‘Danfo driving is my hustle’

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Emmanuella said she had never driven a vehicle before she acquired the danfo

28 years  old Emmanuella Ndukwe, an indigene of Afikwe, Ebonyi  State and an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) graduate of Business Administration from Lagos State Polytechnic. In a bid to try to prove her point that what a man can do a woman can do it better in  a Suzuki ‘danfo’ mini bus. It was quite  an encounter with the driver.

TUE, AUGUST 29 2017-theG&BJournal-Emmanuella is concerned with the travails of ‘body selling’ young Nigerian girls and ruthless pimps, ritualists, rough neck dope fiends, lady motor park drug dealers and hustlers. But she is determined to ‘drive’ to make a difference; to show Nigerian ladies that you can rise to be a transport minister one day without being pimped.

She lost both parents; she was left with her three siblings to caterer for. She worked with a company which collapsed in 2014 and the entire staff were laid off. According to her, she went into catering business with her little savings, however that also had to fold up and she resorted to commercial driving.

In her words ;“I had some challenges, business was no longer the way it used to be. Even before the recession, in 2014 during the electioneering, people became afraid that there might be a breakdown of law and order, so a lot of people were trying to manage the little they had.  So at a point, I travelled to my village, but getting back, my landlady told me that she wanted to use the place. I begged her, but her response was a definite no, reason been that I had locked up the shop for about six months and my rent had already expired, so I had to leave. It was a very painful moment for me, because I had no source of livelihood”

Indeed, life within the next couple of months  was as tough as pretty Emmanuella tried to make ends meet. Most young girls would opt for the easy way out, by selling their bodies. Why didn’t she take that option remains a question only she can explain?

“Me, sell my body for cash? Never!” she retorts. “I can’t descend so low. It is a taboo where I come from and besides, my Christian upbringing runs contrary to that. I would rather starve than sell my body for money.”

According to her, she had only N350, 000 and went to make enquiries for a mini danfo bus. Unfortunately the price as at 2015 was pegged at N500, 000. She made request for a bank loan however was denied access since she had no shop or collateral. She went further to look for another source where she borrowed the money and added to her initial capital.

. She had to get N7, 000 which she used to register in a driving school for the period of 7 days but after the expiration of the money she still was unable to drive and was asked to pay for another week, that alone inspired her not to give up hope.

When asked why she chose transport business, she said she was looking for a daily source of income that could take care of her needs and that of her sibling, in her words “ an income that will not diminish” this was  because her last experience in her business was a total frustration and she was also encouraged when she saw a woman driving tricycle (Keke Marwa).“I know that I can do the same instead of staying at home, doing nothing, fighting and gossiping, let me just take the step. I understand the stress of driving, but it is still better than doing nothing. I had taken a decision.” She said.

“Everyday depends on my system, because I don’t work every day. If I wake up and I don’t feel that my body is up to the task to drive, I stay at home. On a day I go to work, I wake up as early as 5:30am and start preparing things. By 6:00 am I am out of the house and work till 12:00 noon when I take a break.  I still have like N4, 000 to take home by that time.  Then, between 4:00 pm and 5:00pm I come out again to work before closing for the day.”

She said, the world of a female driver was not an easy one “Everything comes with a challenge, but as time goes on, you will begin to know people and people will begin to know you. At the early stage, it was not easy. I had a lot of stress fighting and dragging issues with touts (agberos).

“I thought they wanted to extort money from me. It was later I found out that there were some places money had to be paid and others I didn’t have to necessarily, but if you can’t give them money, you must be ready to plead with them. But sometimes you meet those rough ones who don’t give a damn that you are a woman. All they want is their money and they will even go to the extent of fighting a woman.”

As she recounted a nasty experience she says: “There was a day I came out in the evening and this ‘agbero’ came asking for money. I told him I had just hit the road, so, I didn’t have money. I pleaded that he should let me work before paying him, but he insisted I give him his money immediately. Before I knew it, he opened my door and ran away with my spare tyre. I was like ‘do you know how much you are carrying because of N100 that you want to collect?’ But he said ‘madam, just go! When you pay up, you will collect your tyre.’ I know I could not have continue driving without a spare tyre then I insisted he returned my spare tyre, he hit me and the matter got to Ikotun police station.  He was arrested but I was begged to forgive him as I drive along that rout.

Emmanuella says that the encounter changed a lot of things concerning women drivers at Ikotun: “It seems as if the ‘agbero’ chairman and other people debated the issue after the incident and took a decision henceforth, no female driver should be harassed again. Rather, they should be encouraged because the job is meant for men.”

Emmanuella said with her daily earning she takes care of her siblings without stress and also does daily contribution because she still planned to go back to school. “The truth is, I just want to put things in order, get some money, so I can train myself and go back to school and one of my big dream is to become the minister of transportation one day with my experience.” She said

She advises young ladies to look for a productive business to do especially when they know that there is no job out there. The Nigeria situation should not be a yardstick for prostitution or any illegal activities because the consequences might just be graved. In her words also she said, “if you think you are too beautiful to anything and your best option is go into prostitution, remember you can be used for rituals. There is danger in sleeping with another woman’s husband because it is not everyone that will be lucky to escape the consequences.”

The only challenges she still battles with, is the daily extortion from the agbero, “they collect booking money, loading money, turning money and damage money two times a day and any other money you could even think of”. She is pleading with the authorities to implement action in favour of female drivers to encourage their business.

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