Jelani Aliyu (Nigerian who designed GM’s First Electric Car) Honoured With A National Award

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

Mr Jelani Aliyu, the Nigerian Designer who  produced “GM’s most electrifying advanced technology vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt concept, a battery-powered, extended-range electric passenger vehicle” will be finally honoured by his country. According to a news report (see number 136): Mr Aliyu will be conferred with the national award of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria.

Who is Jelani Aliyu?

The post below (first published in February 16, 2010) answers the above question.

Jelani Aliyu: Breaking All Molds

Jelani Aliyu

Jelani Aliyu

“Our nation may suffer the frustrating challenges of a prolonged childhood but the nobility of our people’s dreams outpace the putrid vision of their leaders.” – Nuhu Ribadu

Watching Jelani Aliyu’s documentary on YouTube was edifying, for the simple reason that it breaks every mould. Jelani is not the typical soft-selling star that are foisted on our sight by the sleazy press. He is a northerner (from Sokoto State), a Muslim, he grew up in Nigeria, left the university to complete his studies in a polytechnic and above all his just secured the future for General Motors by creating Chevy Volt. He certainly does not fit any labeling.

What I find rather strange is the chilling silence on Aliyu’s story in Nigeria media. Trawling through the links, Mr Aliyu’s discovery was reported in 2007 in NVS and The Daily Triumph. I cannot but agree with Michael Oluwagbemi’s The Nigerian Who Designed an American Car that the nauseating attitude of not exalting industry but rather prostrating to mediocrity is a national malaise. Mr Oluwagbemi was incensed by the inability of our press in celebrating Jelani Aliyu’s success and I concur with him. Obviously Aliyu breaks the stereotype of ‘the goro-chewing Northerner’ – a picture which we have been feed to believe in. Asides I wonder who will dare add Aliyu into US terrorist list? If we also accept the pigeonhole that all Muslims are necessarily on jihad, then one will certainly have a hard time with the auto designer. That’s how Jelani Aliyu broke the first mold.

I have always maintained that we don’t all have to attend a university. In civilised economies, very few make it to a university while the majority attend a polytechnic or a skilled school. This fact in itself is not a measure of each person’s ‘success’; because highly-skilled workers earn more than the so-called intellectuals. Jelani Aliyu has broken mold number two, by abandoning a degree in Architecture from Amadu Bello University, Zaria and rather electing to study for a lower diploma in architecture from the Birinin Kebbi Polytechnic.  His passion was so grand that he could not find satisfy it within a theory-driven university environment.

Mr Jelani Aliyu triumph also illustrates the Nigerian spirit to excel despite all odds. The fact that we may be saddled by a putrid and clueless leadership should never preclude the people’s potentials. The American auto revolution was propelled by a Nigerian car designer. I can only congratulate Mr Aliyu for breaking all moulds and for producing “GM`s most electrifying advanced technology vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt concept, a battery-powered, extended-range electric passenger vehicle”. Mold number three, most Nigerians are not yahoo, yahoo.



  1. Jelani’s rare accomplishment should break so many molds at Nigerian and global scales. But then, not even such feats can eliminate streotypes. Molds are products of incurable bigotry and lack of education and exposure. Although it atimes seems like even those with the best schooling do indulge in putting down others on primodial bases,such bigots are infact only literate,but not educated. One is a skill, the other is attitude.
    Stereotypes or not,nothing can take away achievements of this kind made by Jelani. He has made his state,country and indeed,humanity proud.


  2. Snr Jelani Aliyu, Your achievements may seem extra ordinary to many people but those that knew you from your elementary school days have continued to say, that the world and indeed humanity have not really seen much of you yet and that this is just the beginning of many more creative works from you. For those of us from your alma mata we say a big congratulations to you on your discovery and conferment of MFR on you by the Federal Government of Nigeria. This sky is just the beginning for you. Nigeria and indeed the whole world is really proud of you.


    1. you have personally made be proud for the fact that we attended the same school. though in different department i was in mechanical class while you were in architect
      i known sky is your limit cos even at then right back to the school days you were seen as a genius and talented with potentials that you are exhibiting now
      However i wish you all best in life and in your career


  3. a pride indeed mr aliyu,,i only pray that the larger population of youths will be harnessed to improve their and general wellbeing,,this should be particularly so in my dear enclave northern nigeria where heroism is measured by d kind and number of vehicles in ones fleet,d size of house or d naira amount one spent in a super store,this is not to mention d expensive shadda one wears,,may GOD help us to overcome the tiptaps,,jelaneeeeeee,bravo and May GOD use u to change d fortunes of many of ur brodas,ameen


  4. This goes to the press such achivement would not be seen on our tvs and in the dalies. Nigerians are making waves outside this country and if not for the national awards nothing will be heard. jelani u are GREAT.


  5. I got this email and I think it’s worth sharing.

    “I listened to your interview with Edmond Obilo on Splash FM and also happy about the write up you did on ALIYU.You probably gave him the National Honours. Thanks Brother – Victor Ejike”

    Thanks Victor for the nice words, but I did not give Aliyu the MFR National Award, President Jonathan Goodluck did. Did I contribute? Only history will judge. Cheers, NE


  6. he’s surely a symbol of hope to many Nigerians here.I am a car designer here in Nigeria too hoping that someday I’ll get to meet him because he’s my mentor.As a car designer here,I got limitations.


  7. Mr Jelani Aliyu U are an hero & made us proud but our country has lost his dignity to foreing nations , i think Nigeria need a switch !


  8. We are highly pround of u carry on Mr jelani,Oneday our nation will need ur contribution for technological advancement.


  9. Hard work and dedication lead to success, you are a symbol and hope of the African youth,how I wish more of yourvtype in a diffrent field


  10. jelani ALIYU, you have make us proud I wish you all the best.I,m also a car designer and I have here with me five hands skitch of modern beautiful car that look like firrari.but more advance than firrari?I will be glade if I can have jelani website so tha we can talk more.and this is my email.mohammedewan72@gmail
    .com I will be happy to here from you thanks


  11. hello,jelani ALIYU this is my second post to you I,am a car designer I have here with me the best of 2016 series that will make email.mohammedewan72


  12. Hello,Mr,Jelani Aliyu,I am very proud of you ,keep up the great achievement you started and you have make Nigeria proud and the youth will be looking up to you.


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