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    Monday, July 03, 2017

    "Men Woo Me At The Wheels" – * Pretty Female Danfo Driver (Pic)

    It is a bright sunny afternoon and Ikotun bus stop, Lagos, is a beehive of activities, with a crowd milling amid traffic chaos, characterised by honking and cursing from motorists.

    Above the din, her voice rings out as she screams: “Cele Express, Cele Express!”
    She is Emmanuella Ndukwe, an indigene of Afikwe, Ebonyi State and an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) graduate of Business Administration from Lagos State Polytechnic, proving behind a Suzuki ‘danfo’ mini bus wheels that ‘what a man can do a woman can do even better.’

    You watch in awe as she expertly manouvres her vehicle through the dense traffic with the rugged edge of a dyed-in-the- wool Lagos danfo driver.

    Once upon a time

    Before now, Emmanuella made a living as a caterer. She had a thriving eatery at Isolo, but was forced to take to commercial driving, after business collapsed. According to her, the 2015 general elections and subsequent economic recession were responsible for her business travails.

    We were seated in her mini bus at Ikotun bus stop as she shares her story.
    “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 business was not booming the way it used to be.

    So, at a point, I travelled to my village, but when I came back, my landlady told me that she wanted to make use of the place. I begged her, but she said: ‘no way,’ that I had locked up the shop for about six months and my rent had already expired, so I had to leave. I said okay reluctantly. It was a very painful moment for me, because I had no source of livelihood”

    Down but not out

    Indeed, the next couple of months were tough as pretty Emmanuella tried to make ends meet. Most young girls would opt for the easy way out, by selling their bodies. Why did she not take that option?
    “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.”


    Luckily for her, her elder brother had a Suzuki mini bus, which had been mismanaged previously by three other drivers and had thus been parked out of frustration. Determined to be economically independent, she went for it!

    Emmanuella breaks into a smile, as she picks the thread of narration: “My brother was aghast! He was like ‘a lady should have no business driving a bus.’ But I said ‘no, I saw a lady driving tricycle (Keke Marwa) and I know that I can do the same instead of staying at home, doing nothing, fighting and gossiping, let me just take the step. He didn’t agree. He was like ‘you don’t need to stress yourself’ but I said no, Nigeria today is all about stress. I understand the stress of driving, but it is still better than doing nothing. I told him I had taken a decision, so he should just let me do it.”

    Eventually, her brother caved in and sent her to a driving school, after which she hit the road and today the rest is history.

    What is her average day like? “Everyday depends on my system, because I don’t work every day. If I wake up and I feel that my body is not that okay 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 to rest. Then, between 4:00 pm and 5:00pm I come out again to work before closing for the day.”


    The world of a female bus driver is not a tea party, she reveals. “Well, everything comes with its challenges, but as time goes on, you 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 ‘ agberos ’ (touts).

    “I thought they wanted to extort money from me. It was later I got to know that there are some places you pay some money and there are others you don’t pay, 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.”

    Recounting 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 he 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.’ Thank God a male passenger was sitting in front, so he paid the N100 for me and the ‘agbero’ returned my tyre.

    “I had another encounter where the agbero went as far as lifting his hand to strike me! Luckily, a man intervened and warned him to steer clear off me! He said ‘so you want to fight her? You don’t know that this is a lady? Did they forbid you to work? She is working and you are there relaxed because you don’t want to work and you are now asking her for N100?’

    Emmanuella says that 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 that henceforth, no female driver should
    be harassed again. Rather, they should encourage us, because the job is meant for men.”

    Romance at the wheels

    Emmanuella is a pretty and chocolaty-skinned damsel. No doubt she has what it takes to sway heads. When she drives, do men ‘toast’ her at the wheels?
    She replies in the affirmative. “Yes, of course, you know, when you see something good you appreciate. A lot of times, men are like ‘madam, can I have your contact. I want to call you.’ And I am like, ‘aahhh! You cannot call me-o, I don’t like people calling me.’ And they will say ‘there is nothing wrong, I just want to say hi.’ The reason is if you give some people your number, they will misunderstand the whole thing.

    “On this job I meet different faces everyday that appreciate my work. There was a day a man asked: ‘madam, can you work in a company? Can you drive a commercial bus down to the East?’ I said wow! That is quite a distance. I can’t drive far. Another said that they were recruiting at Ikeja for BRT bus drivers and asked if I was interested? So, I gave him my number and later he called me to come over for a test, but I told him I was no longer interested, because I was planning 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.”

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    Item Reviewed: "Men Woo Me At The Wheels" – * Pretty Female Danfo Driver (Pic) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Olaniyan Tosin
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