Pictured is Mrs Josephine Benjamin, a Business Administration graduate of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Benjamin ventured into the business of driving a danfo bus after staying at home unemployed many years after graduation. She said a couple of what could pass for jobs did not pay well.
At home one day, Mrs Benjamin observed a neighbour had put up a bus for sale. Suddenly, a speck of an idea began floating in her mind. Can she purchase the bus and start using it for a commercial purpose, driving it herself? She admitted that even to her, the idea first sounded laughable. But it wouldn’t go away; rather it germinated, and eventually she decided to pluck it.
“I told the owner of the bus I wanted to buy and use it to convey passengers. He agreed and because I didn’t have the money to buy it off him at once, we agreed on instalmental payment. I dropped what you could call a token but with an agreement that I would be paying N5000 every day, which is the amount danfo drivers in Lagos remit to bus owners daily,” she told Daily Trust on Sunday.
Mrs Benjamin spoke of how tough the business was initially as the bus was not yet painted in the yellow and black stripes colours that the state transportation authorities demand, and law enforcement agents were always making a meal of her due to that non-compliance. When she complained to the bus owner how the police, especially, had been harassing her, demanding bribe at every turn, and asked that she paint the bus as required, the owner refused, saying she couldn’t do so until she has completed full payment for the vehicle.
Hopefully, she will soon be achieving that. She started the transportation business last September and has been able to pay almost N900,000, adding she would soon pay the remaining few thousands of naira to enable her assume full ownership and control of the bus.
Mrs Benjamin’s entry into the male-dominated road transport workers union was not without some chauvinism. She recalled how her male colleagues initially rejected her because of her gender. The union chairman had to intervene in her favour, appealing to his colleagues that she should be given a try. “When they discovered that I was not troublesome and can drive very well, they absorbed me fully,” she said.
It has since been a smooth drive for Mrs Benjamin. With her sister in tow as her conductor, the results, she said, have been encouraging.
“Since I have been doing this danfo driving, I have not been having any problem. It is my conductor, Esther, who is my sister, that occasionally has issues with passengers. Some passengers are troublesome, while some are not, but I always advise her not to quarrel with them. She should just collect the fares.
“Many times, settling the passengers on their ‘change’ is a sore point. She will tell the passengers to enter with their ‘change’ but they won’t. If she complains, they will start abusing her, calling her names like ‘a common conductor’, as if being a female bus conductor is a sin. Incidentally, that’s one expletive my sister hates so much, to be called a common conductor,” she said.
On how much she takes home on a daily basis, Mrs Benjamin said that depended on how thick passenger traffic is. “After settling the owner of the bus and paying off the chairman of the union, garage boys, etc., I can still take home between N2000 and N5000, depending on how busy that day is because everyday is not Christmas,” she explained.
Mrs Benjamin expressed great pride in her danfo driving engagement and banished any feeling of shame or shyness. “I am happy with what I am doing. I derive so much pride and satisfaction in this job. Of course, I can’t beg or do prostitution. This is the time for me to struggle and not when I am old.”
Afraid that Mr Benjamin, her husband, wouldn’t approve of her resolve to take to driving a passenger bus for a living, she initially kept it under wraps from him. “At first, I did not tell my husband because I knew he would not allow me go into such a business. Whenever my husband asked the children of my whereabouts, they would simply tell him their mummy had gone to work. Whenever the husband asked me which work I was doing, I would just tell him not to worry, that I would soon take him there.
“But one day, my husband was going towards the Airport road, and as the route I ply is the Ikeja to Ojodu Berger axis, which connects with his destination, he heard my voice calling Ojodu Berger Ojodu Berger. He was shocked. He approached me and asked what I was doing calling Ojodu Berger passengers. He asked me to follow him home but I refused,” she said.
Laughing as she recalled the eventful day, Mrs Benjamin narrated, “It was quite a drama. I pleaded with my husband to allow me finish the day’s work and I would explain the situation to him at home. He left in anger as I stood firm. The next day, my husband prevented me from going to work; he locked me inside so I wouldn’t step out. Later, I sat him down and respectfully explained to him that the danfo job was what I could do at that time not only to enable me assist the home financially but also to be engaged meaningfully and decently. Moreover, as I had paid a part of the bus purchase sum, it wouldn’t make any sense to abandon the project. I told him I don’t like staying idle. Reason eventually prevailed and he allowed me to go back to the business.”
Mrs Benjamin said the job has been rewarding in so short a time that she has been able to diversify into opening a little shop dealing in beverages and some other things.
Esther Adewunmi, the conductor, told Daily Trust on Sunday she chose to be assisting her sister conducting in her bus because she has found it more financially rewarding than other jobs. She said she can’t get the money she earns daily as a conductor from other jobs elsewhere.
Clarifying what her sister said of her about having issues with passengers, Adewunmi said she has learnt to have a cordial relationship with “everybody”. She stated that minor quarrels are inevitable on some occasions, especially over ‘change’, and undesignated bus stops where passengers insist they must be dropped.
Her fellow conductors, too, she pointed out, can sometimes be a pain in the neck. “At times when those male conductors will be charging passengers, for instance, N150 for a particular route, I will be calling N100. They will then pick a fight with me,” she said.
Doesn’t she feel shy on the job? “Of course, I do. Sometimes, some of my friends will see me jumping up and down working and be shouting my name. That makes me comfortable. But I am fast overcoming that anyway,” she quipped
Culled from Daily Trust