Made In Ibadan: A Chat with Mr Frank Sakpere of New Tide Mobile Driving School
Hello folks, we welcome you to the new month. You are also welcome to our first edition of Made In Ibadan for the month. Our guest today is Mr. Frank Sakpere, CEO of New Tide Mobile Driving School. In his chat with us he talks about starting a driving school, the challenges of driving in a city like Ibadan and a state like Oyo, as well as his experience as a driving instructor and a businessman in Ibadan.
Mr Sakpere, welcome to Made In Ibadan.
Thank you very much for taking time to chat with me.
So our readers want to know how New Tide Driving School Started…
The driving school started while I was working at the Power Holding Company of Nigeria. I worked at the PHCN for twenty-eight years. But then when the government decided it wanted to sell the PHCN to private investors and there were rumours that some members of staff might be laid off, I thought to myself “What would I do if I am one of those people?” I drew up a list of the things I could do. This driving school was the top item on that list. I also run a bus hiring service. That’s something else I do.
So what does it take to be able to run a driving school in a state like Oyo?
To be able to run a driving school in Oyo State, you must be registered with the Federal Road Safety Corps. You must also be registered with the Vehicle Inspection Authority, which is an Oyo State Government body. After that, there is a registration form you are going to fill at the Vehicle Inspection Office at the Oyo State Secretariat. There is an annual fee of ten thousand Naira that all driving schools pay as well as a tax that we pay to the state government. These days there is a sort of standardization to the Driving School Business. There is a training manual that we driving school instructors all use now. It is called the Driving School Standardization Programme. It contains everything you need to teach your students about driving. I am a member of the Association of Driving Instructors of Nigeria (AIDN). I have the opportunity to be the Public Relations Officer of AIDN in Oyo State. We hold meetings with Federal and State Road Safety Officials from time to time to have discussions on how we driving instructors are faring, the challenges we are facing and how our work can be better.Recently the Road Safety Officials have allowed us to use their certificate as a driver’s license. So once you have the certificate from our school and you pass the tests from the VIO and the FRSC office, you can then be given a driver’s license by the FRSC.
Now to the business of the driving school itself, what do you have to say about people who feel they do not need to go to a driving school to learn how to drive; people who feel they can get just anyone to teach them how to drive?
Thank you very much for that question. That issue is one of the reasons why businesses like mine are necessary. There are a lot of half-baked drivers on our roads these days. A lot of people will say that they learned how to drive in a day or in just one week. If you come here to tell me that, I will tell you that you have not learned anything. As a driving instructor, I have done a lot of training and attended a lot of seminars on driving. I can tell you that if you value your life you have to go to a driving school. Going to a driving school will give you a chance to comprehensively learn the dos and don’ts of driving. Even though I have only been doing this business for three years, I have lost count of the number of accidents due to bad driving that I have seen on the road in front of this office alone. It is always better to go to a standard driving school so that you can learn both the standardized theoretical and practical aspects of driving.
So what challenges are you currently facing in the running of this business?
We are facing quite a number of challenges, I must confess. Like every other company, the recession is also affecting our business. These days rising costs, like the increase in the price of fuel, have made our jobs harder. We have to spend more without a significant increase in what we charge our students. In fact, a lot of our students cannot afford to pay our fees because they have not been paid themselves. Another challenge we have is that of good roads. Bad roads ensure that our vehicles wear out faster and they also increase our costs. And both the instructor and the learner cannot enjoy the experience if there is no smooth movement of the vehicle. However, I must confess that the Oyo State Government has been doing very well as regards to roads. But there is still a lot more to be done. As an association, we (the ADIN) need a bus to aid our mobility
We have a number of readers who are interested in learning how to drive, why do you think they should choose your school over other driving schools?
I have spent three years as a driving school owner and instructor, and I have taught nothing less than five hundred students. I can say, without fear of being proven wrong, that anybody that has passed through me can drive anywhere because I don’t tolerate any nonsense from my students. When you come here I make sure you know what you have come here to do. You have to be serious and disciplined. I had a student once who had the habit of drinking alcohol before coming for classes. I sat him down and warned him severely to stop the habit but he refused to budge. Needless to say, he did not graduate, because I have my rules and regulations and standards. Someone else came here who told me upfront that he cannot do but to drink and drive. In fact he was already drunk at that meeting. Even though he was ready to pay the full fee for the school, I deliberately hiked the school fees to scare him away. I do not compromise my standards for anyone.
As an instructor and an expert driver yourself, how long do you think it takes an average person to become a full-fledged driver?
One thing with driving is that it is psychological as much as it is physical. So you have to study the person you are trying to teach. To answer your question, though, the standard timeline for teaching driving is three months, but due to the situation of the country, many people cannot pay for that amount of time. so at least we go for the barest minimum which is like one and a half months. We believe our course is comprehensive enough to turn a novice into a good driver in that period.
Finally, how do you think the government at all levels can help your business to grow better?
Incidentally a few months ago, the State House of Assembly called us to list our demands, and we have already sent in a list of the things they can do for us. We do a lot of things for them, like helping them get money through the people who come to us to help them process licenses, and paying tax. So we expect that soon the Oyo State House of Assembly will call us to talk about our demands and how they can support our work.
Thank you very much for joining us on Made In Ibadan today. It has been a great experience talking with you.
It is my pleasure. Thanks for stopping by to talk with me.