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Awka’s female bus driver seeks return to school



… Says she wants a husband who will support her driving

Stella Uju Onyiliogwu is the only female shuttle bus driver plying Aroma-Amawbia axis in Awka, Anambra State Capital. She hails from Umubele Village, Awka, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State. She was spotted by National Light’s CHIKAODI CHUKWULETA and BLESSING NNABUIFE, who interviewed her. She however, disclosed how hardship pushed her to drop out of school and seek ways to help her family, even as she stated that driving is her hobby and that she has driven commercial vehicles from Lagos to Abuja and Lagos to Ghana, respectively. Excerpts:

WHAT prompted you to start driving?

  I am the second to the last born of my family which comprises two girls and five boys. My siblings and I are living with my father after the loss of my mum. Apart from the trauma of the sudden absence of my mum, things became very hard for my family. We find it difficult to feed let alone go to school.

  I was a student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka under the Continuing Education Programme but due to the fact that my dad, being in his 70s is no longer strong enough to cater for me and my siblings and mum was very sick; that was around 2011and 2012, I now see school as an obstacle. I can’t be struggling to be in school and allow my mum to die.  It was then I dropped out of school and went into hustling so as to make a living.

  Then, I started hawking goods around and with that, i was able to assist my family and also help in buying pills for my mum. Unfortunately, she later gave up the ghost along the line. After the death of my mum, the fact still remains that life continues.

I then traveled to Lagos. It was there I started driving. Then, I was driving a commercial Sienna vehicle from Lagos to Abuja. I also drove from Lagos to Ghana but I had to stop that of Lagos to Ghana because the challenges involved were much. I was not really into the profession before but when I got myself doing it, I found out that i am more comfortable driving. I enjoy driving and I love driving.

  Due to one thing or the other, i had to come back to Awka, but i was not reluctant. I said to myself that since driving is something I love doing and it puts food on my table and that of my family; so I made it a profession and decided to take the bull by the horns. Unarguably, I had to go and beg for assistance from a friend who decided to help me out with a higher purchase car, N1.2million naira as the cost price with an agreement that if I am buoyant enough to pay back the money, the car will automatically belong to me.

Do you mean you love driving?

  In as much as the work is stressful, I enjoy it because I love driving.

Do you see it as a long time profession?

  Yes, of course. I am not just driving just for today. I have driven for about seven to eight years. I started from driving of Toyota Sienna, now i am driving school shuttle and if opportunity grants me access, I can drive something bigger than this because I love driving. I don’t intend stopping it any time soon and I wish it lasts longer.

Doesn’t it affect your domestic activities?

  When it comes to domestic activities, sometimes it’s being shared. I have a female conductor who assists me. We come out in the morning and close approximately 9:pm. Before 9:30pm, we at home. By then, we all must have been exhausted and we share the activities within ourselves as to lessen the work load.

Don’t you think is a man’s profession?

  Before I got into the profession, I knew it was mainly guys that drive commercial vehicles but I was pushed because of my family background. I don’t see myself going into prostitution as the best option. When I needed help, the only idea i could get around me then was driving, I went into it and I am progressing. To me, what a man can do, a woman can do better.

Apart from driving what else can you do?

  Even though I love driving but If I get something better and less stressful than this, I can go for it but I pray if I get such opportunity, it should be something that includes driving because I love driving.

Are you married?

  No, I am still single and I think my profession might be the cause of my inability to get married. A lot of them are coming for marriage but most of them want me to stop my profession which I can’t stop because I love it.

What if you get married and you’re asked to stop it by your husband?

  That’s the more reason why I am still single. I want to marry someone who will love and accept my profession. A lot of suitors are coming but that’s not my vision. My vision is me getting someone who will accept me, my profession and support me. I can’t dump my profession and vision all in the name of getting married. I stand by my vision and profession.

Will you encourage ladies to get into your profession?

  Yes, i will encourage them to go for my profession instead of going into prostitution. Each time I carry female passengers, they applaud me so much and wish they can join me in driving and I also advised them that it’s something everybody can do just that most people in our society believe that people with money are more successful without even doing what he or she does. We need to change our ideology of that system. We need to have a better value system that will help us become a progressive society.  

  Determination and working towards it is the key.

What are your challenges?

  There is indeed nothing that is easy in life. Every profession has its ups and downs, but my major challenge is my shuttle. It gives me a lot of problems every day. Most times, I stay at the mechanic all through.

My family might need my assistance but due to the fact that I was not working, I can’t afford to help them out and that moment I am stressed emotionally. Most times, we are disturbed by bad boys that do block us and collect unnecessary money always but due to the fact that I have chosen this profession, I don’t relent or think of stopping it. Most times, discouragement comes but the zeal is there.

  I appeal to the Government of Anambra State to support me by providing a sound car for me and other ladies who are interested in the profession.

 There are a lot of ladies who what to dive into the opportunity of driving but couldn’t because there are no means of getting a car. With the support of the government, I believe that if I get a sound car, I will be better than I am today; then I can go back to school. I can be financially buoyant for my family and do other things for myself most times.

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