Gone are the days men take the forefront of hardcore jobs like engineering, politics, firefighting, military, plumbing, mechanic, e.t.c. Nowadays, women are seen taking the centre stage of such jobs and nature of men’s struggle. Elizabeth Rowland writes
T hey are indeed at the forefront rubbing shoulders with their male counterparts in the field of survival proving the old maxim that says, “what a man can do, a woman can do better.” World over, today’s women can no longer be referred to as weaker vessels or deem fit for the kitchen alone, labour room and the “other room” as the saying goes.
With all the hustling and bustling nature of Lagos where only the fittest survive, hundreds of women have joined the men on the struggle field to become commercial drivers and conductors.
Proving their strut in these fields, especially as tricycle, BRT conductors and drivers, they skillfully rap different names of the routes they are taking like one who has hot yam in her mouth. They also displayed with much swagger beckoning on passengers to board bus/tricycle.
In addition, with husky voices (for those who perhaps take marijuana and local gin) they call on names of different bus stops for passengers. They dress, and act like men refusing to be intimidated by anyone especially their male counter parts on same field. Interesting, they wear rough hairs- short dreadlocks, three quarter baggy jeans, in most cases, rugged and crazy jeans with rubber sandals or sneakers to match.
They put on long weird chains on their necks and funny looking rings on their fingers. Just as the male conductors and drivers behave, the women also put headband on their foreheads, dirty looking small towels on their shoulders and cross-shoulder bag resting on their chests. With this type of dressing, they bounce pompously going up and down inside the bus demanding for the bus fee or standing at the entrance of the bus beckoning on passengers or opening the door for passengers.
Indeed, it takes only the livered to stand them or look at them in the face. Judging from their way of swagger, they have shown that they cannot be intimidated.
One of such women is Tawa Sulaimon, 62, but commonly called Cinderella among her peers, has been a tricycle driver for 10 years going.
She is the women leader of tricycle drivers in Ikorodu and a grandmother-of-two. Cinderella passionately told New Telegraph that she has always been a fan of men’s job. “From the beginning, I have always loved to do a man’s job.
Unfortunately, God created me as a woman, I love being a tomboy. I do things like a man because my dad was a soldier. So, if we do wrong in the house, he gives us tough punishment instead of flogging us. All these made me strong.
I am not a kind of person who depends on people for survival like begging any of my uncles and aunts for money. Therefore, I decided that if I can do this business I would not be asking anyone for anything, thereby constituting nuisance to anyone around me.
I have been driving this tricycle for 10years now. I have been doing business right from my secondary school just to be independent. No member of my family raised an eyebrow about my driving this tricycle, every.
They are aware of my interest in men’s job. So it wasn’t strange to them. However it wasn’t easy at first because I fell ill and lost weight barely two weeks I started but I was determined not to give up. I have received so many insults and harassment from male counterparts in the course of this business but it did not deter me still.
Even as I am in the midst of men, I try to organize things for everyone to make things easier and avoid cheating but some persons felt I was trying to control them because I am older than most of them and make derogatory statements about me.
They will always tell me this is not what my mates are doing and that I do not belong here. There was a time the chairman of the motor park, Igbogbo, area of Ikorodu slapped me. But I am not moved by their words and actions. Although, not every one of my male counterparts listens to me whenever I try to arrange them inside the garage, I still press on because I know I am doing the right thing.
I know what I’m passing through and I know I have to remain focused to achieve my aim- that is to eke a living and for me to be able to complete my building, also build a shop for myself after which I will leave the tricycle business.
“When I lost my husband, I decided to look for another job with BRT as a driver but because my driver’s license was not out by then, I wasn’t given the job. I had no other choice but to return to driving tricycle. I had to go collect another tricycle on hire purchase. I am very happy and contented with my job. Even when I am sad, immediately I start my tricycle I tend to forget all my worries,” she said.
Going by Cinderella’s gesture, New Telegraph observed that she is a franked and determined woman who refuses to be deterred by any forms of discouragement life throws at her. Being a single mother since the death of her husband seven years ago, she has not really known peace she so much crave. According to her story, she has not really known laughter and peace of mind.
Rather, all she knows and feels are pains, rejection and hardship. She said she singlehandedly trained her only daughter to a stage where she ought to stand on her toes. Unfortunately, the girl could not find her footings as her mother (Cinderella) still support her and her children.
Another female tricycle driver who identified herself as Asabi Ade also told her story. “I decided to go into this business because of my children. They have to feed and go to school. When I first started this job, my husband was not in support at all. He said it is a man’s job and it’s tedious for a woman. But I pleaded with him for a long time and tried to make him understand that I needed to do something just to support him to cater for the family since his salary is not enough to feed the family. I can’t Carter for my three children with little or delayed salary that I might get as salary if I were working somewhere else. But driving tricycle will give me more money because it is daily and lucrative. I sent people to plead on my behalf and finally, my husband accepted.
“I am proud riding the tricycle for a living. Some persons are in different hotels prostituting but by the grace of God, my case is not like that. I am proud of my job and it is lucrative but the number of trips one would go in a day is determined by the availability of the passengers. However, it has so many challenges especially from the passengers. Passengers talk to you anyhow as though you do not exist but for the money you need to get from them, one has to endure.
A look at Iyabode Ogunbona, 32, a female Lag Bus conductor turned ticket-issuing officer and leader of all female ticket- issuing officers in Ikorodu. One would easily pass her for a man for the way she is dressed and her carefree attitude. Ever ready to unleash the wrath of a conductor on anyone who take her for granted.
However, that attribute is actually, what earned her respect and fear amongst her colleagues. “I just joined the business to try it out because I have to get myself busy with something. Initially, my husband was very angry and he said he would rather open a shop for me where I can be selling things. I started selling things as he wanted but KAI officials were always disturbing. So many times, they would cease my goods and I would not be able to recover them back. I end up incurring great loses.
This was why I finally ventured into the conductor business. I have to wake up by 3 a.m just to meet up with the official timing. Apart from the disturbance from police officers who collect money from us and stubborn passengers who sometimes refuse to pay agreed amount for the fare, the job is really good and better than any indecent job. By next year, I would go into driving one of the LAG buses”. Iyabode told the New Telegraph.
These women in their respective speeches pitched their reason for joining the men’s world on supporting their husbands in catering for the family. They would rather engage themselves in such business than sit at home waiting to feed from what is left from their husbands’ income.
A male tricycle driver who pleaded anonymity said he is happy that women are in the business. However, he cannot allow his wife to join the business because it is a stressful job. Although they do not face as much difficulties as us, the men get stopped by police officers for parking wrongly. “It takes only a disciplined woman to do the job of a man without going astray,” he added.
Moving over to Oshodi, a suburb of Lagos State, New Telegraph met Esther Omowunmi who has been working with LAGBUS as a conductor for nine years. “Lack of Job pushed my husband and I into this business.
We joined LAGBUS as conductors in 2008. I won’t lie to you, it’s a very tedious routine but we have no choice. Typically, we wake up around 3-4 a.m and come back home very late at night leaving our children under nobody’s care because they are within the age bracket of 7 and 5. At a point, my husband had to stop in order to take care of the children. He later found another job as a printer while I continued as a conductor. When we first started in 2008, the payment was manageable. We were being paid N25,000 but now we get less than that.
The highest we get as a take home salary at the end of the month now is N10,000. I do not blame the management for the drastic reduction of salary because if there were enough buses, they would have maintained our initial salary or even increased it.
However, I am hopeful that by next year January, everything would be fine again because more buses are still coming. We face many challenges in the business, I cannot tell it all. Often times, after collecting money from passengers, it gets missing, consequently, we had to pay it back from our salaries. Nevertheless, we have to endure it because there is no easy job out there.
Falilat Oriola, another female conductor blamed her condition on the country’s situation. According to her, the situation in Nigeria made her join the business. “I have been in this business for two years going. Although, we are not paid enough salary, we can still manage it.
They pay us N1,300 per day. At least the little we get is better than staying at home and doing nothing. The stress involved in the business is too much that if there were a better job, I would have left the conductor job for it. It is no one’s wish to be doing this kind of business but since I cannot help the situation, I just have to endure.
With the way Morenike Aina issued orders to the men working with her, it was evident that she is in the business to take charge and cannot be restricted by her gender.
According to Morenike, in as much as it is a man’s job, women can also do it. She has been in the job for three years and still counting. “All the job requires is a smart, swift and strong person and that is my person.
I act like a man because the nature of my job requires iron hand. My husband and family were in support when I indicated my interest in the job. The only challenge is the way passengers talk to us as though we are not humans.
However, such passengers have me to contend with because I do not and not ready to take any nonsense from anybody. The money we are paid is nothing when compared to the stress we go through but we pray that God bless the little we are get,” she said.
“There is no easy job anywhere so women should not be choosy when it comes to making money. So long as it is decent and does not involve stealing, there is no reason why a woman should not do a particular job to support her husband. You do not always have to wait for your husband to provide everything you need. Being in this business for three years, I have been able to get a bus and lease it out and I hope to achieve more good things in less than no time.”
For Suliat Adetona, she joined the business because of money, also to prevent herself from stealing and prostituting. She said, “my husband was not in support at first but after much pleading he agreed. It was not easy for me when I started newly.
I suffered body aches and so much stress however, I am used to it now. In less than a year into this job, I have been able to rent a shop for my hair dressing salon and able to set it up to my desired standard. Honestly, I do not intend to keep this job as a permanent job.”
Adegboyega Ibrahim, a LAGBUS driver plying Oshodi and Ikorodu routes said, “although nobody is perfect, the ladies on this job are carrying out their duties to their very best and I commend them for that. I can allow my sister to do this job because I do not see anything wrong in it. After all, it is not a permanent job. The only thing is that the society has labeled every commercial driver and conductor as irresponsible persons, which is very wrong.
These individuals are only struggling to survive and to be meaningful in the society. They choose to do the job rather than stealing or constituting nuisance. So it will be fair enough if the society starts seeing them as responsible citizens.”
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