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The sight of a woman with a calabash bowl of milk on her head, a number of traditional beads on her neck and her dark long hair plated an indigenous style takes every Nigerian mind to the seller of “fura da nono’. This woman is from the Fulani tribe of Nigeria, known for being reserved and shy.
I however know a different version of this Fulani woman. I know an amazing Nigerian woman from the Fulani tribe who despite her financial background has refused to spend her life carrying a calabash bowl of milk for sale to earn little money or do indecent jobs like some other women would have done. I know a Fulani woman who has dreams, hope and lives in the struggle of fulfilling them. This woman is a rare sight in her family, tribe, community, and even Nigeria at large.
She decided to go out of the norms of her culture, and social milieu to choose an occupation that would save her from abject poverty, give her children hope of a bright future. This woman has chosen to toil where mostly men can be found. This woman has chosen to raise her voice out there in the scorching heat of Abuja calling on customers to patronize her rather than lowering her voice to beg for little tips to survive on. This woman is that strong woman who rebelled against the cultural norms and took up taxi driving as an occupation.
Yes! A female taxi driver of Fulani origin. You must be wondering why she took up taxi driving which is tagged ‘a man’s job’ as an occupation. Her name is Aisha Umar from Mubi local government in Adamawa state.
Her taxi driving business started accidentally as a single mother hustling to take care of two kids following a failed marriage. She used to be an itinerary trader of clothes using her car as a mobile shop but the money wasn’t forthcoming as a lot of people bought on credit and did not pay up on time. But how did it all start?
“One day, I went to receive my money from a customer who had been owing me for two months but got fed with the usual debtors story. I left her place feeling dejected as I was in dire need of the money. As I was driving home, a middle-aged man who looked stranded flagged me down. He asked if I could take him to Asokoro which I did and got paid 350 naira for the service after he alighted another man entered and paid 400 naira for a journey of similar distance. I did taxi till evening that day. On that day, I went home with 1,700 naira after filling my fuel tank with 2,300 worth fuel. The future seemed bright so the next day I hit the road very early and that marked my diving into the business of taxi driving”
Aisha did the taxi business for nine months, and then diverged her profit to better her cloth business. Little did she know that she was soon to hit the road again as the cloth business failed this time.
“This time around I decided to go back full time so I sold my car and bought a better one”.
When she disclosed her intention of doing a taxi driving business to those close to her a lot of them had mixed feeling about it some even laughed at her plans but she wouldn’t budge being the strong willed person she is.
“My younger siblings were not so comfortable with it but my mother supported me and is proud of what I am making of the trade”
Her Influence on Others
Hajia (as she is called by her business colleague), though the first female to begin taxi driving in Abuja now has female colleagues who joined the business after obviously been motivated by Aisha’s story.
“We are about three doing this job in Abuja now. A young fair Igbo lady joined me lately we shared experiences and relate well. The last lady that joined came to look for me in Wuse market and when we met she sincerely hugged me. Aisha who is the pace setter of venturing into this part of the “ men’s world” in Abuja has served as an inspiration and hope for many young woman out there who thought the only way out of tough financial situation was to satisfy some greedy men’s lust for money or do other indecent jobs. “I advise young ladies, who are jobless to pick up whatever good trade they can lay their hands on. You have to be content and hard working in life; it gives me great pleasure to spend from my sweat and not having to beg and compromise”. Aisha pays her house rent and takes care of her two kids and other necessities with the money she gets from taxi driving business.
This woman has seen turbulence, betrayal, failure, pain and hardship but is bent on surviving through it all. Goodwill, courage and determination has been her partners through these years of struggle and now she is a successful taxi driver who has given hope to other Nigeria women who thought all hopes were lost.
In her relentless efforts to make a better future for herself and her kids, she enrolled back into school and is currently a student at the college of education, zuba studying a combination of French and English language. She sees her success in taxi driving as a stepping stone to something bigger.
“I won’t do this for the rest of my life” she says.
I find Aisha Umar or Hajia (as popularly known by her colleagues) an amazing woman who against all odds have struggled and triumphed in carving a niche for herself in the walls of success. Her story is worth a read, ovation, appreciation and encouragement.
Jameelah Yusuf, Student at Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org