Kabir Abu Bilal, a 50-year-old university professor at Ahmadu Bello University, has gained attention not only for his distinguished academic career but also for his unconventional side gig as a welder.
Welding, often regarded as a menial job in Nigeria, is not the typical second job one would associate with a university professor.
However, for Prof Abu Bilal, welding is not just a means of making ends meet; it’s a passion that has allowed him financial independence and the ability to impact the lives of others.
“I am not ashamed that I work as a welder despite being a professor. I make more money from welding,” he proudly declares. His journey into the world of welding began around two decades ago when he opened a modest workshop in Zaria. In 2022, a year after being promoted to the esteemed position of a professor, he expanded to larger premises due to the growing demand for his services within the university town.
Despite his academic achievements and publications in physics and electrical engineering, Prof Abu Bilal stresses the importance of having an open-minded approach to career choices.
He encourages graduates to consider unconventional paths, emphasizing that no job should be deemed degrading based on one’s educational background.
“I am surprised that there are people with first degrees who find a job like this degrading,” he remarks. His willingness to embrace both worlds — academia and welding — reflects a broader perspective on the value of diverse skills and experiences.
Prof Abu Bilal’s workshop has not only become a hub for his welding expertise but also a training ground for apprentices, aged between 12 and 20. He currently mentors 10 apprentices, teaching them the intricacies of the trade.
Apprentices who are not in school during the day take charge of the workshop when the professor is away, gaining practical experience that goes beyond classroom learning.
The apprenticeship typically lasts about a year, during which these young individuals learn valuable skills that can set them on the path to establishing their own businesses.
“I have learned so much being at the workshop; I can weld many items together now,” says 18-year-old Jibril Adam, one of the apprentices. Prof Abu Bilal not only imparts technical skills but also instills the importance of financial independence and self-sufficiency.
The professor’s dual career has proven to be a lifeline during challenging times. When university lecturers went on an eight-month strike in 2022, leaving many without pay, Prof Abu Bilal’s welding income provided financial stability.
He recalls, “I always had money because of this job, and a few colleagues came to me for help.”
Beyond his personal success, Prof Abu Bilal hopes to inspire others to consider unconventional careers and break away from societal expectations.