They are called various names ranging from ‘Queens of the wheels’ to ‘Oshiomhole female drivers’. But one thing about them is that they are very diligent, dutiful and careful on the wheels- attributes that endear them to commuters- as they ferry passengers in the newly-procured air-conditioned vehicles by the Edo State Government to ease transportation problems in the state. Patrick Ochoga, reports
Miss Ashuma Serah, a banking and Finance graduate from Ambrose Alli University, who is now one of the successful drivers of the scheme, said she was initially scared of driving the long buses but later gained the confidence to do the job like any other driver.
“Driving is something I have always had a passion for and I want other females to sum up courage and join the trade instead of leaving the domain for the men.
“My only major concern is the recklessness of other drivers and commercial motorcyclists,” she said.
They are now the cynosure of some sort in the state capital. Almost everyone struggles to be ferried by them for obvious reasons. These female drivers have brought a new lease of life into the transport sector in the state.
They smile at everyone who comes across them and they give gentle touch to their customers-something that has been lacking in the male-dominated transportation system. The female drivers have introduced the kind of orderliness and friendliness that the others do not offer.
In fact, before the coming into being of the female drivers, touts were virtually in charge of the business in virtually all the motor parks in the state and they did not seem to have any respect or regard to their customers.
But the Oshiomhole queens have changed all that and brought sanity into the business of commercial motoring. That aptly explains why today men in the city struggle to board the female-driven buses. The female drivers are cute, adorable and very dutiful with irresistible smiles playing on their lips.
These female university graduates have added a new impetus to the business of driving and may soon be competing comfortably with their male counterparts. Although they are no more than 25 in number, their impact has begun to be felt in the state because of the polite way and courteous disposition towards their clients-the public.
The ‘invasion’ of the transport sector by the women has taken the state by storm. It is however something that is pleasing to the administration of Governor Adams Oshimhole, who deliberately launched the female transportation scheme as a deliberate government programme to instill sanity and respectability into the business.
Although the people of the state did not believe the governor when he initially announced his intention to float the scheme, many have come to laud the project given its attendant success so far.
The female drivers were trained on a two-module comprehensive programme by the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, and the state government. While the FRSC handled the drivers on best driving methods, the state government on the other hand, grilled them on confidence-building, Public Relations and operational efficiency.
No fewer than 50 persons-made up of 30 males and 20 females took part in the training out of which 20 females and 14 males have so far graduated, paving the way for them to man the 42-seater buses procured by the state government.
In setting the scheme in motion, the state government believes that it will go a long way in drastically reducing accidents in the state and boost driver-commuter relationship in the process.
Governor Oshiomhole, who launched the programme, said that no society could prosper if a certain s3x is restricted to certain jobs while the other is forbidden from the same. “What we are doing is aimed at gender equality,” the governor said, when he flagged off the scheme in February.
According to the Managing Director of the Intra City Bus Service, Mrs. EdugieAgbonlanhor , no fewer than nine million passengers have been ferried by the drivers within a year.
“It is expected that it will lead to high level service delivery and stem the tide of pilferage. We are also of the candid opinion that this development will become an enduring and sustainable employment strategy for the overall wellbeing and progress of the Intra City Bus Service”.
“We can conveniently say without any doubt that there is no area of governance and delivery of democracy dividends that has surpassed the impact and deep appreciation of the governor by the masses than the provision of the ‘Comrade buses”’.
What has really endeared the female bus scheme to the people are the comfortability, safety and affordability associated with their operations. The commercial bus drivers on the other hand cannot provide much of these.
One of the female drivers, Miss Ashuma Sarah, said they were favoured to have been selected for the pilot scheme, which has become a success and something to be proud of.
She said, “In February when this project started, it seemed to many as though it was a complete joke; that women who cannot drive a car would be taught how to drive a 42-seater bus. But today, what seemed impossible has turned out to be a huge success and something posterity will never forget.
“What the comrade governor has achieved is quite a feat which was borne out of perseverance orchestrated on the platform of intelligence and determination, giving credence to the fact that nothing is impossible,” she added.
Sharing her experience on the wheel, Glady Achuma, another graduate from the Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, described driving the buses as a exciting, adding that male passengers preferred them to their male counterparts because the perception that the female drivers were more careful on the road.
She explained that she had to settle for driving buses after several attempts to get a white collar job had failed. She thanked the state government for considering them worthy to run the scheme, which has given them a decent means of livelihood.
Frank Nelson, who is a regular visitor to Benin City, says the ladies have instilled sanity into the transport system in Edo State and should be encouraged by the state government to take over the sector.
“This is one of the best things that this government has done and it should be replicated in all parts of the state,” Nelson admonished.
As reckless driving becomes a common feature in most cities, the female drivers or ‘comrade queens’ have come to stay in Benin City, showing the men the new way to flow on the highways.
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