should be a happy man but that is not the case.
The man who put his age at not less than 100 said his greatest regret was that nobody stepped into his shoes as he vacated his workshop at Nkwo Alor where he plied his trade for decades.
According to him, youths of the area were not interested in such trade, because they want quick money. Unfortunately, the one that would have succeeded him was killed in the 30 months civil war.
The centenarian sobbed as he narrated that the workshop that provided food and shelter for him and his family as well as fetched him fame, especially within their locality, has been taken over by a patent medicine dealer, while his tools idled away since last year when he retired after his wife died.
His words: “It is a long story. It all started before the Nigeria-Biafra civil war in Warri now Delta State. I started as a bicycle repair, then diversified into repair of watches including all kinds of wall clocks before adding radio.
“I came back and established at my home town when the war started. And even when the war was raging, I was busy practising my trade. I did not fight during the war because I was above the age needed for recruitment into the army. They were recruiting the younger ones. Besides, the federal troops did not enter Alor. Many came to take refuge in Alor. God really saved my community because that time, the federal troops were desperate to enter Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka
Odumegwu Ojukwu’s home town through Alor but they could not do that before the war ended. So, I was busy doing my business.”
How did modern technology affect your business as a radio repairer?
That did not affect me at all. My customers were still coming because you know many people were and are still using radio sets not minding the ones they have in their phones. It did not affect me in any way.
How many people did you bring up in this trade?
When I was in Warri, you know those people don’t actually like to learn trade, I trained people from Nkpor and Aguleri, although one from Aguleri didn’t survive the war. The other one is alive but he lives in the north. The number of people I trained is up to ten but they are scattered here and there. There is another one from Ukwuani in Delta State.
Did you receive any formal training before you became a radio repairer?
There was a man who I understudied, so to say. The fact is that I have a very sharp brain. I easily catch up with anything I come in contact with. So, I learnt from one man in Warri. I did not even go to school the way you are going today. I attended night school. But I know I’m very intelligent.
Is there anyone to continue from where you have stopped in this line of trade?
It is unfortunate that our people don’t like to learn trade. Everybody wants to start big and make it big even some without working for the fortune. I trained someone in my community but he died during the civil war. So, it is difficult to have a replacement because many people do not see the trade as something that could sustain them for life. That is the product of jet and computer age.
What gives you happiness in life?
I felt happy when people brought their items for repair and I was able to repair them to the satisfaction of the clients. I felt very happy at that moment. That gave me job satisfaction.
Could you give an insight into how you lived your life as a youth?
I was very careful in my youthful days. I was not a womanizer, I was not a drunkard or into rough life. Boys of this generation run after women and that ruins them. In my own time as a youth, I did not know women.
I remember what happened in Warri when I was a bachelor. There was this lady who used to call me her husband wherever she saw me. One day I went to church and came back to go where we normally played an indoor game, draught. It was my apprentice who was at home. So, my boy said the lady came looking for me. She took her bath in my home and went to rest on my bed and then left after a while. When my boy told me that, I had to gather all my beddings and burnt them; that tells you my attitude to women in my youth.
As for drinks, I managed to take that local gin, (kai kai), for sometimes and gave it up without anybody asking me to do so. If I went to a bar, I could request for a bottle of palm wine which I hardly finished. But there was a day I became drunk. That day my bed was turning upside down. That was the first and last day I was drunk in my life.
What’s your advice to youths of this generation?
They should know God. They should have the fear of God in them. It is unfortunate that many youths these days do not have fear of God in their doings. They do everything with impunity as if there is no God. But God records every activity of man and will pay back accordingly. They should start with God and end with Him in anything they do in life, if they want to succeed.