By Maria Famakinwa
Mrs Amara Israel, popularly known as Lady B, a young mother of three, opted to drive tricycle (Kekenapep) since the beginning of the year after closing her shop where she sold fairly used clothes (Okrika) due to customers’ refusal to pay when they bought on credit.
The woman, who has been ferrying passengers from old-garage to Ijoka in Akure, revealed that she took to riding Kekenapep to cater for herself and children.
Her words: “I was selling fairly used clothes before I took to transportation because most customers refused to pay when they bought on credit. This affected my business and I was forced to close down. I became disturbed on how to feed my three children and the thought of riding Kekenapep came into my mind, even though I didn’t know how to drive then.
“I met the Chairman of Kekenapep in Ijoka, Mr Ilemobola Ismaheel, and explained to him my plights and interest to become a tricyclist in order to earn a living. The man encouraged me and offered to train me on how to drive, which he did for just a week.”
Asked if her husband supported her, she said,” My husband is late and I do not have father or mother, no one to turn to for help. This is the major reason I made up my mind to join this driving job, instead of running after men with their false promises.”
On how she is coping as a tricyclist with three children, she said that the situation made her job more challenging. “I wake up as early as 5.00am to make breakfast for my children and pack the lunch they will eat in school. I will not set out for the park until I drop my kids in school.”
Asked if passengers were reluctant boarding her tricycle being a female, she said,”When I started driving, passengers were scared of boarding my tricycle thinking that being a woman, I might not drive perfectly, but the first trial convinced them.
Today, most of the passengers prefer me to male drivers. My gender as a female rider puts me in better stead than my male colleagues. I am encouraged by my passengers, most often, I become a topic of discourse in the bus.”
On the challenges she faced as a female tricyclist she said that her major challenge is the pitiable condition of Ijoka road which is her route. “Another problem is trying to maneuver my way between okada riders and taxi drivers who often make driving difficult for Kekenapep riders on the road. I am appealing to the State government to help residents of Ijoka fix the road on time, because people in the area are not finding it easy especially during this rainy season. I service my tricycle on a daily basis due to the effect of the road.”
Mrs Israel, while advising jobless women to try and find something doing, also appealed to the State Government and well meaning Nigerians to come to her aid so that she could complete the payment of her tricycle and cater for her fatherless children.
The Ijoka Chairman, Mr Ismaheel, who described Mrs Israel as a very hardworking woman explained that he was surprised when she approached him the first time that she wanted to learn how to drive a tricycle. “I encouraged her and taught her how to drive for just a week. Today she has perfected it. I will advise other women who are doing nothing to follow suit. If Lady B can do it, others too can.”
Another female tricyclist, Mrs Tina Alfred, who shuttles First Gate Igoba through the settlement over a year ago explained that she forayed into public transportation when her provision shop was not as profitable as expected.
On why she chose a business dominated by men she said,” I developed the interest when I saw men riding Kekenapep. Aside the interest, I also thought of the business I could do to make money daily. I then concluded that since everybody must go out every day to look for their daily bread, becoming a tricyclist would be a good idea. Definitely, it is better than the former business I was doing. I get more income from riding Kekenapep.”
Mrs Alfred, who further revealed that she had no prior knowledge on how to ride Kekenapep but was taught by one Mr Ayomide David for two weeks said that since she started the transportation business, she has no regret because she is able to contribute financially at home.
On if her husband supported her as a tricyclist she said,”When I told my man about my interest to ride Kekenapep, initially he doubted my ability to cope. But when he saw that I was coping, he was surprised and supported me. He even praises God for me that I am helping to cater for some financial needs at home.”
Asked how she has been combining her roles as a mother and as a tricyclist, she said that she wakes up early every day to prepare for her family before she goes out for her transport business.
On if passengers are afraid of boarding her tricycle being a female, she said,” most of the passengers encouraged me. Some men will tell me that when they get home they will tell their wives that a female tricyclist drove them. In fact, words of encouragement I get from passengers keep me strong on the job.”
When asked of her scariest moment as a tricyclist she revealed, It was when I was involved in an accident along Oke-Ijebu with a motorcyclist (Okada rider). Then I just started riding tricycle and became discouraged that I almost stopped riding Kekenapep. Thank God for Mr David, the man who taught me how to ride tricycle. He encouraged me not to give-up, that risk was part of the job and advised me to always avoid Okada riders.
Speaking on the challenges she is facing on the job she said, the only challenge is the bad road. Driving through Igoba First Gate into the community is terribly bad sometimes when it rains, nobody can go out. We are appealing to the State government to come to our rescue because the situation is unbearable. If the road is fixed, it will improve socio-economic activities in the area. The bad road affects transportation businesses and residents in the area. We need government’s intervention urgently.”
The woman tricyclist however advised jobless women to think of what they can do to support their families. According to her, there is nothing bad to start small if one is focused. “With the situation in the country today, it is not advisable for women to be idle. They should plan on what they can do successfully to assist their husbands,” she counselled.