Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention and as one cliché goes: “whatever a man can do a woman can equally do or even better”. This captures the story Mrs Ngozi, a bus driver in Abuja, as written by Nick Udenta.
Whether it is Lagos or Port Harcourt or Enugu or even Nnewi in Anambra state where women are often perceived to be very industrious and daring, one would hardly come across such sight. Talk about the northern part of the country, where it`s almost like a taboo to come across a woman who is doing kabu kabu with a bus, or to put it more frankly for a woman to work as a bus driver. But last week LEADERSHIP ran into one in Abuja , a city with a lot of whit-colar job seekers.
Mrs Ngozi Kanu hails from Aro Ndizogu in Imo State, but has spent most part of her life in Bauchi State, graduating from Federal Polytechnics, Bauchi, with Higher National Diploma (HND) in Cathering and Hotel Management.
In the year 1998 when she first arrived Abuja , the so called land of opportunities, Ngozi worked in Agura and Northern Meridian Hotel but couldn`t find enough satisfaction in the job coupled with her role as mother of four. She quit the job and vied into the labour market and went on searching until circumstances got her into a job which is literally reserved for men.
“We have a bus and we keep giving it out to drivers to manage for us. But as usual, you will hear excuses – the car broke down, flat tyre, fan belt and so on. One story must be told and we never had any return only expenses.” While she went about looking for a job the attitude of their driver kept pissing her off but she endured and continued her endless search for white-collar job until came the last straw that broke the camel`s back.
According to her “ Last year during one of the fuel scarcities, we had a programme in the church and I called the driver to carry me and the children to the church because my husband was on duty but the driver refused.” Ngozi though could drive cars, had never driven bus before but she urgently needed to get to the church and there was little or no fuel in the vehicle! She then said to herself “What is it in this vehicle that I can`t drive. If I can drive other vehicles, why can`t I drive this?” She took the key and took a chance.
She drove the vehicle searching for fuel, from Karimo where they live up to Central Area where she finally got fuel and where her husband`s office is located. “ When I drove into my husband`s office he was surprised and doubted it when I told him I drove the vehicle to his office by myself. He asked about the driver and I said he didn`t come. He still went out to check if the driver was somewhere outside , maybe I was trying to play tricks but he found none. ”
As if it was a joke, Ngozi started using the bus to sustain herself and the family, plying Karimo to Wuse Market up to Area One and Area Ten. “I said I`m an applicant, searching for job. Ok, since the bus is here let me use it in the evening I will come and pick passengers when I get to town I will have a full load. Now I`m fully in it. I even have an I D card. So that`s what I`m doing now until I find a good job. If I find a good job I leave it.” Trailing where her female folk may not dare trail, while her applications are still scattered at various Ministries and parastatals. So one may begin to wonder how she copes.
Without mincing words Ngozi would tell you “ Well it`s tedious. Early in the morning you jump out ,be on the road, make sure you get enough “dough” in your hand. Get home again. Do the work at home, take care of children , take care of your husband and every other domestic work you have to do. It`s very tedious but there`s nothing one can do about it.”
Though her home job has been made easier because her children go to school in the neighbourhood. So there`s little or no school runs on her side. “My first child is 12years old so he helps to take the others to school since they are all in the same school” Ngozi says.
Competing among the male folk and the agberos is not a mean tasks but Ngozi finds it easy as she says that “Other male drivers respect me. They often say ah! See this hardworking woman. She wants to help the husband and also help the children instead of whiling away time. Moreover I`m the only ” Izuogu 1 bus“ on the road. So they respect me. Izuogu 1 is the name written at the back of her bus and the male drivers chose to nickname her that.
Given the option most people in this clime may be tempted to board a bus being driven by a man than that of a woman, so how does Ngozi cope with passenger. “ They patronise me now. It was at the initial time that it was difficult.” Some of her passengers caught up by LEADERSHIP expressed their confidence in the woman, saying: “ I really feel safer riding on a bus driven by a woman than that of a man because they are more careful than men.” Some however have a lot of reservation in boarding such a bus as they say that women can lose composure in case of any eventuality.
Ngozi is not however bothered by the number of people that enter her vehicle. The most important thing for her is to go home with the sum N7000 naira on any good day. On the average she makes N4000 everyday and “that is good enough for now” she says.
This mother of four who looks very young and attractive always get easily attracted to some of her male passengers who admire her courage but she always get prepared for: “It`s business , business and business. She told one of them. I want booking within Abuja.”
Ngozi finds time to unwind with her family and has a word of advice for women who may be sitting down waiting for the easy way out to “believe in themselves and do whatever is available and honourable while they wait for a better job.” She also advise them to look for the bus with inscription “Izuogu 1“ at the back screen and front doors each time they go to and from Karimo as a mark of solidarity.