Rather than starve with her retiree husband and 11-year old son, a teacher, Mrs. Temidayo Fagbenle, took up commercial driving in Ilorin, Kwara State.
For Mrs. Temidayo Fagbenle , a teacher in a secondary school in Ilorin, Kwara State, the saying that necessity is the mother of invention is applicable. The school teacher has to drive Kabukabu that is, an unpainted taxi, to make ends meet.
Recalling how she became a commercial driver – a task mainly undertaken by illiterate and semi-literate men -she told Saturday PUNCH that it was in her attempt to find a solution to her financial predicament.
According to her, though she receives a monthly salary as a teacher, her family’s needs and that of some members of her relations could not be met by her monthly income.
She said that a day came that she was in so much financial need and could not even meet her own family financial needs that she started thinking of a way out.
According to her, she was so broke that she did not even have N100 in her purse. She thought so much of a way to get funds to meet her immediate need and suddenly realised that her car, which she usually drove to school, could generate additional revenue.
Fagbenle said she quickly acted on the idea and even before her husband, who is a retiree and her child, a student in a secondary school in Ilorin, could be informed of her new business idea, she had already gone ‘picking’ passengers and made brisk business on the first day. She was able to make enough to meet her immediate needs.
She said, “There was a time I was in need of money. It was such a precarious situation that I did not even have N100 on me. I had some pressing family needs to attend to. I was in a fix on how to solve the burden. I thought of something to do but it wouldn’t work, so I just took this vehicle that day.
“I woke up around 6am. I went to Tanke in Ilorin and started this kabukabu (commuter taxi). Initially, I was afraid that officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers could harass me since I was not a member then. But I summoned courage. Within one hour, I realised some money. That was early 2011. That day, I went back home before 7am because I did not want people to know what I did.
“I was happy that the money I made that hour solved my immediate needs that day. But I stopped. I was thinking ‘is it God’s will for me to be doing this type of work for my secondary assignment’? I have a child to take care of, though my husband is there. With the situation in Nigeria, the two hands should be rubbing themselves together; husband and wife should be earning an income.”
Fagbenle said she went into full cab business this year, plying the Maraba-UITH route in Ilorin. She said that even the day she went to register with the NURTW, she had only N3,000 which was not enough for the registration. So she begged the official she met and promised to pay up later. Having reached an agreement with the NURTW official, she started and since then had been finding her second job enjoyable.
She expressed gratitude to her passengers including those that had been passing good comments about her, adding that she had never had any problem with any of them.
For her, the male drivers had never been a problem as, according to her, they regard her as fellow driver and even assist her get passengers to board her vehicle.
“In fact, they like what I am doing. When I have difficulty calling passengers, they would even rally round me and then I move on. I thank God. They are really there for me as people that can help someone. I can say that God sent them to me.
“They do not think about male or female but they are there for me at any time,” she said.
The Kogi State-born, who is married to a Kwara indigene, said she had not been having problem with other motorists or traffic officials.
She stated that her husband and child not only encourage her but have been a source of inspiration and support for her driving business.
According to her, some of her colleagues encouraged her in the kabukabu business while others feel concerned. They wonder how a woman could successfully undertake commercial driving as according them, such undertaking could be very stressful.
“I thank God and I thank my husband because if he did not allow me to be doing it, I would not and it would hurt my feelings.
“My son is in Junior Secondary School 2. When I told him that I had joined the NURTW, that I would be driving to Maraba, he burst into laughter. He told me that he normally sees a woman who also drives. I said ‘it is not a crime let me be doing it’.
“Any day I don’t go, my son would say, ‘Mummy you did not go out today’? I would say I just want to rest.
“I like commercial driving. It is now my hobby. A passenger one day asked me why I was driving?’ I told him that I like driving, that it is my hobby. Even before I got my driving licence, there was a time I boarded a vehicle and the driver was a female. I was sitting at her back and was imitating her as she was driving.
“I combine driving with my primary assignment, which is teaching. I do not allow it to affect my teaching. I engage in driving during vacation and after I have closed school for the day. I teach in a secondary school. As a woman, I normally schedule my work. It is stressful but I do not drive for a long period. I drive four hours a day on my free time,” Fagbenle said.
She also appealed to husbands to support their wives in their good ventures so that they could maximize their potential, contribute meaningfully to family and societal development as well as feel fulfilled.
“My advice to other women is, you know women love dignity. If you want to maintain your dignity and say because of the job that I am doing, how can I be driving? It is not only driving, there are other jobs that they can start that are legal. I would advise them to think properly and succeed. It is not advisable for a woman to be idle because they have need to buy some things for their children.
Even some that are salary earners can engage in some other businesses to augment their salaries.”
On some of the challenges in driving, she said lack of money for regular spare parts maintenance could be frustrating in driving business, adding that regular maintenance of a vehicle would keep it in top form.
She said, “There was a day I was going and the vehicle suddenly stopped. I later discovered it was the battery because I pulled up the bonnet. I was embarrassed and was begging the passengers.
“But I was not sure what the problem was. So when I opened the bonnet, I just touched the battery and the vehicle quickly started again. I was then ashamed. I felt that I had delayed my passengers a little bit.”
Secretary, NURTW, UITH, Wapo Unit Okise, Mr. Ambali Ajali, said Fagbenle had been a good member of the union adding that she is the only female driver in their unit.
Kwara State Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Farouk Akanbi, commended Fagbenle for her foresight, enterprise and versatility.
He stated that he had been encouraging teachers to find alternative sources of income to complement their salaries so long as such ventures were legitimate and would not conflict with their official duties.
Akanbi, who is also the chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Kwara State chapter,added that NUT was willing to assist Fagbenle boost her driving business operations.
“It is something that I have always been campaigning for; that teachers should find a way of augmenting their resources by whatever they can do that is legitimate. Somebody who is doing that even as a woman needs to be encouraged.
“I congratulate her and if we are aware at the NUT level, we would be willing to assist her so that many women can follow queue from such kind of attitude and make ends meet.
“If teachers can make additional income outside their salaries in their spare time, certainly they will be better for it and be able to contribute more meaningfully to the development of the education sector,” Akanbi said.
Kwara State Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Abubakar Kannaike, said the ministry is willing to assist Fagbenle procure a new vehicle.
He stated that women drivers are many in some advanced countries but not Nigeria, adding that such a woman should be commended and encouraged.
“Her enterprise is very commendable. It is not uncommon outside Nigeria that you see a lot of females running taxes such as airport taxis. Since we have one of our own doing that, it is worth supporting and it is a good example for others who have the capacity and mental ability to cope. People should do something to augment their income,” Kannaike said.