Jelani Alihu is a Nigerian you might not have heard about, simply because he’s not a Footballer, Basketball Player, neither a TV nor Movie Star. He’s an industrious, resourceful and creative Nigerian who is a Creative Designer with General Motors a US auto giant company. He designed the world most acclaimed Chevy Volt which has been termed as an American Revolution and hottest concept in automobile design line.
Jelani was born and raised in Sokoto State, Nigeria where he studied Architecture at the Birnin Kebbi Polytechnic. He was there from 1986 to 1988 and obtained an Associate Degree and was awarded as the Best All- Round Student. While at the polytechnic, he researched into home and construction, looking into materials and structures that will be most suitable for our environment and climate; building that will stay cool in hot weather without artificial or no electrical air conditioning. Upon graduation he worked for the Sokoto State Ministry of Works.
As an outstanding individual, Jelani was offered scholarship by the Sokoto State board to pursue his passion for designing cars at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, where he studied Transportation Design. After graduation, from the College, he was offered a position at the General Motors, where he worked at the GM Tech Center for close to three years. He worked on the Buick Rendezvous and was the lead exterior designer for Pontiac G6.
He was thereafter assigned to Opel Germany for an international assignment for about two years. After his stay at Opel, Jelani returned to the GM Tech Center, and then created the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt Electric Car; a battery powered extended-range electric passenger vehicle.
In one of Jelani’s interviews, where he was asked if his car company should be what Nigerian should expect, his response indeed created some kind of hope for Nigeria’s growing economy “That’s something Nigerians need and the time for that is now. If you look at the market, Nigeria’s population is over a hundred and seventy million. Lots of people live in remote areas and even in our cities we need new and more effective transport solutions. So this is the time to really have something in place in terms of cars for Nigeria.
He also added “I think with the new automotive policy, with the support the government is giving to the industry, it has begun to create the momentum needed. We just need to continue pushing it through the next stages, especially in terms of enabling a Nigerian vehicle that is conceptualized, designed and developed by Nigerians for Nigerians in Nigeria. When I say Nigerian vehicle, I don’t necessarily mean the whole thing, but a vehicle designed specifically for the Nigerian populace. A vehicle in tune with the history, culture, environment and economic structure of the people, and I think we are heading there.”
Speaking on the future of cars Alihu said “It’s incredible and fascinating. The future of transportation solution is vast. We’re talking about renewal of energy, sustainability and recyclability. We are beginning to go into self-driving vehicles, which would open up a whole new generation of transportation solutions. Maybe we’d not have to call them cars anymore. An interesting thing happening is that there is a lot of computerization going into vehicles. So the big question is… are we actually computerizing vehicles or are we one day going to be moved around by computers?
We must never underestimate the amazing power of human imagination, the ability to envision a dramatically positive and dynamic future. Every great city, every monument, every historic feat, as it stands for all the world to see, was once pure thought, pure imagination acted upon and brought into reality. To imagine is to dream, to dream is to tune in to the ever fascinating possibilities of the future. And when we do dream, it must be big, because to dream small is to totally underestimate the amazing capabilities that lie within each and every one of us.