Jelani Aliyu hails from Sokoto State, Nigeria and is currently Nigeria’s Director General of National Automotive Design and Development Council. Prior to this appointment he was General Motors Lead Exterior Designer and the designer of the Chevy Volt. General Motors is the world’s largest automobile maker. The car has been described as an American Revolution and hottest concept in the design line.
Jelani was born in 1966 in Kaduna, to Alahaji Aliya Haidara and Sharifiya Hauwa’u Aliyu. The fifth of seven children, theirs is a very close-knit family. For him, it was an amazing experience growing up in Sokoto, surrounded by the rich culture of the people and enjoying excellent access to the latest and international information.
He attended Capital School, Sokoto, between 1971 and 1978 this served as a very productive educational experience for him. In 1978, he gained admission into Federal Government College, Sokoto, from where he graduated in 1983 with an award as the best in Technical Drawing.
Jelani was privileged to meet and make many good friends from all parts of the country and beyond during this time at FGC Sokoto. He had tremendous encouragement and mentoring from his family and friends and his creative art developed. He drew a lot, designed his own cars, and even built scale models of them, complete with exteriors and interiors. Following his stay at FGC, he got admission into the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria to study Architecture, but soon discovered that the curriculum did not support his future vision and plans.
After considering other institutions in Nigeria and their academic programmes, he concluded that only one had the study criteria that would support his future aspirations. That institution was the Birnin Kebbi Polytechnic. He attended the institution from 1986 to 1988 and earned an associate degree in Architecture, with an award as Best All-Round Student. While there, he did some in depth research into home design and construction, looking into materials and structures that would be most compatible with his local environment and climate; buildings that would remain cool in a hot environment with little or no air conditioning. Upon graduation from the polytechnic, Jelani worked for a while at the Ministry of Works, Sokoto.
In 1990, Aliyu moved to Detroit, Michigan to enroll at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit under a Sokoto Scholarship board sponsorship. Having always wanted to study Automobile Design, this was a dream come true and an absolutely fascinating experience. The course was very practical and emphasis was put on creativity and the development of new designs to provide solutions. He received his degree in automobile design in 1994.
In 1994 he began his career with the design staff of General Motors. He worked on the Buick Rendezvous and was the lead exterior designer of the Pontiac G6. He also worked on the Astra with General Motors’ Opel Division.
With his brilliant work on the design of the Chevrolet Volt, which was unveiled in 2007, Jelani Aliyu is considered by many to be the super star of the General Motors renaissance.