The story has been told of the Nigerian man who has driven three Nigerian presidents.
How does it feel to have driven three Nigerian Presidents at different times on the nation’s railway? Abiodun Johnson Olokun is perhaps the only Nigerian in recent history, who have the record under his hat. And he may yet break it and give more Presidents a pleasurable ride, given the envisaged sustained investment on the railway sub-sector.
For Olokun however, humility will not make him take credit for the uncommon favour that destiny dropped on his laps. For him, outside being assignments that come in a day’s job, there was nothing more to it.
Once in a while however, he was usually ecstatic over the feat, and like this day, when our Correspondent met him, he reels out the feat with some relish and a tinge on his face.
Olokun never dreamt of ending his career in the centennial corporation as a locomotive driver. For starters, he had a HND in Mechanical Engineering from Federal Polytechnic, Ado Ekiti, and lately BSc Computer Engineering from University of Science,Commerce and Busines Administration (ESCAE) Benin. He was never employed as a locomotive driver, but was soon drafted to handle the locomotive being among the first set of Nigerians available to take over from the Chinese engineers who were handling the rehabilitation of the narrow gauge system of the nation’s railway.
At the moment, Olokun who has spent close to two decades in the NRC has become the Assistant Chief Motive Power Officer (chiefly, he operates as the Chief Driver of the Nigerian Railway) and a top trainer of locomotive drivers employed by the corporation.
Speaking on his experience on the job, Olokun said he counted it as a privilege when he was asked few years after his employment to drive the locomotive that took President Olusegun Obasanjo to inspect the Lagos-Kajola narrow gauge in 2006, during the ground-breaking of the railway modernisation from Ikeja to Kajola in Ogun State.
The lot again fell on him when they were shopping for local manpower to drive another President, and he drove President Goodluck Jonathan from Ilorin to Offa, in 2010 when the latter launched the Offa –Ilorin train service.
The launch of the Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge was the icing on the cake.
The Abuja-Kaduna was the first standard gauge line service in Nigeria. The project commenced under Jonathan with a $500 million loan secured from the China Exim Bank. When the project was completed, Buhari was on board the train from Abuja to Kaduna under the command of Mr. Johnson in the ‘cockpit.’
He said: “I feel very great performing this national task, which I see as a great task. I’m happy to have performed this because I don’t think any locomotive driver has been opportuned to pilot three different presidents at different times’’.
Olokun said he is content being a locomotive driver. He is ecstatic about the imminence of technology transfer, which would see the Chinese transfer to local manpower requisite technology and driving.