Omoyeni Agbokere is a 35-year-old widow who has taken up a task most women would frown at as a means of survival.
‘First lady’ is what she is fondly called by her colleagues at the motor park, a name which she inscribes on the back of her tricycle (Keke Marwa). Driving a tricycle is not what she ever dreamt of as a career, but her husband’s death forced her to look for a means of survival.
“My husband died two years ago,” she said. “ Before he died, I used to engage in some petty trading because he was the one taking care of most of the family’s needs. When he died, I had to look for a better business to sustain me and my family.”
The mother of two says she has not regretted her decision because she makes enough to take care of her family.
“I have two children, a boy of 12 and a girl of eight. This Keke Marwa business, I see it as something I can use to help my family because it is bringing a daily income. The money I make every day depends on how much I work for the day. I make between N2,000 and N3,000 everyday.”
‘I’m my own boss’
Apart from being lucrative enough to cater for her family’s needs, Mrs Agbokere says she enjoys the flexibility that her work provides. “When I’m tired or when I don’t feel like working again, I can just stop and go home. I have enough time to spend with my children and i can be there for them at any time of the day,” she said.
She plies the Mushin-Oye route several times a day, a task which brings her in contact with different people, some of whom are hesitant to have her drive them because of her gender. “Some passengers who see a woman driving a ‘keke’ for the first time are usually scared. They think that if I drive them, they may fall off the ‘keke’ or even have an accident so they won’t enter. The people who live around here see me driving everyday so they are used to me and don’t get scared.”
With only four months experience in the business, Mrs Agbokere says she is comfortable with it and hopes to continue. “I didn’t buy this ‘keke’ with my money because I can’t afford it. If I had enough money to buy it, I don’t think I would have been driving a ‘keke’. I would have used the money to start another business of my own. But I thank God for what I am doing now. This ‘keke’ is owned by a woman who lives in my area. She gave me to drive and I pay her weekly. By God’s grace, I will soon finish paying for it and the keke would become mine,” says the indigene of Oyo State.
‘The men respect me’
Being the only woman working among so many men, Mrs Agbokere says there are more advantages to it than she thought. “I don’t face as much challenges as I would have expected in this business. The ‘keke’ is quite easy to drive. Also, I am the only woman working among these men and they treat me very well. They respect me a lot. They even pamper me because I am the only woman. The police men I meet on the streets when I am driving my keke are usually very kind to me. Even the Agberos (touts) don’t disturb me when I am working.”
Her husband’s death, she says, has made her stronger and more determined to provide a better future for her children. To women who have had similar losses and setbacks in life, Mrs Agbokere says they should look past their loss and forge ahead. “I advise them not to sit down and fold their hands while waiting for someone to help them. Despite any unfortunate incident in their life, they should not think that is the end of their life.”
Like most business owners, Mrs Agbokere has a dream of expansion for ‘First Lady’. “If I can finish paying the money for this ‘keke’, I will buy another one to give out to someone who will be driving it and paying me daily just like I am doing now, preferably a woman.”